Our Lady of Victory Homes of Charity

Our Lady of Victory Homes of Charity leadership team members, from left: Tom Lucia, Director of Annual Giving; Melinda Buckley, Chief Financial Officer; and David Kersten, Chief Executive Officer. .

Direct mail fundraising at Our Lady of Victory (OLV) Homes of Charity (HOC) stretches to the 1880s, when patriarch Father Nelson Baker penned letters to request donations from Catholics nationwide. Printed materials have since replaced hand-written notes, with the fundraisers supporting educational, community-based and residential programs of Baker Victory Services (BVS); the OLV National Shrine and Basilica; and promotion of the religious devotion to Mary.

The Lackawanna, NY non-profit sends an average 25 appeals per year. Chief Financial Officer Melinda Buckley knew that accounting processes could receive some calibration, and there was opportunity for distinctively identifying which appeals make money, which break even and which are a loss. But doing the job correctly required a valued partner, so they called TCIE to help.

In the words of Buckley, they got a “match made in heaven” to streamline processes and stimulate efficiencies. A TCIE senior consultant assisted with analyzing financial performance, refining the costing process and exposing waste. The result: HOC staff can confidently say that all appeals are moneymakers. Attention later shifted to examining the soundness of fees charged for HOC maintenance and power generation services, which had recently absorbed rapid customer growth with expansion to Diocese of Buffalo entities.

Most significantly, TCIE delivered data, honesty and objectivity. Director of Annual Giving Tom Lucia credits the assistance for helping leadership more easily make difficult cost-cutting choices while staying true to the organization’s mission and Father Baker’s legacy. He says bigger-picture thinking is emerging across the non-profit as a result. “People see the sophistication of the data we have and the decisions we’re making with it.”

The Approach

  • The appeals projects involved:
    • Capturing the current costing methodology by reviewing process flow documentation, labor, overhead, and material costs, and current state financial reporting allocation by appeal
    • Developing a new costing methodology and model for production, including identification of actual labor, overhead and material costs by appeal
    • Designing a new process for capturing cost data as work progresses, rather than month-end or appeal-end batching
    • Determining the financial impact of three options to address aging production equipment: outsourcing physical production of appeals, maintaining in-house production with new equipment, and pursuing a hybrid of the two
  • The maintenance and power generation projects involved:
    • Documenting the current state and fleshing out the future state of operations, from initiation of request for work to billing
    • Creating a model for the cost of labor and steam generation for HOC’s power generation service, as well as one for maintenance services
    • Generating a list of features essential when considering new application software tools for managing work orders
  • Formulated a metrics-based, forward-looking annual budget     
  • Contributed process improvement suggestions

The Impact

  • Saved $80,000 to $90,000 per year by outsourcing production and closing the HOC letter and print shops in 2017
  • Increased programming and services to BVS clients, enabled by an estimated 9% rise in direct mail donations from 2017 to 2018
  • Slashed the “cost to raise a dollar” 16% between 2016 and 2018 by implementing a “smart mail” approach of audience targeting; 60,000 fewer pieces were sent in 2018 compared to 2017, and the fine-tuning continues
  • Crafted a method for recognizing which elements of an appeal – i.e., inclusion of a magnet or holiday card – resonate with donors
  • Elevated the ability to attract attention with modern, vendor-produced direct mail pieces, using print techniques previously unavailable with HOC equipment
  • Shortened the time, to one or two days, between an individual making a donation and receiving a personalized thank you note by investing in a high efficiency color printer
  • Improved capacity to cover a significant amount of HOC overhead, therefore reducing reliance on the fundraising arm, by instituting standard costing for maintenance and power generation services
  • Uncovered the need to streamline work orders and improve customer management by replacing three systems with one software program