The appeal, launched by the CPRE in January to block development plans in the east of England, raised £206,000 and enjoyed a 21 per cent response rate. It also showed the organisation's fundraisers that those warm donors who give less regularly are highly responsive to direct mail.
The number of new homes built in England used to be set by county councils. But in 2003 and 2004, the Government reformed the planning system, taking strategic planning powers away from local authorities and giving them to unelected regional assemblies.
The county councils no longer have any decision-making powers. After lobbying by the CPRE, however, they are now allowed to speak out at the regional assemblies.
In January, the CPRE launched an appeal to stop development plans in the east of England. It asked supporters to make donations urgently, as the period of public consultation on the plans lasted until 16 March.
How it worked
The CPRE, which usually segments its database by donor type, wanted to test the appeal on two large supporter groups, determined by the frequency of their donations, to find out whether it was profitable to mail all individuals in each group.
The first group comprised CPRE members who had previously given up to £10 - the second included donors who had given between £5 and £10.
A total of 32,000 mailpacks were sent to 11,000 supporters across England: cash donors, regular givers and members who make cash donations on top of the membership fee.
The mailpack included a letter by chief executive Shaun Spiers that challenged the fairness of the planning system and the legitimacy of regional assemblies, which are not directly elected but have nevertheless gained increased decision-making powers.
The appeal was presented as a key battle that the CPRE needs to win in the fight to challenge the newly reformed planning system. It argued that blocking development plans in the east of England would set a precedent and make it more difficult for the Government to impose its development regime elsewhere.
The pack also contained a leaflet with quotes from four CPRE campaigners and staff, explaining exactly what was at stake.
Set a target of £100,000, the appeal raised £206,000 and had a response rate of 21 per cent. Lorna Schofield, direct marketing manager at the CPRE, said that a similar appeal launched in January 2004 had had a response rate of 11.8 per cent.
"It's about the subject," she said. "A lot of people are angry that the planning system is no longer democratic. Those who did not know about it previously strongly supported the appeal."
Results showed that all individuals in the two groups specifically targeted were worth mailing - even those who had given only once before. In the first group, 16 per cent of members who gave up to £10 once before responded to the appeal, and 31 per cent of those who had given at least twice responded.
In the second group, 12 per cent of donors who gave between £5 and £10 once before responded, compared with 30 per cent of those who had given at least twice.