It’s just gone tax time – one of the busiest times of the year for marketers in the not-for-profit sector. And given the economy, there probably weren’t as many people with profit problems this June 30, so donations may have been harder to come by.

One of the toughest jobs in marketing is fundraising. Think about the challenge. You have to write copy that persuades people to immediately open their purses and wallets and part with their hard-earned cash. That’s not easy. Give me a brand campaign to write any day – it’s much easier than a charity appeal.

But the one thing you do whenever you ask for donations, is learn something. That’s because fundraisers are always looking for the most profitable source of funds at the lowest cost. They test relentlessly and use their data far more effectively than most other marketing categories.

I’ve just been privy to the results from a colleague who raises funds for medical research. She ran an integrated campaign consisting of direct mail to past donors and rented lists, as well as an online advertising campaign on websites with an execution in social media. The results were fascinating, as well as profitable.

Donations

The direct mail to approximately 29,000 names generated a return on investment of 460%. That is for every dollar spent on direct mail, they generated $4.60 in donations.

The direct mail generated about 92% of revenue.

The online activity consisted of a microsite that was linked to by banner ads, behavioural targeted advertising, home page takeovers (where the advertiser dominates the space outside the publisher’s page as well as on the page), editorials, advertorials, social media advertising, social media posts (Facebook and Twitter), email newsletters and more.

It generated a return of 0.43% – that is for every dollar spent online they generated 43 cents in return. Yet here’s the workload involved. There were over 24 million advertisements delivered on publisher’s sites, almost 500,000 advertisements on Facebook sites, over 7.5 million impressions of the different advertorials and an unknown number of impressions of the editorial that generated Likes and tweets.

The online marketing generated 8% of revenue from 0.5% of the donors. While the online channels were the worst performing, the average donation was strong.

The offline communications went to approximately 29,000 people. The online communications were delivered to over 32 million people. Or for every 1 person who received a mailing, over 1,100 received an online message.

This is an excellent example of using a range of offline and online media to get the best results. More importantly it demonstrates that the cheaper media (in this case online) aren’t necessarily the best performing. This is why smart marketers test – to learn which channels are the most profitable for their market.