James Herlihy breaks down the top insights he gained from helping enlist 1,500 new cash donors for Australia for Dolphins in its ‘Action for Angel’ campaign.
In May, the advocacy-based non-government organisation Australia for Dolphins (AFD) developed and launched a digital campaign around the captive albino dolphin calf, Angel, with help from Pareto Fundraising. The ultimate aims: to help save dolphins in Taiji , and to convert petition signers to regular giving.
Activities for regular giving conversion have not yet begun, but already the ‘Action for Angel’ campaign has multiplied AFD’s capacity for future effective action by boosting its donor base and active, engaged online community. So far, the campaign has:
- Enlisted over 1,500 new cash donors
- Grown the e-mail list from 1,700 to 40,000
- Expanded an engaged Facebook fanbase from 4,000 to over 10,000
- Achieved a project return on investment (ROI) of 1:2
Here are my four top insights from the Action for Angel campaign.
1. Non-financial engagement can bring rewards… if the proposition is right
The Action for Angel campaign sprang out of discussions with AFD’s chief executive officer Sarah Lucas in April. She revealed that the organisation was planning fundraising to pay for an upcoming legal appeal against the Taiji Whale Museum. The museum was keeping an albino dolphin calf named ‘Angel’ in a tiny aquarium tank, after dolphin numbers slaughtered her mother and pod. Global outrage about the hunts created an opportunity for non-financial mobilisation that could deliver far more than a straight-out fundraising appeal – both in terms of impact and financially.
Not every organisation has a story with such mass appeal. But online action can be inspired by many less controversial causes – even those not usually involved in campaigning. Whether it’s a petition, a pledge, a quirky poll, message of solidarity, a simple ‘share’ or backend premium, think of what interaction might help you grow an engage your online base.
As with all supporter engagement, the proposition is key. Is there something that’s really of interest to your audience? Is it emotionally engaging, shocking, beautiful, awe-inspiring, hilarious or personally beneficial? There are lots of possibilities, if you are realistic about what’s going to stick.
2. Properly map out the donor journey
You never want to get the stage of asking yourself, “Okay, we’ve engaged tens of thousands of people, now what?” No organisation should invest time and money in acquiring new supporters without having a clear path for them – ideally one that fulfils their strong fundraising potential.
With the Action for Angel campaign, we mapped out the full journey of communications. Cold audiences were driven to a petition from acquisition channels – targeted Facebook ads and promoted posts, Google display ads, etc. There was a strong share strategy. Petition signers were then funnelled through an automated e-mail journey after signature – with e-mails building the relationship with AFD – before they were solicited through a fundraising campaign for AFD’s legal appeal.
Signers who didn’t donate after one ask received a chaser email, and the fundraising campaign was also strongly promoted through acquisition channels – including Google display, Facebook and AdRoll retargeting.
3. Spend time on audience research and targeting – the online way
The digital landscape provides unique, powerful tools for reaching audiences. Facebook alone has an unprecedentedly rich bank of data on the interests (psychographics) and demographics of a huge segment of Australians. It lets nonprofits target people with very specific interests – in AFD’s case, it was people interested in marine wildlife and advocacy – as well as the fanbases of other aligned organisations.
‘Custom audiences’ can be created matching your organisational e-mail list, plus further ‘lookalike’ audiences with a similar profile to that donor custom audience. Facebook also enables ‘retargeting’ of people who visit your website, and includes a powerful social dimension to promoted posts and advertising that other advertising channels lack.
With almost 60,000 petition signatures and 100,000 site visits in the first two weeks of the Action for Angel campaign, some great audience ‘capital’ was built that could be retargeted with the fundraising appeal when that launched. This couldn’t have happened without setting up the requirements at an early stage.
4. Optimise your marketing tactics regularly and be flexible
When your digital campaign launches, you can’t sit around waiting for the results to come in. You have to work every day to optimise and make the campaign go further, take advantage of external events and respond to the community.
After launching the Angel petition, daily we scrutinised all responses to optimise the campaign and get the best results.
Hopefully these insights will help in your efforts to build an engaged online community and donor base. But Of course, acquiring a regular or first cash donor online isn’t the end-game. It’s the start of a retention journey that should continually strengthen the donor’s relationship and commitment. But that’s a topic for another day!
Caption: The Action for Angel campaign petition achieved almost 60,000 signatures and 100,000 website visits in its first two weeks.
Planning is a key to success
So you’ve written your e-mails, you’ve got punchy copy and a great design for your landing pages. You’re ready to go, right? Wrong. Lots of extras are involved in a digital campaign. Don’t underestimate how much time these details take. Plan them in – realistically – from the start or you won’t hit that launch deadline.:
- Generate code snippets for Google Analytics and Google, Facebook and AdRoll retargeting early and deploy them in the right places across web pages.
- If you want to accurately measure ROI for different channels, you must configure Google Analytics Ecommerce and embed your Facebook conversion pixel in web pages.
- Cover share copy and image elements early. A Facebook share alone has five important properties with specific requirements. You need to get them right!
- Plan for testing and bug fixing. Estimate how long this will take. Then double it.
Caption: So engaged were AFD supporters that they sent in artworks, like this drawing by Caroline Proctor which was posted on Facebook to further build the online community.
James Herlihy is a digital strategist at Pareto Fundraising. He has a decade of experience at Australian government departments and nonprofits including Amnesty International Australia, where he led production of record-breaking online fundraising campaigns.
This article was first published in the December 2014/January 2015 edition of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine www.fpmagazine.com.au