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Utilizing Data to Drive Membership in the New Year

Author: Samantha Muljadi Date: 02/07/2018

The New Year represents a fresh start, a time to set big goals. On a personal level I vowed to stock my fridge with healthy food and dust off my yoga mat. Professionally, I aim to share inspirational membership ideas and help museums put them into action.

Whether large or small, when meeting with museum clients, data optimization is often the #1 topic of conversation. They wonder how to make sense of it all and where to even start.  Here are four ideas to help you utilize your best asset – your data – to drive museum membership in 2018.


  1. Identify the Challenge

Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.” To succeed you must first determine what you want to accomplish. Knowing what you’re looking for will make data analysis and summarization a lot easier.

For example, do you want to lower the cost – but maintain the quantity – of your acquisition lists?

I’d recommend exchanging your member or donor file. In just two years, one of our clients saw a 53 percent increase in revenue dollars saved and almost doubled its mail volume thanks to the new universe of exchange-only files. You can learn more about the benefits of exchanging and renting your file in this post.

If you’re already exchanging your file, has your organization tested cooperative database modeling (Co-ops)? Co-ops have higher response rates than traditional fundraising lists and a lower initial investment. You can also model your lapsed files to determine the most efficient approach to mailing compared to a standard RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) selection.


  1. Analyze Matchback Results

Membership departments mail acquisition pieces, visitor services sell tickets, and the gift shop has buyers who most likely overlap the first two. How does your transactional data connect? It might not, depending on the systems you’re using, which makes it a challenge to understand the full picture of a member’s behavior.

You can start by utilizing a matchback for your acquisition campaign results. When you rent a list and send out your membership acquisition, the responder has several channels to join. They can mail it back with a check, join online, or visit the museum, and become a member on-site. It’s important to track this and understand how your membership campaigns influence these decisions.

Matchback analysis can provide a substantial lift to response rates with the added revenue from online and white mail, as well as give a deeper look at member giving behavior. You’ll also see a more accurate metric linking these new members to your department’s efforts. Including matchback analysis might just be the proof you need to request a larger budget for your next fiscal year. 


  1. Measure and Take Action

So, you have a goal and are tracking results. How do you apply your findings to guide future campaigns?

As list brokers, we look at several factors to determine the best lists for a specific campaign:  

  • We analyze individual list performance from the prior year during the same month and season.
  • We review list-to-package performance to determine which lists are the best prospects based on package type. (e.g., Label vs. Stamp Package, or Institutional vs. Exhibition-Focused Package).
  • We focus on key performance indicators based on a mailer’s overall acquisition goals and budget.

Of course, every organization has specific metrics guiding their acquisition goals, and benchmark standards can vary by market or even by the individual client.


  1. Remember the Big Picture

When reviewing data, it’s also important to understand the “big picture” and see how your metrics compare to other organizations within your market.

The Q3 2017 Target Analytics donorCentrics Index report showed an 11.4% overall increase in new donor acquisition with positive donor retention rates. How does your response data compare to these overall trends? How about competitor performance?

So remember, when looking at data, start with a goal or problem you need to solve. Then analyze your findings and use the results to inform how you communicate with your members. Allow your acquisition goals and key metrics to guide your campaign plans, and always keep the big picture in mind.


Contact Samantha Muljadi at to learn more about utilizing data to maximize your acquisition investment.