A Lesson from the “Nevers”
By Heidi Tolliver-Walker on June 29th, 2012
Recently, I attended a seminar session headed by John Leininger of Clemson University on the subject of demonstrating ROI from integrated marketing campaigns. In that talk, he recounted a very interesting story about his own experience with a fundraising campaign for Clemson.
Leininger indicated that 45% of alumni never donate a penny to the school from which they graduated. “They are the nevers,” he said. “The average response rate for nevers is .07%.”
To demonstrate the power of personalization, Leininger’s department decided to send personalized fundraising letters to the nevers. They broke the mailing into lots of variations. They did lots of fancy things with it, including spelling out recipients’ names on an image of the football field. Then they sent it out.
“You know what our response rate was?” he asked. “It was .07%.”
Leininger took the failed campaign to his marketing gurus. “‘What did I do wrong?” he asked.
One marketing guy’s response? “Why are they nevers? You have to ask them.”
So Leininger went to the head of alumni association. “Why are they the nevers?” She didn’t know.
He went to two different alumni. He asked them.
“The answer given by one of the alums really stuck with me,” Leininger said. “He said he’d never give money to alumni association. He also said he never once went to a football game. The lightbulb went on. Until you know why people are not responding, all the nevers whose names we typed onto the football field—that was a waste of money.”
The lesson to it all? Leininger concluded: “You have to understand your goal and what you are doing and why.”
The takeaway for you? Encouraging your customers to send fundraising letters and marketing solicitations to non-engaged alumni and non-engaged (or former) customers can be a great strategy. But before they make the investment in the creative and print work, you may want to help htem understand why those people are “nevers” in the first place.