Salsa Case Study: Polaris Project Masters Peer-to-Peer Fundraising with Salsa


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Polaris Project sought to establish a quick-turn social media fundraising campaign to expand their reach. Learn how they overcame challenges and used Salsa's online fundraising software to achieve great success.

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Salsa Case Study: Polaris Project Masters Peer-to-Peer Fundraising with Salsa

  1. 1. Raising Funds andAwareness Through FriendsThe decade-old Polaris Project, based inWashington, D.C., is one of the leadingorganizations in the global fight against humantrafficking and modern-day slavery. Named afterthe North Star “Polaris” that guided slaves tofreedom along the Underground Railroad, PolarisProject is transforming the way individuals andcommunities respond to human trafficking;running the national, 24-hour hotline thatreceives requests for assistance and tips onhuman-trafficking situations across the country;public outreach and communications to raiseawareness and create social change at thegrassroots level; policy advocacy; training andtechnical assistance to other organizationsinvolved in anti-trafficking efforts; and afellowship program to train future leadersin the anti-trafficking effort.Polaris Project fights every day to nudge the issueof human trafficking to the forefront of America’scollective conscience, while simultaneouslyhelping the victims of this social scourgetransition to a normal, healthy life.Helping the victims of modern-day slavery and leading the charge ineradicating this most heinous of societal ills doesn’t seem like something forwhich fundraising would be difficult. But human trafficking hides so deeplyunderground that many people don’t know it exists, and those who do don’tnecessarily want to think about it. Project
  2. 2. ChallengeAggressive Growth Goals Set for First-Time Fundraising CampaignAs with many nonprofit organizations, much ofPolaris Project’s fundraising work includes ahealthy dose of “friendraising.” Fueled bySalsa Labs, Polaris Project’s recent peer-to-peercampaign proved to be a highly successful wayto accomplish both. The brief campaign, whichlaunched on March 16, 2012, and ended on April15, was the organization’s first peer-to-peerfundraising push to its list, and also the first timeit embarked on a major online fundraising effortso early in the calendar year.“We had a pretty aggressive goal this yearin terms of growth for online revenue andare attempting to do an online campaignThe campaign consisted of three emails, writ-ten and signed by Polaris Project’s director ofclient services, Dr. C. De Los Rios. Emails wentto the organization’s donor file, as well as itsfile of grassroots supporters. Ever careful to notoverwhelm supporters, Polaris Project chose toremove donors who had given within a month ofthe campaign launch and subsequently removeddonors who gave to the campaign.each quarter,” said Johanna Olivas, onlinecommunications specialist for PolarisProject. (The initial effort would befollowed by others in June, Septemberand end-of-year.)The goal for the campaign was twofold. First,Polaris Project sought to raise $10,000. Second,the organization hoped to encourage supportersto amplify efforts to end human trafficking byparticipating in their own peer-to-peer fundraisingcampaigns. There was also an internal desire toreach the goal early in the year, despite planningbeginning just one month before the campaignkicked off.The first email served as the campaign launchmessage, explaining the goals and offering apowerful story from a survivor of humantrafficking who had been helped by Polaris Project- a top fundraising strength for the organizationin terms of sharing its message. It concluded withtwo calls to action- donate online or spread theword through a peer-to-peer fundraising page.SolutionSalsa Enables Peer-To-Peer Fundraising and Friendraising
  3. 3. The second donor touch went out about twoweeks later, at the mid-point of the campaign, inthe form of the organization’s regular monthlye-newsletter and included a second video linkfeaturing another survivor story.The final email was sent three days before thecampaign conclusion. The email’s call to actionwas again a “friendraising” directive - reach out toat least five friends and ask them to donate.Peer-to-peer fundraisers also receivedcommunication throughout the campaign. Theirmessages focused on showing appreciation fortheir efforts and reiterated the impact that theirfundraising would have. It also provided actionsteps to help fuel their peer-to-peer fundraisingsuccess, such as personalizing their page, tyingtheir page to a life event or milestone, sendinga reminder (or three) to friends and family andsharing via social media (complete withsample postings).Polaris Project worked closely with Salsa to fuelthe campaign, utilizing the company peer-to- peerfundraising tool, its tailored landing donationpage, its email blast package, social mediaintegration and its supporter management(CRM) to turn the one-time donors intolifetime supporters.“Salsa’s tools are very user-friendly, and theyhave a ton of documentation available online anda really good online support system,” Olivas said.“It’s all available to nonprofts that wouldn’t havethe resources to pay some huge consulting firm torun this kind of campaign.”In addition, the campaign used social media toencourage friends and followers to participate.This took the form of a sliding banner on thePolaris Project homepage that took those whoclicked on it to the peer-to-peer fundraisingcampaign page and a video that highlighted theorganization’s client services programand survivors.Salsa’s tools are very user-friendly, and they have a ton of documentationavailable online and a really good online support system.- Johanna Olivas, Online Communications Specialist, Polaris Project
  4. 4. 866-796-8345 @salsalabsResultsPolaris Exceeded Donations Goal and Gained Recurring DonorsGiven the level of outreach, it’s not surprising thatPolaris Project was able to exceed its $10,000goal by nearly $700. What did surprise organizerswas the quick response and high level of interest.“We launched on a Friday and had an immediateresponse that we weren’t expecting,” Olivas said,explaining that by the end of the day, the launchemail had a 15 percent open rate and a .1 percentconversion rate. It immediately raised $1,200, andresulted in some people going online to sign up asrecurring (monthly) donors and others signing upfor a peer-to-peer fundraising page.“We were not anticipating getting recurringdonors,” Olivas said, “People read our messageand were inspired not only to donate, but tocommit to recurring donations.”The second and third emails had similar openrates, and a slightly higher, .2 percent conversionrate. According to Olivas, a few unexpectedly largegifts bumped the campaign over its goal.Ultimately, the campaign raised $10,691, with$1,173 coming from 13 peer-to-peerfundraising pages.SuccessOlivas said Polaris Project’s compelling storiesof life as a modern-day slave and the abundantimpact the organization can have on survivors arethe basis of any of its awareness and fundraisingsuccesses.Specifcally for this campaign, she credits thedual options for supporters for the tremendousresponse, noting they appreciated being ableto give immediately or establish a peer-to-peerfundraising page. That and the organization’spartnership with Salsa.“From the email blast package to the donationform to the P2P platform,” Olivas said, “Salsasimply gave us the tools we needed to carry outthis campaign.”Salsa helps nonprofits and political campaigns ignite action and fuel changearound the world by growing and engaging a base of support online. Salsaprovides more than technology; it offers strategic best practices, training,highly rated support and a strong online community, so its clients can focustheir energy on their mission.