Introducing Dalit Freedom Network: Almost Four Years with Frontier!


Dalit Freedom Network Canada (DFN) is a remarkable non-profit helping Dalit people in India overcome oppression, realize their human worth and gain self-reliance—all through the gift of education. They are helping millions of Dalit people through the support of donors, but in a country with a population like India’s, it’s a massive challenge. Hundreds of millions are still in need.

In 2014, DFN was looking to increase revenue by establishing a strong foundation for fundraising. They had heard of Google AdWords Grants but weren’t using it, and needed an expert to help with their application. Their goals were to gain increased awareness, increased education funding and increased child sponsorships.

When Frontier heard about their need, we knew our data-driven, digital and integrated approach would be a great fit. We knew DFN’s team to be passionate about their life-changing, even world-changing work, so we were thrilled when they chose us to be their guide on the road to higher revenues.

Introducing Frontier

As of this coming fall, Frontier has spent four years with Dalit Freedom Network Canada and we’re thrilled to share some of the valuable improvements we’ve made to their fundraising program!

The first step we took toward building a strategy for long-term growth was an audit to discover and articulate DFN’s situation, strengths and weaknesses. We created an integrated marketing action plan that detailed all of our recommended fundraising and marketing activities for the year ahead—showing the way forward to sustainable growth.

Game Plan

In our action plan, we included a month-by-month direct response (mail and email) fundraising strategy, and committed to donor acquisition and donor retention targets.

Throughout strategizing and production, we kept in close contact with DFN leadership to ensure that every piece was consistent with their core identity. We also pitched in with ideas for stories and media relations, shared from a marketing perspective.

In collaboration with DFN leaders, we developed a visual identity guide and a writing style guide. In this way, we could confidently build out from marketing products that were already in place—maintaining the values of their mission while we moved toward bigger and better.

One of the first projects we took on was the rebrand of their newsletter, The Dalit Report. We set up a consistent schedule of quarterly, seasonal issues. Each issue recaps the highlights of the season and shows donors the true value of their impact. Each shares a feature story, a donor profile and a personal message from Sherry Bailey, DFN Canada’s Executive Director. We even created a special, annual Wish List edition to appear in homes each Christmas season (see image of cover below). Newsletters are created largely as cultivation pieces, to develop long-term relationships with donors by showing accountability, piquing their interest, giving them feedback, and in general fostering interaction, trust and ownership. After all, statistics show—and other fundraising authorities agree—that donors who are personally thanked, who have seen results, and who are connected to the organization through multiple media pathways are more likely to give again.



Once DFN had a chance to see our products in action and garnering results, they entrusted us with the creation of three brand new campaigns:

  • Family Day Campaign
  • Christmas

  • Year End, with a tax calculator

We also took two of DFN’s existing campaigns and brought them to a whole new level:

  • Freedom Campaign — essentially rejigged the whole campaign, with all new digital integration (see example of email header image below).

  • Back to School


In addition to these annual fundraising items, we also signed on to give their website a refresher. We updated its messaging and style to match DFN’s other media platforms, creating a more user-friendly experience and restructuring the flow of the website to funnel all visitors to the donate page. In all campaigns, newsletters and the website, we seamlessly integrated the messaging and brand to develop trust and consistency across all mediums.

For each campaign, we also studied our data and our donors and implemented targeted fundraising through segmentation, so that we could inspire many different types of donors to give. (If you want to know more about donor segmentation, check out our post on it here.) When sending out appeals, newsletters and emails, it’s important to remember that we’re communicating with real live people on the other end, and we have to be relevant to them. So we made every effort to connect with them on a human level and demonstrate shared values.

Working with Frontier for the past several years, I am impressed by how they have not only raised the standard of both our print and digital campaigns, but are constantly looking for ways to improve our communication with our donors. Frontier captures the essence of who we are as a ministry and articulates our story with engaging content and great design.
— Sherry Bailey, Executive Director, Dalit Freedom Network Canada

The Numbers

Beyond developing a wonderful and healthy relationship with DFN’s team, we were able to impress them with consistent growth and help move them towards the vision of freedom for all Dalits!

DFN’s revenue for 2014 was $3,638,862 and over the following year grew to a total revenue of $5,526,920 for 2015. That’s a 51.9% annual increase! Several factors played into this great increase, including the work of Frontier to help  grow their integrated fundraising. Compared to the annual increase from 2013 to 2014 of 28.8%, this was an exciting—but not surprising—number to present to DFN. We also saw exponential growth as we closed out the 2016 year.

To put their growth in perspective, in 2015, we effectively raised $73,613 through the website and $15,643 through emails. In 2016, web revenue increased to $156,629 and emails brought in $37,012. If the email revenue looks small, remember that the ROI is always huge, and in this case, 744%!

Finally, in 2017, we saw an 25% increase in print revenue compared to 2016, and a 35% increase in the average gift amount given in response to print pieces! DFN also experienced a 19% increase in web revenue year over year!

When we first took on DFN as a client in October 2014, they had a donor list for print of approximately 6,000. By sending a warm acquisition to people who were connected with DFN but hadn’t yet given, we grew this list well past 7,500. This growth in print communication plays a big role in the number of donor visits to the website as well, and even the amount of emails that get opened and clicked.



The numbers don’t lie; our strategies work. The number of donors who have given 10 or more gifts per year has grown by 32%. That means overall, as we focus on the long-term, more Dalit families can get an education and find freedom.

Our primary focus for the past year has been mobile and tablet driven marketing efforts and continuing to bridge the gap between donors and the tangible results of their support. For example, last year’s Back to School campaign showed a school being built in increments based off of donations. We will continue creating innovative campaign elements in order to really engage donors with their impact. We also aim to streamline the transition between print appeals and online donations, as well as moving into a more ‘personal’ format for campaign appeals - including handwritten notes from Dalit children, because there’s nothing like a true story to inspire action.

Furthermore, we are gaining insight into the migration of donors from print to digital mediums. For each large print campaign execute, we also create and share a specific URL tied to that campaign to track which print campaigns are generating online donations. This allows us to more accurately report on print donations, as well as print donations made through digital channels.

We’re always thrilled to see what new, world-changing projects DFN is working on. It means that we get to work with real-life stories of people who are being impacted in wonderful ways and we’re so honoured to play a part! We anticipate many more years of continued growth together and look forward to sharing more awesome results.

What Canadian Charities need to know about GDPR

What is GDPR?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has recently (as of May 25, 2018) been enacted in the European Union. It oversees how personal data is processed and increases the rights of each member in your lists. Currently, the GDPR is only relevant in the EU and individuals that live in the EU, but many speculate it’s only a matter of time before similar regulations are enacted worldwide. In the meantime, for charities in Canada, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporation Act and your provincial societies act apply as it has previously.

What is considered “Personal Data”?
Personal Data refers to any information that can identify an individual such as their name and contact information. Indeed, it also encompasses higher security information such as credit card information and criminal records information. 

Does the GDPR affect your charity?
If you have donors who live in the EU or you have charitable programs that operate in the EU, then yes the GDPR affects you. If not, it does not. If you have a some of donors in the EU, take this opportunity to reach out to them and ensure you have consent for sending them materials.

How does consent play into the GDPR?
If you are sending email and mail to your donor list, all you need to do is ensure that the user/donor had willingly signed up for your list at some point in the past. Opt in can be in the form of a simple checkbox on an online or paper form. The simplest thing to do is to go through your website form where people sign up for your newsletters and pull the data to indicate opt-in time. You don’t need to re-ask your list to opt-in again! 

Things you shouldn’t and can’t do under the GDPR:

  • Rent or sell your list of donor names to any external sales groups for extra income. This is common if you are a periodical subscription, but overall a poor practice in the nonprofit industry.

  • Don’t use your donor list to sell something unrelated to your charity or cause. It’s permissible to sell artisan goods made by the people your charity impacts, but it’s not permissible to send information about a corporate sponsors’ product. 

Things you should do:

  • Ensure you have a privacy policy. If you don’t have one, now is the time to put a document together to assure your donors that you take their privacy seriously and have internal ways to manage processing data.

  • Be extra clear on what donors are signing up for when they provide their contact information or email address. For example, in the donation process let donors know that the information that is collected is used to issue their tax receipt. Be transparent and let donors decide whether or not they want to receive your newsletter updates.

Friendly Reminder About CASL

Even though GDPR may not apply to you as a Canadian Charity, there is still CASL.

What is CASL?
CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) was enacted to stop spam and data harvesting, and allows users to unsubscribe from unwanted email solicitation. CASL applies to all Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMs). 

A CEM is an electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial, profit-generating activity.

Good news! This means that it does not generally apply to not-for-profit fundraising!

Electronic media for which fundraising is the primary purpose need not comply with CASL. 

What activities does CASL apply to?
There are some activities that many nonprofits do that ARE considered CEMs. If you engage in any of the following, you need to adhere to CASL:

  • Soliciting for registration to your program/service
  • Selling products (i.e. goods associated with your cause, but are not for fundraising purposes “Buy these handmade crafts. Proceeds go to the makers in XYZ country.”)

Any electronic message where you are selling a product or service to users who receive something in return (a commercial transaction) MUST comply with CASL.

Solicitations solely for funds or confirming information need not comply with CASL. Here are a few examples of solicitations that generally do NOT need to comply:

  • Fundraising Campaigns: i.e. Donate to send a kid to camp!
  • Matching Campaigns: i.e Contribute to our matching campaign!
  • Notifications that a donation was received
  • Confirmation of contact information

Is the email asking for a monetary transaction? Evaluate what needs to comply with CASL and what doesn’t by asking: “Can this transaction be charitably receipted?” If the answer to your specific question is yes, you do not need to worry about CASL and vice versa.

What to do if you have Messages that Need to Adhere to CASL

Ensure all your contacts have willingly subscribed to your solicitation.
Have your recipients checked a box on your donation form or website indicating that they want to receive your emails? Is this a voluntary field? If not, you do not have their consent to send CEMs. 

Make sure your sender contact information is clear in your CEM.
CASL requires all CEMs sent to have a clear sender. Whether this is an internal staff or your executive director, you need to provide the name, mailing address, and either a phone number or an email of the sender.

Provide a simple unsubscribing mechanism.
Users who receive your CEM need to be able to unsubscribe easily without cost. Include a link at the footer of your email that allows users to unsubscribe. Their request must also be processed within 10 business days.

Disclaimer: This post is not legal advice and we’re not lawyers. While we think this post is packed with useful information, it is for informational purposes only, and Frontier is not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.

Behind the Design: A Case Study


Here at Frontier, we strive to develop fundraising research that always pushes the industry to improve, which in turn helps charities have a greater impact in the world. This means that our marketing decisions are grounded in research and testing in order to produce the best results for our clients and continue shaping industry best practices. 

To understand how we could improve our direct mail appeals for our clients, we commissioned Predictive Eye Tracking reports one of our mailer designs.

Predictive eye tracking is a software model based on decades of neuroscientific research that predicts where on the page readers’ eyes are drawn in the first 3-5 seconds of reading. This enables designers to place key information in spots where it will have the most impact. These tests produce a heat map image of the results, along with statistics relating to page complexity and noticeability.

  • The page complexity score measures how much visual clutter is present on the image.

  • The noticeability metric produces a list of the top elements on the page that will be noticed within the first 3-5 seconds.

  • Finally, the heat map indicates areas of highest focus with red spots.

Until recently, the technology to produce these reports was only available for digital mediums, so the newfound ability to test our print campaigns is very exciting.

The Opportunity

During our first interaction with predictive eye tracking reports for our print campaigns, we learned that user engagement was low on the back page of our direct mail appeal. After analysing the report, we hypothesized that the large volume of uninterrupted body copy on the back page may be the main culprit that was losing donors’ attention. This provided us with an opportunity to optimize this space to emphasize the client’s message. But how?

The Fix

This discovery was a call to immediate action for our team! We got creative with the next direct mail appeal we sent out. This currently under-utilized space had the potential to leave a large impact on current and prospective donors; our challenge was to utilize it in such a way that it added value for the client. So, our team developed the idea of creating impact statistic graphics to insert on the back page.

Not only would this give the eye a place to land by breaking up the text, but it would also provide a space to further emphasize important points to the donor.  Most importantly, it would allow a donor to visualize how they can be the hero in the story, all within the first 3-5 seconds of flipping over the appeal letter. Impact statistics offer tangible and visual metrics that are quick to digest, all while emphasizing the impact donors can have on real lives. 

However, at Frontier we are not satisfied with assuming we’ve solved the problem; we test to ensure it’s solved. So we ordered another predictive report, this time on our new design. The results came back overwhelmingly positive: the back page received a focus rate score of 93.7%, which indicates highly focused attention. Additionally, the new impact statistic graphic was the top focus item on the heat map. Essentially, the new infographic stole the show, dramatically  increasing overall donor engagement with the page.

Frontier Marketing - Predictive Eye Tracking Results_Edit.jpg

Applied Results

Not only did the Predictive Eye Tracking test results prove that this was a worthwhile change, but the real life results we have seen from our clients also verify this.

The success of this design means that now we have another strategy for effectively communicating clients’ messages to potential donors. Since confirming our theory with the predictive eye tracking test and seeing our clients’ real-life fundraising results, we have gone on to integrate this design into many of the mailers we create for our clients.

But we haven’t just inserted basic impact statistic graphics into all our mailers. We have taken the principles of these solutions and tailored them to each of our client’s individual needs, based on who they are as an organization and even when in the year the campaign launches. This design has contributed to the success of numerous mailers, and is particularly applicable for campaigns with tangible asks.

By sharing this type of research publicly, Frontier continues developing our industry’s understanding of effective fundraising practices. For example, our general manager, Mariam Ghani, presented these findings at the 2017 Pursuit conference in Edmonton, AB so that other fundraisers could gain from our research.

“It was a privilege presenting to other non-profits to share that direct mail fundraising continues to be an effective tool, and even more so now when we have the technology to optimize it further.” - Mariam Ghani, General Manager, Frontier

Through research like these tests, our goal is to help shape industry best practices so that organizations like our clients and can raise support more effectively than ever before.

Calgary Dream Centre Case Study: One Year with Frontier


As the Calgary Dream Centre faced the end of 2014, they had high hopes for the upcoming year—the year signifying their 10th anniversary of influencing transformations in their community. They were working tirelessly. With their efforts focused on helping those most vulnerable in the city, their fundraising had taken the shape of an event-based fundraising program with only rare mailings to donors.

As soon as we began to study their fundraising practices, we saw numerous ways that we could help. So we set about to make their 10th anniversary a critical juncture—a year of unprecedented and sustainable growth.

Introducing Frontier

In the autumn of 2014, the Calgary Dream Centre was seeking to partner with a fundraising agency to help them grow beyond their current fundraising standard and double if not triple their revenue over the course of several years. After deliberating with peers in the mission world, they chose Frontier.

In establishing a partnership, we focused on building trust and relationship—getting to know the members of the Dream Centre personally. Because they view us as an extension of their fundraising team—not simply an external service provider—we are able to soak in the knowledge and culture of the Dream Centre as an organization and develop a deeper understanding of their needs.

We immediately started building a new website and hustled to launch it in December 2014. We also created an annual print and email calendar, and began acquisition campaigns right away.

Because of our personal approach, and getting to know the Calgary Dream Centre even before our official contract, we were able to get to work within weeks of our initial contact, seeking new strategies and improvement right away.

Game Plan

The first improvement we made to the Calgary Dream Centre’s fundraising strategy was a total overhaul of their website. We redesigned every attribute to clarify the focus, creating the entire website around a single call to action: Donate. We also streamlined the online donation experience using our best practices, as explained on our blog. By de-emphasizing third party events, we highlighted the importance of one-time gifts. Instead of being overwhelmed by options, donors were simply being asked to do one thing, so many of them did it!


Over the next 12 months, we grew the Dream Centre’s direct mail campaign to include 7 appeals, 5 acquisition campaigns and 4 newsletters. This increased communication resulted in the addition of 194 new donors since October 2014, which is 150% growth over the previous year.  

The Newsletter itself—which we named “Transformations”—was our own creation. Through the release of quarterly issues, a signature piece has emerged with a focus on sharing information and cultivating relationships with the donors. It provides organizational accountability to these supporters—showing them where their dollars are going—and keeps them informed and engaged. Did you know that donors are known to give up to three times more to charities that show the problem being solved and where their dollars will go?  

Lastly, we gave some time to brand unification. By equipping the Dream Centre with important tools such as a professional, unique and recognizable brand that maintains consistency across all of their “products,” we enabled them to compete in the big leagues and grow their donor base.


Site redesign alone grew online revenue by 66%. We helped them rustle up $161,891 through their website, which is currently 13% of their gross revenue total. Further, the introduction of Transformations and its emphasis on donor care and communications provoked a 17.4% reduction of donor attrition. In fact, 322 donors have returned after not giving for more than two years. That’s roughly equal to their total acquisition of the last three years combined!

Since December 2014, we’ve seen ongoing, visible growth. In fact, the Dream Centre has seen the largest gross donation revenue increase in their history: $1,220,137, an increase of $344,000. In total, they received gifts from 1605 donors, which is a 105% increase.

The Calgary Dream Centre is a charity whose heart for the community eclipsed their capacity to focus on strategic fundraising. Now, with enhanced donor care tools, they’ve been able to build a stronger foundation of trust and loyalty with their donors and raise more revenue. And there’s more in store!

We look forward to a continued partnership with the Calgary Dream Centre in 2016. We plan to establish a branded monthly donor program to further steward existing donors, as well as develop an Easter Direct Mail and Acquisition campaign. On the digital frontier, we’ll be exploring third party event fundraising together. We fully expect good to become better—than best—as we apply more of our fundraising best practices, moving forward!