Paralyzed Veterans of America – Analytics

Transforming donor behavior from product‐based transactions to mission‐based giving

The challenge

Founded in 1946, Paralyzed Veterans of America is a congressionally chartered veterans service organization that has developed unique expertise on a wide variety of issues involving the special needs of its members – veterans of the armed forces who have experienced spinal cord injury or dysfunction. PVA uses their expertise to advocate for quality health care, research and education, benefits for members’ as a result of military service, civil rights and opportunities to maximize independence.

PVA established a low‐dollar, high response premium‐based direct mail program roughly 40 years ago. On the whole the program is quite successful with personalized labels, calendars, cards and other specialty premiums generating 8‐10% response rates across the renewal program. In FY12, PVA’s Premium Program generated $67MM from over 5MM donors. However, increased costs and the relative difficulty of upgrading $10 donors, the core of file, has translated to cost of fundraising climbing to unacceptable rates.

Russ Reid solution

Our challenge is to improve program performance and lower the cost of fundraising of this colossal, mass mail marketing program by identifying, cultivating and messaging key affinity and value groups that to date have been buried within the file and messaged only based on product responsiveness and/or gender.

Using demographic overlay data along with giving history, we were able to identify several sub‐segments of the file including donors who are identified as giving to veteran’s causes and, more powerfully, hose with a veteran in the household. Analysis showed donors with Veteran‐related affinity (over 3MM on file) had a 71% higher retention rate than all others and, in turn, higher value. Back‐end analysis of key campaigns also showed directional information regarding messaging and interests. For example within this newly defined segment:

•    ‘Vintage War Plane’ artwork generated an 82% higher lift in response than ‘Rockwell Art’ the proven, longstanding control

•    A non‐premium ‘Mission‐Able’ offer focused primarily on PVA’s mission generated virtually the same response rate as a product/premium offer to Male Veterans Affinity donors

Given this data and our long‐held knowledge that if we appeal to donors with resonant messaging in words, graphics and offers we will increase engagement, loyalty and value, we’ve constructed the basis of a Veteran’s Track, which includes the following:

•    Full cycle of campaigns based on qualifying RFM, etc.

•    6‐8 highly targeted campaigns/offers to include more mission‐based language, patriotic words and images and as in the ‘Vintage War Plane’ test, additional military‐based imagery

russ reid analytics case study


This year‐long test is still underway with panels of Veterans Affinity flagged names receiving the control offers (premiums, with targeted imagery based on gender) to compare against the new treatment.

Our anticipated outcomes include the establishment of a new Veterans Affinity Track replete with targeted messaging, unique contact cadence, treatment and metrics of success. We believe that, ultimately, track treatment will be a blend of premiums/ products like the calendars and cards as in the current program, along with more paper‐ based mission offers akin to ‘Mission‐Able’. All messaging will be focused on patriotism, service, honor and PVA’s mission to help paralyzed veterans.