Special Olympics

Special Olympics and LW Robbins Dive Deep into Data, Retaining Donors Over Time

Special Olympics International is a worldwide nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive, and respected members of society through sports training and competition. The organization provides year-round competitive sports training to 3.7 million adults and children across 170 countries. LW Robbins has been building successful direct response fundraising programs for Special Olympics for 10 years in a consulting capacity, drawing on more than 40 years experience and expertise in the nonprofit industry. Together, they create direct marketing strategies and programs to advance the Special Olympics mission.


The worldwide recession has wreaked havoc on many nonprofits’ fundraising plans as donors tighten their belts at home and at work. Special Olympics International and their fundraising consultant LW Robbins knew that many of their high value direct response donors were feeling the economic pinch. Immediate challenges facing the fundraising team were decreases in donor gifts and declines in new donor retention.


To address the challenges of the economic downturn, Special Olympics staff turned to their database and donorCentrics benchmarking solutions from Target Analytics to uncover information about their donors in order to create effective direct marketing programs.

Through participation in donorCentrics benchmarking, the staff decided to put their resources into retaining those loyal constituents who had sustained them over the years while working on attracting and retaining new donors as well.

A key finding revealed through donorCentrics was that donors who made two gifts in a year were much more likely to renew their annual membership than donors who made only one gift in a year. In fact, when compared to donors who made one gift in the first year, the retention rate was nearly twice as high for those who made two gifts. To top that off, data revealed that revenue per donor nearly doubled for donors who made three or more gifts.

Armed with that valuable data, staff were able to focus their promotions and messaging to those donors who were most likely to give while maximizing valuable marketing resources.


By employing creative direct marketing messaging that encouraged multi-gift giving, the test package lifted response almost 30%! When the package is rolled out, it is expected to generate second gifts from nearly 1,000 more donors than have given a second gift in the past. And importantly, first year retention rates have improved.

The innovative strategy that focused on retaining major donors and employing a multi-year gift strategy with new donors has paid off for Special Olympics. They went into 2011 with the largest pool of multi-year donors ever—perfectly positioned to take advantage of an economic recovery.

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