When we set about to bake our direct mail fundraising cake, it is easy to get excited about some of the higher-profile ingredients that go into the recipe.

Things like the story and the artwork are important, don’t get me wrong…

Important Ingredients That Make The Cake Rise

For the sake of this baking metaphor, let’s say the right signatory are the eggs, their story is the flour, the call to action is the sugar and the creative design is the icing on the cake. But we are still missing the baking soda that makes the cake rise; the data.

Data may not be the most glamorous of the ingredients, but it plays an important role in how your cake turns out. At its heart, data forms the basis of the audience that you will be sending your appeal. But data is also a very malleable ingredient and depending on how refined your database is, it can be used to drive much more than just who you are sharing your cake with.

Mix It All Together

In a big bowl sense, your data is the overall audience, but based on the data elements of your database, we can divvy that big bowl up into smaller bowls of batter. There can be many ways to divide your audience; length of association, gift recency, gift amount, cumulative giving or type of appeal given are just a few. Furthermore, these data points do not have to be evaluated independently. They can be combined and evaluated with other data points to further refine your audience segmentation.

How you define those segments can be as varied as how you would like to talk to those different groups. Perhaps you would like your higher-end donors to receive a more personalized touch. You may want to ask a portion of your active donors to consider becoming monthly donors. Or maybe you want to tell your lapsed donors how much you miss them. Once you have divvied up your audience, you can bake cakes specific to each segment of your audience. Data can be used to further refine the content and messaging to each individual donor within each of your segments. Like writing a personalized message on the cake you share with each of your donors. The different applications of variable personalization are as different as the different data points (fields) in your database.

Bake It All Together

Common examples of this are things such as a variable ask matrix based on the donors’ last gift amount or displaying the donors name in a variable salutation. But your data can drive so much more. Perhaps you would like to display different images in the letter depending on which province the donor resides in. Maybe you would like to call out the length of your donor’s association with your organization. Or you might even want to provide entirely different letter copy or portions of letter copy to donors based upon which appeal they last gave to.

Holly Wagg previously shared some terrific tips for Personalizing Your Donor Asks. The caveat to all of this is that the cakes you bake are only as good as your ingredients. If your flour has weevils in it or you get eggshells in your batter, your cake will not taste as good as you would like it to. Careful attention to your database and practicing good database hygiene will help to ensure that your cakes are always made with the best quality ingredients.

The Final Product

Your donor data, when used effectively, will ensure that you are communicating with your donor in a way that is most meaningful to them. Combined with the other ingredients of your fundraising cake, it will help to lift response, increase donor engagement and grow your bottom line. In summary, your data can allow you to have your cake and eat it too.

OK…I think that’s enough of the cake metaphor…I’m done.