fundraising

The Innovation of Envelope Design

The Backstory

For 40 years, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission has been feeding, housing and supporting the vulnerable to turn homelessness into wholeness. Frontier has had the pleasure of partnering with this transformational organization for the last four years.

Our main goal is to help organizations create lasting change. In order to make this happen, we focus on what we can do to ensure constant growth. This means we analyze every detail that goes into our client’s campaigns to ensure optimal donor engagement. Our experiments  compare and contrast different characteristics so that we are constantly providing the best results possible.

The results of some of our tests and innovations are shared in blog posts such as Behind the Design: A Case Study and Victoria Dandelion Society: A Case Study. Constant testing helps us to further tailor our strategies to our client’s individual needs. That’s why we’re sharing one of our most recent tests with you, today.

The Test

Here at Frontier, we get pretty excited about the design of envelopes. Why? Because the design of a sealable paper container could be the difference between obtaining a donation or not.

Generally, for Kelowna’s Gospel Mission newsletters, we create outer envelopes that are minimalist in design. This is because we send out five per year, alternating with fundraising appeals that have much more vibrant and colourful outer envelopes. It’s a subtle way of branding the newsletters differently so that donors recognize them as soon as they open their mailbox. (See image below.)

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When we wondered whether we were missing out on a chance to share imagery on the newsletter’s outer envelope, we decided to conduct an A/B test! We were curious to see if adding a human face to an alternative newsletter envelope would be a motivator to open it up and see what was inside.

"We were wondering if adding a face, an emotionally stimulating, humanizing element, might increase donor engagement and donation revenue from newsletters.” — Chantal, Frontier designer

The image used on the alternative envelope is of a woman whose story is featured in the centrefold of the newsletter. She overcame obstacles and transformed her life with help from Harmony House, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission’s women’s centre. She appears smiling and content on the envelope, an accurate representation of her success story. (See image below.)

KGM-NL1802-OE-A 2.jpg

The newsletter itself was the same for both versions, thanking donors for their support, recapping the previous year with a few stories, and providing an update for future initiatives and programs. The mailing list was randomly split in half, with half of donors receiving the regular, stripped-back version, and the other half receiving the trial version with the image.

Results

When the results came in, we saw a neck-and-neck race between donors receiving version A versus B. Without an indication of one version performing better or worse than the other, what we can do is retest. It’s the name of the game with data-driven fundraising. Even if the results had drastically favoured one version over the other, the nature of increasing donation revenue from a newsletter has a number of variables at play. In order to ensure that the results were an accurate reflection of the variables under assessment, we’d need to perform the same test again, to understand more fully what is happening and what is working.

This is just one example of the many tests we’re regularly running, to find out what’s working with our fundraising, and what might work better. Innovation is a process, and a process we take seriously! By understanding the psychology behind influencing a donor, we can further sharpen our skills and strategies to create incredibly impactful and long-lasting outcomes for our clients.

What’s Next

Newsletters do not typically raise as much revenue as more aggressive fundraising appeals. But while the focus in newsletters is generally on thanking donors, because recognizing their generosity is key to keeping them around, it’s not a waste of time to want more. We hope you’ll stay tuned for other innovations that we’re implementing in our clients’ newsletters!

Match Your Mission Case Studies Part 2: Kelowna's Gospel Mission

In our last blog post, we touched on how match campaigns work and why they work so well for big organizations like Union Gospel Mission Vancouver. Match campaigns both engage with major donors (encouraging them to up the matching amount) and help grassroots donors feel like they're making a bigger impact. But match campaigns can work just as effectively for smaller organizations too. In this post, we explore how a fairly simple strategy raised close to $30,000 for Kelowna's Gospel Mission.

Kelowna's Gospel Mission

Kelowna’s Gospel Mission (KGM) is a shining example of how matching campaigns can work wonders even for small organizations with less reach than a large charity like UGM. The beauty of match campaigns is that bigger matches aren’t necessarily better.

The match campaign came about through an anonymous donor contributing $15,000 with the hope of encouraging community generosity. With the lessons of UGM’s match campaign fresh in our minds, we quickly went to work on a match campaign for KGM on a smaller scale but with just as much focus on urgency.

KGM’s previous match campaign was for Thanksgiving, executed in September 2014 through Chimp.net; an external online charitable account for individuals.

We wanted to do things differently this time around by creating a distinctive KGM campaign landing page to bring the focus back to supporting the KGM cause. The call to action was simple: “Match Our Mission: Every donation in February will be matched thanks to a generous donor”.

The challenge of matching donations within 30 days again provided that sense of urgency while allocating enough time for donors to give. The match announcement ended on a powerful message: “Please help us turn homelessness into wholeness”; effectively making the appeal about the mission with the added incentive of a matching gift.

As an online campaign, Match Our Mission followed the winning formula of five eblasts, sent throughout the month to KGM’s 2,600 subscribers along with sponsored Facebook posts all pointing to the match campaign landing page. The page itself was tied to the Mission (providing meals for Kelowna’s most marginalized) and the impact a gift can have ($100 gift doubles to $200 which enables us to feed 56 people).

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The effect of this is twofold; demonstrating how the match will multiply the donor’s gift and illustrating the tangible results of that impact. As we have learned and others have pointed out here, match campaigns cannot succeed solely on the doubling effect; the success ultimately lies in the compelling message of change that would be unattainable if not for the donor’s gift.

The Results

On the last day of Match Our Mission, we sent out a final reminder along with a progress report: we needed $2,000 more to reach our match goal of $15,000. This last ask proved to be our most effective (deadlines are motivators to giving) as donors rose to the occasion and made up the $2,000 and then some.

The campaign concluded by exceeding the goal to raise $23,995.99 in web revenue--nine times the amount raised in February of the previous year--amounting to a grand total of $32,858 with an average gift of $148 (a 35% increase from February 2014). In our eyes, this was a huge win for Kelowna Gospel Mission and the people of Kelowna, especially during a historically low season for giving.

The success of KGM’s Match Our Mission campaign shows that match campaigns can work for charities big and small. Ultimately, matching is a win-win as donors can double the impact their gift can have while major donors have the rippling effect of legitimizing the campaign and endorsing that the cause matters to them.

Don’t just take our word for it, Brady Josephson of re: charity writes that match campaigns help tip over those on the fence about giving. It also encourages those planning on giving to give larger gifts.

Match Your Mission Case Studies Part 1: UGM

Match campaigns are growing in popularity each year, and at Frontier, we can see why - they transform fundraising campaigns through the power of multiplication, extending the impact of each donor. A match campaign is where a single person or company or group of major donors provide a large gift to a charity with the specific purpose of encouraging other donors, often on a direct mail or email list, to contribute an equal or greater sum as a match. We’ve found them to be an incredibly effective tool to engage major donors in digital strategy (“make your gift go viral!”) as well as to provide grassroots donors (giving under $500 a year) the opportunity to feel they’re a part of making a big impact. We will expand upon the results from two recent campaigns we’ve led for Union Gospel Mission (Vancouver) and Kelowna’s Gospel Mission. You’ll learn that match campaigns work, why we think they work, and how to get one off the ground.

UNION GOSPEL MISSION

Frontier has been leading match campaigns for Union Gospel Mission (UGM) since November 2011. They’ve been the highlight of our year each year - even after a number of campaigns we’re both nervous and excited at our upcoming match campaign this fall.

In November 2010 the annual “meal ask” went out ahead of the Christmas push. It was an email out to the list of approximately 11,000 subscribers with UGM’s core message: donate to save a life this winter. At the time, it raised a pleasant $26k with an average gift of $106. November’s eblast raised approximately $40,000 and the entire web revenue for the month raised nearly triple that total. When 2011 came around, it was time to beat historical results. Enter the match campaign.

In 2011, and continuing today, we’ve noted several trends that aid in the success of match campaigns:

  • Donors of all stripes are turning to the internet to give their gift.
  • Major donors like to reduce a charity’s dependency on their ongoing support.
  • Deadlines are always motivators to giving.
  • Most importantly: small, grassroots donors feel like they are making a meaningful impact with any sum.

These main trends led us to creating UGM’s week-long November match campaign. The major giving team at UGM hauled in $74,355 in pledges in advance of mid-November and a goal was set. Monday morning an email was sent, and by Friday morning we were thanking the list of nearly 14,000 subscribers for raising $87k (up 234%) with their average gift of $135 (an increase of 27%). The big trend we noted were the increase in the number of donations. Where 2010’s campaign saw 246 donors, 2011 had 648 - nearly threefold the previous year.

Growth continued with minor adjustments until the 2014 Frontier and UGM team took the goal to a whole new level - $230,000 in 60 hours.

Again, major and corporate gifts solicitors found that match gift, pooling $115,000 in pledges to challenge grassroots donors. It was time to take things to the next level.

The Action Plan

Frontier’s action plan was simple: continue to send an urgent message about matching funds - but it needed a clear and simple landing page and as many small pushes throughout the week as we could manage.

In all we did the following:

  • Sent five eblasts over the week
  • Sponsored posts on Facebook
  • Tweeted away
  • Used a custom landing page

In addition, major donor solicitors further kept their donors informed both for accountability, but also to potentially spur on more giving.

The landing page was our big change of the year. Features included a progress bar to visually convey donor impact and incentivize giving, as well as a countdown timer to convey the urgency of a gift.

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The Result

We can let the Friday eblast copy tell you how the campaign performed:

A group of UGM donors pledged $115,000 towards our 60 hour matching campaign to encourage others to donate. In the midst of the campaign, more donors stepped up with another $11,000 agreeing to match even more donations bringing our total goal from $230,000 to $252,000!

You went above and beyond, surpassing our goal! Within the last 3 days, 1,235 donations were made!

Together, we raised a grand total of $340,305 to ensure UGM's life-saving programs and services will continue to meet the needs of our community struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction.

We were elated, UGM was elated (they even sent us a Vine of their staff saying thanks!), donors were thrilled. This campaign represented 103,436 meals and other life-savings services.

Days later, the 2015 goal was set at $500,000.

 

Lessons Learned

This success has informed all our future campaign planning. A take-away that we at Frontier are seeing over and over again in campaigns is the importance of highlighting the tangible impact that donors can make. In this case, their donation could provide a meal and a second serving to someone in need through the matching campaign.

 

Next: Part 2: Kelowna's Gospel Mission.