Supporter recruitment to regular giving, membership and raffle on the rise

New research has revealed that 2016 charity supporter recruitment through direct mail declined to 30 per cent compared to 46 per cent in 2013, whilst recruitment to regular giving increased from 17 – 24 per cent and recruitment to raffle rose from 12 – 21 per cent.

Findings in the Qbase Context Charity Benchmarking report, which exists to help charities benchmark supporter recruitment values and retention rates, also showed that retention rates through direct mail were lower than other channels at just 42 per cent, due to the trend for charities investing less in these programmes.

The Qbase Context report, a leading, unique charity database benchmarking project also highlighted an emerging trend, whereby numbers of lapsing supporters (5%) are outweighing new supporters (3%).

The findings were presented this week at the annual IoF Sig Conference in London, following a year of data collection and benchmarking analysis by Qbase’s Insight team.

Digital recruitment proved the most effective channel at securing email as a source of contact permission (41%), however charities were urged to consider face-to-face (22%) and cold mail (18%) channels for collection of email addresses as these two methods continue to perform well. The report also reiterated that the majority of average charity databases consist of supporters who have never donated (47%), those who have lapsed (34%) and those lapsing (5%).

Driven by their work in the charity sector, the Context benchmarking exercise was created in 2015 by Cheshire-based data solutions and insight specialists Qbase. It was launched to meet demand from organisations seeking to better understand how their Charity is performing by using Sector KPIs to provide benchmarking insight.

The project has grown in participation since its inception. It is totally anonymised and gives participating charities a fully customised report identifying areas of opportunity in which to develop new product offerings.

Key products within fundraising and individual giving are explored, from raffle and regular giving, to direct mail appeals. Email data, lottery and paid membership KPIs and a review of 2016 direct mail Christmas cash campaign appeals were also included in the latest Context report.

Matt Porter, Qbase’s business insight solutions consultant comments:

“It’s never been more important for the sector to focus on keeping supporters active, particularly given the fact that, on average supporters are lapsing at a higher percentage than news ones coming onto the database.”

“The report revealed a number of practical ways charities can communicate with their supporters in the changing, digitally focused landscape. It also highlighted the most effective channels available not only for recruitment, but also in securing positive lifetime value.”

“With marketable permissions set to be impacted by GDPR, it’s critical that charities are working now to collect supporter preferences.”

“Postal methods remain a huge channel of opportunity to market to supporters. However, charities have increased investment across digital communication channels such as email and social media platforms in recent years and this channel is increasingly being used as a method of engaging with supporters. It will be interesting to see how this develops in next year’s Context report.”

Key findings:

How active is a charity database?

  • 47% no donation, 34% lapsed, 11% active, 5% lapsing, 3% new

How can charities communicate with supporters?

Database broken down by marketable permissions and contact information available across key communication channels

  • Post – approximately 70%
  • Telephone – approximately 30%
  • Email – approximately 28%
  • SMS – approximately 20%

Most successful channels for securing email source of contact permission

  • The majority of supporters were recruited with email source of permission through digital means (41%), followed by face-face (22%), cold mail (18%), door drop (6%), inserts (5%), telephone (3%), press (3%), Drtv (2%)

Recruitment versus product offering (2013-2016)

  • Recruitment through DM programmes has declined from 46% in 2013 to 30% in 2016
  • Recruitment to regular giving has increased from 17%-24%
  • Recruitment to raffle has increased from 12%-21%
  • Recruitment to lottery decreased from 13%-5%
  • Recruitment to paid membership increased from 12%-20%

Best product for retention

  • Regular giving is the best product for securing second donation at almost 90%, followed by lottery (80%), paid memberships (75%), raffle (58), and direct mail cash (42%). The lower rate of the latter two are due to the frequency of asks and draws
  • This highlights that supporters generally prefer to stay on the product offer they started on rather than convert

DM cash recruitment

  • Digital channels outperform others for first donation values at £36
  • However they are one of the worst for retention with only 20% going on to donate again
  • Inserts provide one of the most effective channels for positive LTV with first recruitment value at £25, and also the best channel for supporter retention with almost 50% going on to give again.
  • DRTV proved mid-range for value but retention wise is more effective at moving supporters onto another relationship

Regular giving recruitment

  • Face-to-face is most successful at recruiting with 46% of these supporters recruited this way, followed by cold mail (18%)
  • However, focus from face-to-face, cold mail and telemarketing channels has decreased since 2015, meaning digital recruitment will continue to be a growing trend into 2018

Direct mail to regular giving conversion

  • 60% of supporters who have been successfully converted to regular giving via telephone conversions have done this in their first 60 days, with 90% doing this in 180 days
  • There is a steady trend upwards in direct mail conversion indicating that direct mail welcome journeys are working to nurture supporters onto regular gifting


  • Due to a strategic shift by many charities to focus more on mailing supporters, raffle response rates suffered a huge drop, almost halving in 2016, indicating a need for charities to revisit their raffle strategy to increase response rates, ROI, raffle and overall charity retention

Matt concluded: “Optimal data is critical to a charity’s ability to increase fundraising campaign results. Without data driven insight, it becomes impossible to drive meaningful, timely and relevant engagement across supporter relationships. Understanding compliant routes to contact supports will also become increasingly important in light of the impending GDPR. We are keen to grow the Context project making it even more relevant for wider charities out there and are looking forward to welcoming more charities into the next Context initiative in the coming months.”

Recruitment for the 2018 project will begin in January 2018. Charities interested in possible involvement are invited to contact the Qbase team:

About the Context project


  • Context is run yearly. These latest findings were from the 2016 report, based on data up to the end of 2016. A Context report was also delivered in 2015.
  • All participating charities receive a brief of the data required for the project. Each is asked to generalise the data to comply with Context project terminology to enable Qbase to build a consistent report which is useable for all involved
  • No personal identifiers and no names and addresses are sent to Qbase
  • Upon receiving the data, and completion of further checks, Qbase apply additional anonymisation to the data and the results produced
  • For the purposes of accuracy and fairness, Qbase samples, anonymises, and removes outliers from results to ensure KPIs shared are not dwarfed by larger charities or skewed by large donations
  • Segmentation rules were created across the data to create a picture using the following definitions
    • Supporters who have never donated / New supporters making first ever donation in the last 12 months / Active supporters who have donated in last 12 months / Lapsing supporters who donated 12-24  months ago / Lapsed supporters who donated over 24 months ago