Veterinary charity demonstrates model behavior in fundraising

IBM SPSS predictive analytics helped PDSA identify and target ideal supporters for legacy finance

Published on 28-Apr-2011

Validated on 01 Jul 2013

"Securing just one pledge to leave a legacy could result in a clear return-on-investment from IBM SPSS Modeler." - Shaun Williams, Head of Marketing Services, PDSA


Professional Services

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

BA - Business Analytics, BA - Business Intelligence


Founded in 1917, PDSA is the U.K.’s leading veterinary charity, and provides more than 9,000 free treatments to sick and injured pets every day. The charity also works to promote responsible pet ownership.

Business need:
A leading veterinary charity sought better tools to improve its collection and analysis of feedback, enabling it to measure the impact of its services and make evidence-based decisions.

Already a committed user of IBM® SPSS® Statistics, PDSA chose IBM® SPSS® Modeler to refine its legacy fundraising campaigns. Also, PDSA chose IBM SPSS software because it would be used by marketers – and it was more user-friendly than SAS®.

The response rate for PDSA’s direct mail campaigns improved significantly, with predictive modeling: • One campaign showed an 18.75 percent improvement • A second showed a 26.6 percent improvement

Case Study

Founded in 1917, PDSA is the U.K.’s leading veterinary charity, and provides more than 9,000 free treatments to sick and injured pets every day. The charity also works to promote responsible pet ownership.

Like most charities, PDSA must support its work through public donations alone, as it does not currently receive any statutory funding. In particular, income through legacies – money left in wills – is vital. In fact, legacy income currently supports two out of every three treatments provided to sick and injured pets. Ensuring that PDSA continues its work is therefore largely dependent on the charity’s ability to carry out legacy fundraising campaigns as effectively as possible.

A legacy of donations

According to think-tank nfpSynergy, legacies can be among the most cost-effective methods of fundraising, generating a high return on investment. However, getting results requires a long-term view and appropriate marketing tools to target the right supporters.

PDSA carries out four legacy recruitment mailings per year. The purpose of these is to find out which supporters are interested in leaving a legacy to PDSA, and to re-inforce the importance of gifts in wills to individuals who may not be aware of PDSA’s reliance on this source of income. A pledge to include a gift in a will is considered a successful response to the campaign because over three quarters of people who make a pledge will go on to leave a legacy, according to PDSA.

Regular legacy mailings also help to raise awareness of this type of support, but only if the message is reaching people who are likely to be receptive to the idea of leaving a donation in their will. But while PDSA was already successfully raising income through its legacy campaigns, the organization felt that even more could be done to target the right supporters and generate better response rates to its mailings.

New intelligence from old data

PDSA wanted to use its knowledge about successful legacy campaigns and turn it into new intelligence for subsequent campaigns through predictive analytics. The charity already used IBM SPSS Statistics to conduct in-depth analysis of its supporter database, which is why it chose IBM® SPSS® Modeler, as the tool for improving direct marketing legacy campaigns.

PDSA also wanted to include demographic data to enhance modeling – combining transactional and demographic data. The charity selected Modeler because the predictive models could be prepared quickly, and were easy to run. Shaun Williams, Head of Marketing Services for PDSA, said: “PDSA has always used IBM SPSS software; when we first evaluated the market for an analytics tool, we chose it because the people who were using it were marketers – and it was more userfriendly than SAS.”

A model response

With Modeler, PDSA was able to profile those participants from previous legacy campaigns who responded positively, and then use the profiles to create models to find “look-alikes” in new data – that is, predicting which people were most likely to respond positively. Modeler also helped the organization understand that there was data on previous participants who had not been considered as prospects for legacy mailings but who were, in fact, ideal targets.

The response rate for a charity legacy mailing typically is quite low. Therefore, it was gratifying that PDSA’s first mailing using predictive analytics generated an 18.75 percent improvement, when compared to a mailing conducted without the model. And when supporters were targeted with a mailing informing them about the benefits of inheritance tax relief when leaving a legacy to charity, the response rate improved by 26.6 percent.

Williams commented: “Our legacy fundraising was going well before we introduced IBM SPSS predictive analytics, but it is such an important source of income for PDSA that we need to do all we can to keep on improving response rates.” As a result of using Modeler, analysis is now much faster, response rates have improved, and PDSA’s legacy Product Manager has been able to reduce the amount of time it takes to put a campaign together.

Williams added: “Securing just one pledge to leave a legacy could result in a clear return-on-investment from IBM SPSS Modeler.” PDSA’s next step was to enable other major areas of fundraising to benefit from predictive analytics. For example, four significant mailings are carried out each year, aimed at securing large, one-off donations. In addition, there is also a need to convert more supporters to the PDSA “best friend” scheme, securing a much needed and stable source of funding through regular committed giving.

Finally, the charity sees a very real opportunity to use Modeler to introduce tactics more commonly applied in the commercial sector – such as cross-selling, up-selling and churn prevention – to more effectively market the various ways of supporting the charity and to prevent valuable supporters from lapsing. Williams concluded: “The legacy fundraising team is very receptive to the insight the Marketing Services department can now deliver.”

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Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

SPSS Modeler, SPSS Statistics Standard, SPSS Statistics Base

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