After we identify audiences, we usually put together a plan like this that outlines who should get what.This might look complex, but for HRC it was a revelation. Everything in one place, for the first time. Of course, the guiding principle in creating a plan like this is how to maximize value from the list.
It all starts is by having everyone in the room. Once a week we’re on the phone with their direct mail firm, three telemarketing firms, their canvassing firm, and a rotating cast of other vendors. Four times a year, we all meet in person.More than any other factor, I think this is what helped HRC win the Direct Marketing Association’s top award five years after we started working with them.
Taking HRC’s program to the next level has been, more than anything, about thinking through every single point in the donor lifecycle, and using that point to move people up the ladder.I won’t take you through this whole thing, but I’ll point out a couple key tactics that have really grown the program. [CLICK] For one-time donors, we’ve tested into giving special language for each segment based on their past donation history. But we’ve also put a huge focus on moving one-time donors into HRC Partners, their monthly giving program. [CLICK] New prospects AND new donors get a multichannel onboarding series with a Partners ask immediately when they join the file. [CLICK] And if they don’t become Partners right off the bat, we also send five Partners invite campaigns per year, mostly to recent donors – we send these around 30 days after a big campaign.[CLICK] We’re also in charge of all online solicitations for the Federal Club, their midlevel program starting at $1200/yr. Both Partners and Fed Club campaigns are now fully integrated efforts across DM and TM. A lot of our success with these programs has been about carefully modeling and selecting who gets asked to join. Recency of giving, acceleration of giving, monthly donor upgrades, we’re always testing. (We’ve found behavioral data like that to be much more powerful than demographics.)[CLICK] And then, once they’re in either Partners or Federal Club, we’re getting the most out of them through upgrade asks and reinstatement asks if they drop out of the program or their credit card expires. [CLICK][IN CASE THEY ASK: For Partners, it’s about recency of one-time donations, recency of actions, and recency of joining the file. For Federal Club, it’s about giving multiple gifts at a certain level over a long period of time, acceleration (e.g. a steady $50 donor who suddenly gives $200), being a current partner at a certain level, having upgraded your Partners gift recently, or the amount of your inception gift combined with your followup behavior.
Here’s one example of one little touch-point and how we’ve optimized it.Our monthly donor upgrade campaigns had been doing well for a few years – well enough that we wanted to put some effort into making them better. So we used conditional content to show donors’ current gift level in the email, and we came up with an algorithm to generate a “round itup” ask based on that gift. So, if you give $15 or $16 or $17, you’re asked to round it up to $20.[CLICK]What’s special about this message is that there’s no link. Nothing to click. All you have to do is hit “reply.” And the decision about your new pledge amount is all but made for you.This doubled the response rate of last year’s campaign. [CLICK]
The core of optimizing HRC’s program has been about testing. We send about 30 [check that number!] test segments a year for HRC. These are all tests that we’ve run for HRC. Anytime we can, we look at results for four or five different segments and look back after a year to see how it affected long-term retention. And at the end of each year, we put all these test results into a big fat binder for their records.
This is what OUR binder looks like.What you see here is a top-secret online vault where we put results from every test we do, for every client. So if I’m about to run a sustainer upgrade campaign, I can immediately search for sustainer upgrade tests and see what we’ve already learned as a firm.That means your program is informed by an enormous wealth of testing data – including tests you might not have a big enough list to run. In a very real sense, it’s optimized from day one of working with us. And since best practices literally change from year to year, it will stay that way.
[These three slides are a good rapid-response fundraising story] Here’s a good story about capturing the moment.Early one morning in 2012, HRC’s communications director emailed us with an inside tip that President Obama would be announcing his support for full marriage equality in an interview that same day.Less than four hours later – and only 9 minutes after the news went public – our email asking people to thank Obama was in inboxes.
It became our best-performing action ever. And like all our actions, it landed on a thank-you page with an embedded fundraising form. And we started to see the money roll in. That’s when we knew we weren’t done with our rapid-response around this. [CLICK][Our post-action pages also have social media share functions, which maintain a steady number of viral recruits. We’ve tested into the page, so we know exactly what the tradeoff is on lost recruitment vs. the increase in revenue. Post-action giving now accounts for about 15% of HRC’s annual online budget.]
We made HRC get on the phone with major donors immediately, because we knew we could leverage a matching gift more effectively in a big moment like this. The first person to step up was a board member, and the second was Chelsea Handler, the late-night TV host. The previous four matching gift campaigns had raised $155k-$175k. In this campaign we brought in $385k.Two things made it work: 1. We’d tested into that post-action fundraising page two years earlier. So we had the confidence to know we could raise a significant amount of money on an action, without having it feel like a fundraising appeal. 2. We moved quickly, and we kept moving quickly.
Obviously the Supreme Court cases of 2013 were a big moment for marriage, and we did everything possible to help HRC take advantage of it. This is a facebook image share we designed for them just before the hearings. [CLICK] This post reached over 9 MILLION people. It’s the second-most-popular post they’ve EVER had on Facebook.
Andafter the Supreme Court hearings, we knew we had to tie that red-logo magic to all the hard on-the-ground work HRC does, to keep making the case for membership support. [CLICK]So we created this infographic and launched it after the three state victories they had that month, to tie them together and tee up the Supreme Court rulings themselves.[CLICK]A lot of this work is about one simple thing: Breaking through the clutter. You need awesome creative to do that.
Of course, catching people’s attention doesn’t always have to be serious.
At HSUS, we plan for our big campaigns – in 2013, Protect Seals, Puppy Mills, Farm Animal Protection and year-end – starting at least three months ahead of time (for YE, we start in June!).
For our 2012 YE campaign, we had consistent messaging, calls-to-action, and design across all channels: Email, donation forms, website, social media, online advertising, mail, and via our telemarketing script (to call people who clicked through to donation forms from our email, but didn’t donate).Results for our overall 2012 year-end campaign were 25% over our goal!
Planning ahead allows you to develop a good story or stories (depending on the length of your campaign) about one person, animal, or issue this uses the theories of behavioral economics whereby you’ll engage a supporter’s emotions most by talking not about MANY/lots of stats, but about ONE thing, as that’s both more relatable to people and also doesn’t make the issue seem larger than they’d ever be able to do anything about (…even though our issues are big).
Our Protect Seals campaign is an annual campaign beginning in 2005 that presents the same (exact) issue and for which we have the same calls to action every year. In 2012, by taking time well ahead of the campaign to plan and think of how to make it “fresh,” we pulled together this infograph. It took months of planning – from content to design – but it paid off with actions…and donations:The infograph became the third biggest fundraiser for this year’s campaign, yet we never used it in a single fundraising appeal! (There was a “donate” button at the bottom of the infograph webpage and we emailed – but the ask in our email promoting the infograph was to “share,” not donate.)
Starting in YE 2011and for campaigns since then, we segmented our major donors from the rest of our file and did two things: 1) Used “Leadership” language on the email and donation form (consistent with all other communications they receive); and 2) tested an “Other” box without pre-set donation amounts on the donation form. Results were great!
But, of course, there are big moments that aren’t expected. In an emergency, start somewhere: Social media is quick and easy! (As long as you make sure you’re building your supporters throughout the year!) Images – which can be put together quickly and are relatable to people (not to mention easily sharable!) – are some of the easiest forms of communicating a big moment. (Puppy mill before and after image is one of the most “liked” and shared images we’ve ever posted– and it didn’t take more than a few hours to put together!)Extra sidenote: One of the best examples of image use: Planned Parenthood’s “I stand with PP” campaign – people looking at you, which lights up our brains as humans!; plus, it was easy for supporters to engage and show their support.
Images are some of the quickest and also most effective ways to capitalize on a big moment. Regardless of what you do, continue the big moment by following up with your supporters. We sent this follow up email four days after our initial Isaac appeal and linked to an existing FB photo album of images from our disaster relief efforts. BONUS: While the ask was to simply view the album, we added an option to give in a P.S. which ended up accounting for 20% of the all funds raised for this relief effort!!
There are ways to prep for the unexpected! Internally, keep in communication with program/campaign staff; have a “checklist” of things you can do & who’s responsible for when big moments occur; and, in especially BIG moments, be ready to drop everything you’re doing and GO! (A checklist goes a long way in these moments…)Externally, keep stories on the issues you confront alive year-round, or on some regular basis – this way, your constituents will be ready and willing to act when you reach out, making it easier to capitalize (in whatever way) on your big moment!
Especially now that you know how to deal with it
The day-to-day of your program should be a well-oiled machine, so that when an urgent opportunity comes up, you can react quickly and efficiently. In our experience our clients who are best able to react to a crisis opportunity are those who have efficient online programs that run smoothly day-to-day – so a lot of the basics are already working well. One way to actually make sure you can handle a crisis is to make your day-to-day work flow as smooth and efficient as possible!
Although you never know what might happen in an emergency situation, many of our clients have developed crisis response plans that allow them the flexibility to respond to the moment without getting stuck in the details. For instance, the plan might lay out who is responsible for responding to the crisis. Is the first step a rapid response call or meeting to discuss if you respond and how? Who needs to be in that meeting? Once you’ve decided to respond, who needs to review and approve copy? We typically create an expedited review process for emergencies so things can move more quickly. Does anyone else here have a crisis response plan? What other elements do you include?
There are also natural disasters, like the oil spill in the gulf coast.
You may also have leadership or supporters who do cool things. We work with the clinton foundation, and when Bill Clinton himself does stuff – like being “supercool” – we can sometimes leverage that for our purposes. If your executive director goes on TV or you have celebrity spokespeople, look for those opportunities!
If you work on a health issue, it may seem that you don’t have many ‘crisis’ opportunities. But news like this CDC report can provide big moments!
And while this is sort of in a category by itself, it really makes the point that it is important to be creative. When a cobra escaped from the bronx zoo, someone started a twitterfeed, which quickly picked up tens of thousands of followers. After the baby cobra was recaptured, we ran a context to ask people to ‘name the cobra’ and recruited 30,000 new email addresses for the zoo!Depending on time at this point – do other folks in the room have other examples of ‘big moments’ you were able to successfully capitalize on?
The first thing I will say is if you have a REAL “big moment” you have to react quickly. Being third or fourth or fourteenth to an opportunity is, well, just really different than being first. Be first. Or at least, be fast!
Think Fast, Think Big: Secrets of America's Largest Non-Profits"
Think FAST, Think BIG
Secrets of America’s Most Sophisticated
Sarah DiJulio, M+R Strategic Services
Stephanie Lauf, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Kelly Townsend, Humane Society of the United States
What’s the long term value of donors we bring in on a $5 ask? Does
an animated GIF increase clickthrough rates? Should our threemessage sustainer series ask for $4, $4, $4? Or $10, $10, $5? Or
$12, $12, $6? Open donation field vs. HPC-based ask string? Does
adding an optional “phone” field drop conversion rates? Should we
remove dollar signs and cents from our donation pages? Does guiltinducing red text bring back lapsed members? How long does it
take for a sustainer ask to break even vs. a one-time email ask?
Should monthly giving get real estate on HRC.org? Should the main
“Donate” link on the homepage lead to a donation form or a designheavy page with a few giving options? What’s the multi-year
performance of “discount membership” donors? Should we ask
prospects to “Join HRC” or “Donate to HRC”? What’s the
breakeven cost for any given premium? Do straight allies perform
better with language about straight allies? Should emails have a
callout box up top or centered? Do social media “influencers” make
more valuable donors? Etc
By the end of the campaign
826,000 unique signers to Open Letter
Over 30% were new list members
Tons of donations
Over 35,000 calls to Congress
Facebook and Twitter audiences more than
• Supporter were energized like never before
• Most importantly: WE WON.
Tick Tock of Komen
Disappointing news from a friend
Wow. Just wow. (Sign on)
Open Letter (2:30pm)
Share Badge (6pm)
Mayor Bloomberg stands with us
Supporter Video (4pm)
BREAKING: Susan G. Komen for the
Cure Foundation restores partnership
Thank you—Share Badge
Since Pence and Komen…
Long term value
Tips from The Humane Society
of the United States
―Big moments‖ you’re expecting
• Go all out!
– Plan as far ahead of time as possible
– Use all online and (as possible) offline channels:
Email, website, social media, mobile, online
advertising, mail, telemarketing, street canvassing
– Involve everyone from these channels (particularly if
they’re separate!) from the beginning
– Confirm the primary message/s and call/s to action that
will be promoted across all of these channels.
– Confirm reporting metrics/goals and how you will report on
results across all of these channels.
―Big moments‖ you’re expecting
• Tell a compelling
– Planning ahead allows
time to develop a story
(or stories) about one
animal, person, or thing
– This also allows ability to
include lots of detail and
a strong call/s to action
―Big moments‖ you’re expecting
• Freshen it up!
– Planning ahead
can also help
you tell the
―same old story‖
in a totally
―Big moments‖ you’re expecting
• Communicate with cause
– Planning ahead also means
time to think about the various
segments you may want (or
need) for your campaign:
Donors vs. non-donors
Plus, any others you can
dream up (…and manage!)
– Plus, you can come up with tests
that inform future strategy!
Compared to our
were 7x higher
were 2x higher
Avg. gifts were
But ―big moments‖ aren’t always
– Social media is an easy
way to get the word
out, especially in an
emergency (same goes
• Get to the bigger
– Continue the breaking
moment via email and on
your website (among other
But ―big moments‖ aren’t always
• No need to get fancy
– Images are relatable, easily
―digestable‖ and sharable
(and they don’t need to be
• Keep the story alive
– After a big moment like
this, follow up with your
– Make it easy (for you and
them) by linking to existing
But ―big moments‖ aren’t always
• Preparing for the unexpected
• Keep in good communication with staff from various
programs and campaigns so you’ll be the first to know;
• Prepare a ―checklist‖ that can be put into action when a
big moment happens;
• For seriously BIG moments, drop everything and go!
– Externally: Tell stories and update to your constituents
about the issues you confront year-round (or at least on
some sort of regular basis).
Last but not least: Don’t forget to step back
and celebrate on having a ―big moment‖!
Find us later
• Sarah DiJulio, M+R Strategic Services
And check out our friends at www.hrc.org!
• Stephanie Lauf, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
• Kelly Townsend, Humane Society of the United States