How Nonprofits Can Boost List Revenue

Most not-for-profit organizations balk at the idea, but putting their list on the rental market is but one more way to raise revenue. For Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, “it was a decision that was years in the making, but in today’s environment we need to put every option on the table,” says Peter P. Schoewe, the organization’s director of direct mail.

Because of mail date and offer restrictions, however, list managers for nonprofits need to be especially creative in order to generate new sources of list revenue.

One source is “out of category” mailers. As Mark Briggs, United Spinal Association’s database manager, says, “We sat down and took a realistic look at where our future growth potential would come from, and realized it was not with finding other [nonprofit groups] to use our file but with exploiting our file into the consumer mailer arena.”

Doing so means expanding the ability of consumer mailers to use your file. Enhancements, for instance, can provide demographic and psychographic information about your donors. And by segmenting age, income, and lifestyle interests, you can help out-of-category mailers home in on their audience more successfully.

Another untapped area is building statistical models—typically a customer match model or a regression model–for potential mailers. Advantages include a “prequalified” universe of names more likely to respond to a mailer’s offer. This also allows the nonprofit group to set the build price and a “per pull” scoring charge.

The downside to these approaches is they work best for large organizations. What about the multitude of smaller nonprofits that want to increase revenue?

The list industry relies on the list manager to sell the property to a broker and/or mailer. So whatever marketing insight you can share with your list manager to “open the eyes” of commercial mailers is key. Many not-for-profit groups “are successfully prospecting to a mix of donors/members, catalog buyers and subscribers,”points out Jackie Lemke, media supervisor for Domain Group, an agency for nonprofits. “There is a natural synergy between all audiences that commercial mailers likewise should be tapping into.”

Smaller nonprofits can seek out list management firms with a strong presence in the commercial marketplace. It may mean going outside of your comfort level, but as Debby Cedrone, United Spinal Association’s list manager, says, “We’ve come to rely on list rental revenue not as ‘gravy’ income, but as ‘bread and butter’ to keep our programs running, even as we expand into new markets.”

Kevin J. Price is director of fundraising and Robert A. Stein, Sr. Sales is executive, list management for Hackensack, NJ-based list services firm Mokrynskidirect

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