Don’t despair – Do “The Refresh!”

As 2018 quickly approaches and you are reviewing your results from last year there is undoubtedly at least one package that you are worried about.

For a lot of organizations, it’s a package that used to perform well but in the last couple of years the results have been slipping. At first, you could excuse it – it was a soft year or that’s when there was a staff changeover – but now there are no more excuses.

The results are clear. Something must be done.

There are a million and one reasons why packages begin to underperform and it can be very easy to look at the results and think: “This isn’t working anymore. We need to go back to the drawing board and test a whole new package.”

While it is appealing to create a whole new experience for the donor, rolling out an entirely new package is costly and risky. It’s costly in terms of your time and the new materials you’ll need to create, and it’s risky to roll out an untested package, even against a package with declining results.

But there is a cost-effective approach to improving these results, and one that is much more budget friendly…

The Refresh!

All too often, organizations allow for packages to drift away from what works. For example, newsletters become less and less about the donor and more about the organization, or renewal mailings forget about the thank you and dive into the ask too quickly. These slow – but steady – movements, away from what the donor was initially responding to, can start to drive down results and can be difficult to spot when you are too close to the project.

The Refresh allows you to zoom out and remind yourself why the package worked to begin with.

Here’s how:

  • Revisit all the past testing results for this package
  • Spread out 3 years worth of creative on the table, and show the packages to people who haven’t seen them before
  • Ask key questions and allow others to ask you key questions about the package – even if you think the answer is obvious

You will likely see things you hadn’t before. An added benefit to this refresh approach is the opportunity to remind yourself and your team what this package is supposed to be doing and how it fits within the wider journey that these donors are on.

Diabetes Canada
This happens no matter the size or type of organization. Diabetes Canada’s Spring newsletter is a great example of this.

While still meeting budget, the results of the newsletter were trending downward and there were no clear indications as to why. In addition, Diabetes Canada had just undergone their brand and name change from the Canadian Diabetes Association (with red branding) to Diabetes Canada (with blue branding).

The timing was perfect to approach this package with fresh eyes. With new, clean branding and a refocus on storytelling – both in this package and through the year – the package performed well above expectations. It was not a radical change (the package elements remained the same), but it was fresh, interesting, and refocused – and the donors responded!

St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation
Another example is the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation’s Renewal package.

Slowly but surely, this package began to deviate from what had worked in the past. The creative was less bold. The package components were being tested, but the control package continued to win. Donors were clearly responding to one type of package, but we were trying new things and failing.

So we went back to the basics; we only mailed components of the package that had been successful in the past. We identified the drivers of success and worked to refresh them rather than try something totally different. And again – the donors responded! Response went up notably compared to the following year.

In conclusion, it’s time for you to consider The Refresh!

As you review your campaign results and think about how to approach your own “problematic package”, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Consider a simple, cost-effective, and donor-centred approach to improving results.

Laura Champion                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Fundraising Strategist