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Fauna & Flora International is an international conservation NGO, which in December 2013 celebrated 110 years of preserving biodiversity on the planet, making it the oldest international conservation organisation in the world.
Fauna & Flora International is an international conservation NGO, which in December 2013 celebrated 110 years of preserving biodiversity on the planet, making it the oldest international conservation organisation in the world. Their work includes identifying sustainable, scientifically viable solutions to conserve species and ecosystems. “For many years, FFI has maintained a very small database of individual supporters – preferring not to court the public gaze, and allowing other conservation NGOs, such as WWF, to be the big public face of conservation,” explains Paul White, Head of Supporter Recruitment for Fauna & Flora. However things are now changing and we recognize that we need to grow our database of individuals to support our growing conservation ambitions – which led us in 2010 to begin a programme of supporter recruitment.”
White was brought in during 2011 as a Philanthropy Advisor to support the major donor identification and solicitation process. “One of the major goals starting out was to try to understand who our prospective major donors were. We needed to get proper information on our supporters.” This need drove White to develop a robust plan for prospect research, as well as tracking research, cultivation and solicitation activities. “We needed to invest both time and money into research and prospect management.”
The major goal of research was to prioritize the wealthiest and warmest prospects (those closest to the organisation) to see which were most likely to give and therefore would be the most appropriate to spend limited major gift resources cultivating. “Recognizing what we wanted to achieve, essentially rating and ranking our entire constituent database of 6,700 individuals, we selected WealthEngine as our partner. They are the leader in database screening in the UK, could screen all our supporters, and return the information in an accessible and actionable format,” says White.
White’s role quickly transitioned from Philanthropy Advisor to Head of Supporter Recruitment & Development. When they began their major donor fundraising, Fauna & Flora had relatively few resources to invest in donor acquisition and research. For this reason, the WealthEngine screening was particularly valuable. “It enabled us to focus our approaches more strategically,” shares White. “We could approach fewer donors, but have better overall outcomes. Without the WealthEngine data we would not have been able to achieve what we did.” Prior to the screening, the philanthropy team at Fauna & Flora used past giving as their only indication of what to ask for.
One of their strategic imperatives was and is acquisition. The wealth screening allowed Fauna & Flora for the first time to empirically evaluate the efficacy of their different acquisition streams. They quickly discovered that off the page advertising and inserts in publications were bringing in much higher quality names than was cold direct mail. The off the page adverts and inserts were appealing to a more affluent market, one with a better fit for the organisation and more potential for major giving – their retention rate compared to cold direct mail recruits was also significantly greater.
Use of wealth data in the midrange donor program is active and ongoing. Pulling the “Match Stats” report from the screening made clear there was a huge group in the middle range of capacity, which could make an enormous impact on the bottom line. They now make sure their appeals ask individuals for higher amounts based on their gift capacity ratings. For example, they had a relatively new supporter in their mid-level giving group, and after running the name through WealthEngine, they discovered that he had significant capacity. They quickly upgraded him to £4,500 year, a considerable increase. “Before WealthEngine, we hadn’t known to ask him for more,” explains White.
They recently tested a mailing asking some of this “warm middle” for a mid-level gift. They mailed an appeal linked to their 110th anniversary event to 200-300 households. It asked supporters to commit to a donation of at least £1,000 annually. They had six positive responses, and found the return well worth the small investment.
Overall, the WealthEngine screening has identified 10-20 top prospects capable of giving £1,000,000 or more, and 150 names of those who can support the organisation at £10,000 per year. They use the “RFM” (Recency-Frequency-Money) calculation to effectively identify the warmer leads. RFM is a ranking of donors within the data base based on the recency of their past giving, the frequency of their giving and the size of individual gifts. Says White, “RFM helped us to prioritize the warm wealthy.” WealthEngine is also instrumental in making approaches to identified major gift prospects warm, rather than cold. “We use it to identify relationships between prospects and organisation VIPs. We can mention the names of supporters the prospect knows or has known, and ease any awkwardness in forging a new relationship.”
White has piloted a lifetime value calculation which he has successfully used to justify a higher investment in donor acquisition. Knowing that a donor is worth more over the course of their relationship with the organisation than is represented by a single years donation(s), White has calculated the average net income per supporter per year, factored in attrition at about 11% per year, taken inflation into account to get present value, and can confidently tell leadership, who control the budget, that a supporter of Fauna & Flora is worth about £723 per person over ten years. This figure is recalibrated on an annual basis, and because acquisition is used to feed the major donor and legacy pipelines, this has a very direct bearing on resource allocation. Additionally, says White, “trustees have a tendency to look at the now, rather than the later. Of course they realize there is a lag in major gifts fundraising, but this helps quantify potential for them in present pounds.”
Now that Fauna & Flora has a well-crafted supporter acquisition process in place, they are planning to scale it up over the next several years and continue to feed a growing major donor pipeline. The goal for 2014 is to acquire 1,000 new names, to use WealthEngine to help identify the “warm middle” and the top major prospects, and raise more money to save species and ecosystems to conserve the world’s rich biodiversity.