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Acquisition Evolution for PA Research Foundation
Navigating the ever-changing direct mail acquisition landscape
PA Research Foundation (PARF) are a remarkable contributor to cutting edge medical research and the home of the world’s first cancer vaccine—Gardasil. But in 2013, their fundraising income was heavily reliant on events. Developing a reliable and robust individual giving program became a key priority for PARF in order to commit to continued and sustained investment into its vital medical research.
how we tackled it
In developing an individual giving program, PARF commenced direct mail acquisition in 2014 and remains a committed acquisition investor today. Changing market conditions have required a number of different pack iterations and adjustments to the overall strategy, ensuring the activity continues to deliver healthy initial returns and quality donors for PARF in the long term.
We started with a premium pack and featured a case study who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Response rates led us to instead feature the story of little Sophie, who’d received treatment for cancer at the PA hospital. The packs were supported by paper-based premiums and a personalised pen, as well as a lift piece detailing how donors could make cancer treatment less scary for children like Sophie. By incorporating quotes from Kimberley, Sophie’s mum, supporters were shown the tangible benefits of their gift and the impact they’d have on young families. We mailed this pack over three years and it was hugely successful—returning a 12.3% response and ROI of 1.44 at its peak in 2017.
While monitoring how these news donors performed in the appeals program, it became clear that the next obstacle for PARF would be to improve subsequent gift rates. With an emphasis on recruiting quality donors, increased ask string were tested across the mail file in 2018 and data selections from in-house data such as past hospital patients, co-op and swapped sources were refined. The slight dip in response was offset with an increased average gift, and ultimately improved rates of ongoing giving. While this move proved successful, PARF were then faced with the falling Australian dollar, coupled with being unable to continue featuring Sophie’s story.
So the pack development was moved onshore and PARF’s best performing warm appeal was adapted for a cold audience. Gemma was a young mother when diagnosed with breast cancer. While her story was incredibly moving, the response rate would likely be lower than Sophie’s pack. To compensate, we ensured the pack was incredibly emotive, featuring artwork from Gemma’s two children and focusing on the impact her diagnosis had on them as well. Offset with a lower production cost too, this last pack iteration returned solid results for PARF.
PARF’s acquisition journey, while bumpy at times, has been a good news story with some incredible highlights. The individual giving program has grown significantly since PARF commenced DM acquisition in 2014 with more than 22,000 new supporters being fed into the appeals program, at an average response rate of six percent upon recruitment. The average immediate ROI to date is sitting well above industry benchmarks at over $0.70 returned immediately for every dollar invested. The investment to date has already far been exceeded by the income returned, in fact it is cash positive by more than $500k. What’s more, PARF’s successful foray into DM acquisition it has enabled individual giving program to be established, and all the bequests and major gifts income that an appeals program helps initiate.