Case Study: Humane Society of the United States

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Challenge

Meet Year-End Fundraising Goals in a Tough Economic Climate

Year-end fundraising is always a nail-biter for non-profits. Recently, however, as the economy has struggled, many non-profits have significantly lowered their expected fundraising returns.

But from a consultant’s perspective, that’s the time we really need to pull out all the stops. After all, no matter what shape the economy is in, it’s our job to help our clients maximize their returns, lift their response rates and deliver the strategy that will meet or exceed goals.

The anxious year-end outlook was no different for our client, The Humane Society of the United States. HSUS had just come out of a very successful election cycle, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to help pass Proposition 2 in California. Their YES! On Prop2 campaign was one of the most aggressive online fundraising efforts ever executed and on top of concerns about the economy, there was a very real possibility that their list could be experiencing donor fatigue.

Solution

Donor Text Broadcast with Text-To-Call Capabilities

HSUS worked with Watershed to make sure that we had sound fundraising strategies in place for December, but we also felt we had to try some new tactics to boost our response even further in uncertain times. Watershed partnered with our friends at Mobile Commons to see if we could convert more donors through a “text-to-call” program.

Through their previous work with Mobile Commons, HSUS had built a mobile subscriber list of about 12,000 activists. Those subscribers have consistently received messages such as insider updates, breaking news alerts and advocacy outreach. The mobile list was built primarily from sign-ups through online advocacy campaigns, such as ending the Canadian seal hunt and stopping puppy mills.

Our strategy was simple: send HSUS’ mobile subscribers a text message on December 30th asking them to reply to call or directly call a 1-800 number to make their year-end gift (we partnered with telemarketing firms FineLine and Share Group to manage the toll-free line.)

The message went out to 7,628 mobile subscribers: “HUMANE: 24 hrs to make your tax-deductible gift for animals. Call 800-680-8313 from 11-8 EST or reply “CALL” now to give to the Humane Society. ReplySTOPtoquit”. We also established a control group of 3,814 mobile subscribers who would not receive the text, so we could measure the effect of our campaign. Then, we sat back and waited for eager donors to call to complete their gift.

Results

A Surprising Lift in Donations – But Not Where We Expected

To be great, sometimes you can’t be afraid to fail. And in terms of the original intent of this program – we definitely failed! While the call center received about 12 inbound calls, none were to make gifts. Those who did call primarily called to ask questions or have themselves removed from the list. Were we disappointed? You bet. BUT there was a very significant and important silver lining…

Remember that control group we set up before launching the text message? Well, HSUS and Watershed sent one final “Last Chance” year-end email to go out December 31st – the very next day. This email went to anyone who had not yet donated to a year-end fundraising appeal – including both the 3,814 mobile subscribers who did not get a text message and the 7,628 mobile subscribers who had received the text the previous day. That’s where we saw results worth shouting about:

  • The mobile activists who were suppressed from the text message responded to the final fundraising appeal at a rate of .31%.
  • The mobile activists who received the text message on the 30th responded to the final email ask at a rate of .55% — a statistically significant 77% increase in response to the appeal!

As these results show, mobile works best when it’s used in tandem with other media. By using their mobile list to build engagement, The Humane Society of the United States saw a significant increase in responses to email.

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