Belleville General Hospital Foundation (BGHF) raises funds on behalf of the Quinte Health Care Belleville General Hospital, a community hospital that serves a patient population of more than 100,000 in the Bay of Quinte region. With 206 beds, the hospital provides primary and secondary care through a wide range of clinics, diagnostic services, support services and outreach programs.
BGHF operates like many small-market fundraising organizations: It has a staff of four, a tight budget and a media plan that until recently depended on free radio spots and a complimentary ad in the community newspaper. But the foundation also has big aspirations to make Belleville General Hospital the best-equipped community hospital in Canada. Last year, as the level of donations began to plateau and the provincial government reduced its funding for hospital operations—by $10 million in 2013 alone—hospital fundraisers embarked on an analytics-based marketing campaign to give their fundraising a shot in the arm.
To better target BGHF’s marketing effort, analysts at Environics Analytics (EA) profiled 6,500 recent donors using its PRIZM segmentation system. After determining that the donors were concentrated in segments filled with older citydwellers and suburbanites, EA created target groups of the most common contributors—with nicknames like Exurbanites & Townies, Midscale Elders and Downscale Donors—and then detailed each group’s demographics, lifestyles, media patterns and values. Some of the findings surprised BGHF, such as the discovery that many donors responded to messages that highlighted patriotism and community. Analysts attributed that inclination to one of the hospital’s neighbours: the Trenton Canadian Forces Base. But the biggest “aha” came when they discovered they’d been sending appeals to nearby postal codes rather than distant areas with higher concentrations of donors. Last December, BGHF launched its first-ever data-based direct mail campaign, dispatching 28,000 pieces of unaddressed mail to the EA-targeted postal codes, and featuring messaging based on the social values of donors.
Within days, BGHF fundraisers knew the new approach was working. “The people who opened the mail began asking why we were getting all these donations from a town nearly forty minutes away by car,” says Drew Brown, executive director of BGHF. “We hadn’t mailed many of them in the past.” All told, the holiday appeal yielded $181,300—up 19 percent from 2012. At the same time, the analytics allowed BGHF to reduce the size of its mailing and reallocate the distribution area. “It showed us how to become more efficient and focused,” says Brown. EA’s data analytics also helped BGHF attract 1,900 new donors in the last two years, re-enforcing Brown’s optimism for the future. His marketing budget has grown and now includes money to buy ads on billboards, radio and in newspapers. And this year, the foundation plans to launch a new data-driven direct mail campaign featuring differentiated messaging customized to each target group. In just three years, BGHF has engineered a 250 percent increase in contributions, from $1 million to a cool $2.5 million, and this coming year, the foundation expects to supply the hospital with $3 million in community contributions. “We’re on a good trajectory,” says Brown. “The message is that you don’t have to be big for data analytics to be of tremendous value.”