Innovator Spotlight: TPL | npENGAGE

Innovator Spotlight: TPL

By on Nov 8, 2011


This year’s winner of Best Integrated & Multi-Channel Campaign was The Trust for Public Land, an organization founded in 1972 to protect land for the public to enjoy as parks and public spaces.

The Trust’s goals were to increase revenue with less expense and smash prior records for year-end fundraising.

This is probably starting to sound familiar. As fundraisers, how many times have we been asked to raise more net revenue than before and with a smaller budget nonetheless?

Oh, but hold on – there’s more!

They had to pull this off in record time with new staff and with a consultant who had just been engaged!

As my friend Samuel Johnson said about William Dodd, “Depend upon it Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

So leveraging the consultants (Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey), new art and the need to be bold, they sent two letters about a month apart, then eight hard-ask emails and two soft-ask emails. Moreover the e-newsletters had the same look and feel as the overall campaign.

Did the list fatigue? Nope, sure seemed not to. (Just wait, we’ll get to the results and you’ll see what I mean.)

Finally, TPL used business intelligence tools to analyze historical performances and were ultimately able to cut several negative segments, thus cutting costs and improving efficiency.

Again remember, all this is happening with new teams and tough deadlines for time and revenue. This, folks, is when all hell can break loose.

But all hell did not break loose. Drum roll please…

The Results

  • Generated 41.2% more net revenue than the previous year-end campaign.
  • Increased online revenue by 55.4%, year over year.
  • Reduced direct mail quantities by 24.5% and related expenses by almost $7,000.
  • Boosted direct mail response rates by 117.1% (from 4.94% to 10.72%).
  • Increased return on investment by 58.5%

See our video interview with Debi Cobb from TPL for more about their campaign and results.

Lessons Learned

So what are the lessons here? I think there are a few:

  • Rule # 1: Be bold, take chances, and do risk failure. Remember small chances offer small rewards.
  • Rule #2: Know your donors. I’d guess that average age of TPL donors is 55+, so they respond well to both email and direct mail. Had their supporters been much older I would have split tested telemarketing after the last direct mail effort. From Convio Next Generation of American Giving report, we know that Matures respond to telemarketing and less so email.
  • Rule #3: Lastly, use data driven decisions to make multi-channel campaign adjustments, and when in doubt read Rule #1.

As Tom and Roger would say, “The staffs at Trust for Public Lands and CCAH deserve a raise!”


Dennis McCarthy, Director of Enterprise Sales at Target Analytics a Blackbaud company, has been serving nonprofits for more than 30 years in the design and implementation of integrated marketing solutions; and building and managing technology solutions for some of America’s largest and most complex nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining the Blackbaud team, Dennis managed Convio’s strategic services practice, comprised of consultants in business analytics, design and information architecture, Deployment Services and Agency Services. Prior to Convio, he worked at Epsilon as a general manager and deployed a successful custom CRM solution for a national health care organization with over 50 affiliates. He is married and has a great son who is a senior in college.

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