While donor retention is a key component to a successful annual giving program, there will always be donors who simply cannot renew their support, for a myriad of reasons (lifestyle changes, death, financial circumstances, etc.). Organizations always need to be thinking about how to bring new donors in the door. However, it’s no secret that this can become a costly endeavour.

It doesn’t have to be! Through the strategic design of your package, and a targeted focus on the kind of prospect you’re seeking, you can acquire quality donors who are passionate about your cause. Donors with higher lifetime values, and a year over year decrease in their cost to acquire.

Read on for tips on how to keep that cost to acquire metric down, and retain the best quality donors possible.


Don’t waste your precious time and money sending out package after package of a dull, drab appeal. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward – so you get the best return on your investment!

The average prospect is going to be receiving a lot of mail – email, direct mail, you name it. Charities need to stand apart from the pack that is ever-evolving when it comes to marketing tactics and strategies. How are you making sure that your envelope gets noticed, and opened? Aim for bright colours – and don’t feel trapped by your branding guidelines! If you look in any mailbox you’ll find a sea of blue… But a punch of orange? Now that will grab their attention!

You can keep these costs down by sticking with a two colour package (like, say, your organization blue with a pop of orange accent) instead of a full colour (read: pricey) package. We’ve seen countless times that too clean of a package – glossy stock, slick imagery, full colour – can turn a potential donor off your appeal before they even open it. Don’t be afraid of deliberate, but effective, design choices, and get that package opened!


Alright, the prospect has picked your package (nice work!). Now, how do you get them on board to make that first gift? How do you convince them that your organization is the one they need to donate to? You tell a story about your cause, and you show the prospect how they are the ones who will make a difference. Focus on the recipient – ‘you are a passionate advocate for safer communities’, ‘you care about childhood disabilities’ – and they will see themselves in your cause. If your prospect doesn’t care about shelter dogs, for example, droning on about how your shelter is revolutionizing adoption practices won’t matter to them either.

A short, cause-driven, donor-focused letter will impact your prospect a lot more than an information package – stuffed with your case for support, a message from your new CEO, and your mission statement – ever could.


A tried-and-true method for acquiring new donors is to send out premium packages. And, who doesn’t love a premium? This sometimes controversial, but often effective, fundraising method will certainly net you lots of new donors through a single campaign.

However, what kind of new donors will you be acquiring through this method? What we notice is those new donors become trained to receive premiums – and stop donating once the gravy train ends. These aren’t donors who are dedicated to your mission, who see themselves in your cause, and will continue to increase their lifetime value. These are folks who will throw you a couple of bucks once a year so they can get their mailing labels (or Christmas cards, or notepads…).

If you want to decrease the cost to acquire new donors year over year, then you need to maintain quality control on who’s coming through the door. It’s a lot cheaper to retain a quality donor and upgrade their giving year over year than it is to keep sending out costly premium packages to donors who are mostly indifferent to your cause.

Rolling out these key practices and focussing on the kind of donor you’re acquiring will lead you to an ever-decreasing DAC – and a robust donor base full of folks who are passionate about your cause, and who will continue to give and increase their lifetime value.

Want to see how your organization measures up when it comes to acquisition? Sign-up to be a part of the 2019 Direct Mail Benchmarks Report! You’ll receive a customized report, specific to your organization. And, you’ll get a first look at how you stack up against the Canadian charitable sector!

Join now!

Check out 2018’s Report too!