Brewer Direct

“I had no idea… testing our strategies could make or break our results!”

This tip helps you discover the BEST ways to communicate with your donors.

“I had no idea… testing our strategies could make or break our results!”



Do you know how best to communicate with your donors? How about your loved ones? Few of us would send our 95-year-old grandmother a text message… She likely wouldn’t respond! 

Whether you’re reaching out to grandma, or a donor interested in your cause, you’ve got to know how best they like to communicate if you want to get a response. 

Recently, two successful retailers learned by trial and (a BIG) error, that the way they communicated their message was just as important as the message itself.

Nordstrom had a weaker than normal 2019 Q1 after cutting their direct mail rewards vouchers and moving their customer loyalty program completely online. From 2018 to 2019, clothing retailer J. Jill similarly saw net income plummet from $11.3 million to $4.4 million after shifting a significant portion of their marketing spend away from their print catalog to social and digital advertising. 

Tip of the month: Test your ideas before making sweeping strategy decisions that could have devastating results. 


With its digital rollout, Nordstrom expected to reach top customers instantly and see an increase in sales. But a severe dip revealed many loyalty customers waited to receive vouchers by mail before shopping. For J. Jill, although digital ads increased impressions, the quality of engagement couldn’t compare with the print catalog (think hours spent thumbing through glossy photos accompanied by the J. Jill mark).

“Nice cautionary tale,” you may be saying, “but we’re a nonprofit. How does that apply to us?”

Both retailers made decisions based on assumptions about how their donors would respond. Before asking, “How do we reach our donors?” ask yourself, “Do we know who our donors are?” This will guide you in reaching them: 

  • How old are they? 
  • Where do they live? 
  • How do they like to engage with you and hear from you? 

On this last point, often the best way to find out is by testing different strategies to discover what delivers optimal response rate.

“Testing must always be an integral part of any new strategy,” says Brewer Direct’s VP Client Support & Operations, Brian Hackler. “If you don’t test, strategy changes are always a gamble because you won’t know if those changes will have a positive or negative impact until it’s too late.”

“Too late,” unfortunately, is when Nordstrom and J. Jill realized their quick and comprehensive move to digital had caused their downfall. Donors, like shoppers, are a diverse group of individuals. It’s important to reach out to them in different ways, to “speak their language,” so everyone hears your call to action.

At Brewer Direct, we regularly test innovative strategies against tried-and-true ways of reaching out to donors. Before rolling out a new concept to all clients, we carefully test against a control. “Testing comes at a cost to the agency,” Brian says, “but it is worth the investment because we value our clients’ results and don’t want to put their income at risk by changing to something untested.”

Remember: Testing your communications strategies can help you discover the perfect multi-stream mix of digital, print and other touchpoints to increase engagement and maximize results.


Want more? For this month’s “Need to Read” on 3 ways donor gifts can be a great way to say thanks, click here.

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(626) 359-1015

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