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Bethany Christian Services

Building a National Fundraising Program

Bethany Christian Services is the largest adoption agency in the United States. When the organization projected a sustained decline in revenue, Bethany asked Blue North to help double fundraising revenue over seven years. After just three years, Blue North had helped Bethany to:

  • Reduce direct-mail costs and increase revenue by 60 per cent
  • Increase monthly giving revenue by 28 per cent
  • Increase giving frequency
  • Increase average gift size by 12 per cent

The Challenge

In 2011, Bethany’s Board of Directors identified an alarming trend—a decline in revenue with no end in sight. In response, the board directed the organization to double fundraising revenue over a five- to seven-year period. Bethany called Blue North to help achieve this aggressive goal.

The way forward was hindered by Bethany’s existing fundraising and direct-mail response, which had remained stubbornly flat despite a number of attempts to grow revenue. Perhaps the biggest challenge, however, was presented by Bethany’s federated model, which included a national headquarters, 39 regional branches across the U.S., and offices around the world.

The challenge was this: how could Bethany leverage the efficiencies of a centralized fundraising program to increase revenue—without jeopardizing the value of the relationships built over many years at the local branch level?

The Solution

A tricky, complex problem demands great insight. And insight is built on understanding—an understanding of what is and what can be! So the first step in Blue North’s partnership with Bethany was to look at the organization’s data to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing fundraising program—a process we call BluePrinting.

BluePrinting provides a “360-degree view” of the entire organization and helps identify strengths, weaknesses, and untapped areas of potential. Based on this in-depth analysis, we presented Bethany with a solid, data-based plan for achieving their financial and program goals.

Since that time, Blue North has executed all direct-marketing programs, Middle- and Major-Donor program support, capital campaign support, overall strategy consulting, event and peer-to-peer fundraising, and other branch and national office support.

Bethany Christian Services Case Study

The Results

Blue North continues to work closely with Bethany to build on the following accomplishments, achieved between 2011 and 2014:

  • Reduced mail costs: We helped Bethany consolidate the mail stream, reducing the number of donor-communication pieces from 19 to 11 pieces annually. The print and postage cost savings were invested in growing the overall direct-mail program with very encouraging results.
  • Increased direct-mail revenue: At the end of 2014, direct-mail program revenue had increased more than 60 per cent from 2011. On top of that, there has been a 12-per-cent increase in average gift amount.
  • Increased donor retention: Blue North developed a lifecycle marketing program that proactively delivers messages based on key events in a donor’s life with Bethany. A welcome package, second-gift letter, and lapsed-donor treatments are all part of this automated stream. The result? A 10.2-per-cent increase in donor retention rates that has driven significant revenue impact.
  • Growth in monthly giving: While a monthly sponsorship program was in place, Blue North helped strengthen the program. Working together, Bethany has seen an increase in revenue of 28 per cent in monthly giving since 2011. In addition, a new domestic monthly giving program was rolled out in 2015.
  • Improved online experience for donors: In 2011, Bethany’s website and online presence were entirely focused on client services, such as adoption and counselling. Blue North helped Bethany use their digital resources to increase fundraising revenue. For example, Bethany’s gift catalogue was transformed from a printed piece to a fully digital program. Based on cost reductions, the yield-to-mission is up more than 15 per cent.
  • Maximized local relationships: While gaining the efficiency of a centralized approach, Blue North used personalized content to reinforce a donor’s connection to local branch programs and initiatives. After reluctantly giving up control of their individual fundraising programs, the local branches are now seeing reduced effort, increased revenue, and regular provision of key information to their clients.