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Cooperative Database Modeling: Breaking Down the Myths

We all know how challenging it can be to convince your membership director or board that it’s time to explore something new. Over the last decade, cooperative database (co-op) modeling has become an integral part of acquisition strategy for many organizations. When it comes to acquisition, you’re probably mailing exchange and rental lists, but have you tested a co-op?

Co-ops provide a new pool of prospects that are very likely to respond to your offer, and we often see these co-op lists quickly becoming top performers. At NFL, we partner with several co-ops to develop a variety of models, including (but not limited to) profile, response, balance, and lapsed. Co-ops have the potential to assist organizations in mailing their house names (lapsed, deep lapsed, ticket buyers, etc.) more efficiently by identifying and prioritizing the most responsive names. In addition to developing a robust set of models for our mailers, we have also noted success when a mailer joins a variety of co-ops with the goal of accessing the widest possible pool of prospects.

Maybe the cooperative database idea sounds familiar, but you’ve hesitated to test.

Let’s break down a couple myths about co-ops that might change your mind:

Myth #1: Sharing all my valuable donors or members with a co-op will affect my acquisition results.

Reality: Only your non-unique donors will flow into the co-op to inform modeling and since all co-ops are blind databases, other institutions cannot see that you are a participant.

Myth #2: I’ll have to decide to join before testing the models and reviewing results.

Reality: By partnering with the co-ops and establishing valued relationships, we have negotiated testing periods where your data will not be used to inform other organizations’ modeling, allowing you to see results before officially participating.

Co-ops are a great resource to consider for your organization, but how do you convince your team, board, and institution?

  • Know your goal: Are you in a limited geographic area and need to expand your pool of prospects? Are you looking for assistance in mailing your lapsed names more efficiently? Are you interested in post-merge modeling to more effectively determine package ratios? By having a distinct goal in mind, you can not only “sell” this new approach more effectively, but your acquisition goals will also help to guide the data modelers as they develop your custom models.  
  • Have a team on your side: Do you work with an agency or list company that has experience and case studies to demonstrate co-op successes? Gather the details needed to provide the best explanation for why co-ops are necessary for your acquisition program and work with your team to get all your questions answered.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for more information: Still not sure if co-ops are right for your organization? Talk to your peers at other institutions to see how they handled the co-op process. You could get a good picture of what this might look like for your organization, and hopefully they’ll also have some helpful tips.

Testing new resources and strategies is vital to an organization’s acquisition program. We recommend testing aggressively, yet intelligently, by joining multiple co-ops and utilizing their product solutions across channels. Joining a co-op offers a cost-effective approach to reaching new potential donors, and co-op partners are consistently developing new formulas to meet your needs.

As Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” As direct marketers, we’re always looking for a new path or strategy. Co-op modeling might just be that for your organization.

Samantha Muljadi

Senior Marketing Strategist