Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS)

Research Leads to More Emotionally Engaged Donors for Non-Profit Coalition

131% Increase in Average Gift

20% Increase in Gross Revenue YOY


The Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) had been experiencing a decline in both new donors and active donors for several years when they came to Phoenix Innovate. Their retention rates were well below industry averages. Our goal is to get them back up to industry averages over the next 5 years and then surpass averages in years 6, 7, 8.


We designed a research and data analysis plan to help us better understand: 

  • How to recognize an audience that’s likely to give
  • How to reach an audience that’s likely to give
  • How to speak to that audience in a way that motivates them to give
  • How to motivate donors to continue to give

We identified gender, household incomes, age range, employment status and other demographic data points that allowed us to define the most likely to give audience and help us find other donors just like them in the community. We used these data points and transactional giving history to segment the donor database and develop ask ladders that optimized the donor’s capacity to give. 

The research also gave us insight into the reasons donors give to COTS and their emotional connection to the organization, which changed the way we message in fundraising appeals. And, we learned how frequently donors want to be contacted to give and which channels work best for them. All these insights directed the development of a donor-centric fundraising communications plan that has driven increased response and revenue. 


Year 1 was an investment year designed to provide learning for subsequent years.  Nonetheless, the results are impressive.

  • 141% increase in # of Gifts Year 1
  • 131% increase in average gift Year 1
  • 20% increase in gross revenue YOY Year 1 with individual campaigns generating increases as high as 49% YOY

“Working with Phoenix Innovate has improved our fundraising efforts in so many ways. One example is a major donor recently was so taken by the message in one of our appeals, she called COTS. Long story short, this donor increased their historic level of giving from $20,000 to $50,000 because of the emotional connection with COTS created through the campaign appeal.”

-Aisha Morrell, chief development officer of COTS

Marketing emails and donor appeal letters designed on behalf of the Coalition on Temporary Shelter