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A Match Made in Heaven: Frontier and Bridgeway quadruple $60k for poverty relief

History

In late April of 2014, our leadership team met with Mark Petersen, Executive Director of Bridgeway Foundation, at their downtown Toronto office. Over hours of conversation, we shared our concerns, thoughts and hopes about digital fundraising in Canada. On the plane ride home to British Columbia, we envisioned a plan that would motivate charities to become more innovative online.

In the following months, our team secured a grant to study fundraising best practices, examining a 55 point checklist for each of 92 member organizations listed by the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. Months of research, micro-donations and writing later, we had a report in our hands. This report can be downloaded at digitalcharity.ca.

To connect the study with tangible results, the capstone of the project was to lead six charities through a best-practice matching campaign. Each charity served the area of urban poverty relief, but were different sizes and in different cities.

The Match

Bridgeway Foundation is a private family foundation that supports non-profit organizations through financial grants and partnerships. They stimulate innovation within the social sector and strengthen organizations’ capacities to serve. Working in tandem with their generosity, we devised a plan to organize and execute six pro-bono match campaigns for $10,000 each, for a total of $60,000 in matching funds.

Eligible charities were encouraged to apply for Bridgeway’s grant by submitting an application that highlighted a project in need of funds. Once selected they were informed, and Bridgeway gave us notice of winners to begin our summer partnership.

Over the summer of 2015, the Frontier team performed pro-bono fundraising campaigns for the following charities:

Siloam Mission, Winnipeg, Large List, June 23 to July 2 Regeneration Outreach Community, Brampton, Small List, June 25 to July 14 Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, Halifax, Small List, July 1 to July 20 Hope Mission, Edmonton, Medium List, July 14 to July 23 Welcome Hall Mission, Montreal, Small List, July 7 to July 16 Yonge Street Mission, Toronto, Large List, August 11 to August 20

None of these six charities had sent out similar campaigns to their email list in at least the previous twelve months.

The Campaigns

We needed to keep things simple for two reasons: we were walking through major digital campaigns with strangers to whom we’d be introducing different tools, methods and tactics. We also wanted to make sure that there was consistency across the group to provide clearer analytics.

Frontier’s action plan was as follows:

Campaign Setup

  • Using the best practices from our digitalcharity.ca report, build a simple landing page that can be adapted for each of the six charities.
  • Work with each charity to set up a Stripe.com account for processing donations.
  • Set up donor friendly confirmation pages & thank you emails.
  • Create an eblast that can be adapted for 10 or 20 day campaigns.

Eblasting

  • Send a kick off eblast on day one to their whole list.
  • Send a reminder eblast 2 days after the initial announcement to the whole list.*
  • Send a ‘forward to a friend’ eblast on day 7 to the engaged segment of the list.*
  • Send a last-day reminder on the final day to the whole list.
  • Send a ‘few hours left’ eblast in the final evening to those who did not open the previous email.
  • Send a Congratulations/Thank-you eblast to everyone the day after.

*exact day for sending each eblast may vary 1-2 days depending on day of the week and whether the campaign was for 10 or 20 days.

Bonus

For most charities, we posted on Facebook or tweeted. Others successfully inspired major donors to put down money and thus drive their campaign further. Organizations that surpassed their goal early on were encouraged to approach major donors and request that their gift be used to motivate others to give more. In this way, the campaigns kept up their momentum until the end of the 10 or 20 day period. Having “in the moment” action made for exciting days!

Putting a charge in the online giving pages

We truly believe we created the six best online giving pages in Canada this summer. Employing the lessons learned within the digitalcharity.ca report, we emphasized the following:

  • a fully responsive experience for desktop, tablet and mobile
  • suggested amounts with clear language for impact (eg. $100 helps 64 people)
  • colour schemes specific to each mission for easy and trust-building navigation
  • inline validation for accurate data entry by donors (green check = yes, red x = error)
  • applicable security symbol and trust marks (“100% secure,” Registered Charity Number)
  • minimal number of fields required for donation processing and receipting (eg. CC type, city, province was auto-generated)
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The Result

Over 300 hours of volunteer time from ten Frontier staff and dozens of hard-working development staff from six different missions worked to send 38 eblasts to over 44,000 subscribers. It made for an incredible summer.

A grand total of $237,476 was raised. $177,476 came directly from online donors, and 15% came from offline gifts directly as a result of the campaign!

Every charity reached the $10k match threshold, with the best performers raising $33.9k, $48.4k, and an astounding $58.2k.

1,270 donors contributed to the match online. 23% of online gifts came in the first day of the campaign while 35% came in the final day.

We noticed a significant increase in e-commerce conversion rate (in other words, the percentage of people who come to the page who donate). During the campaigns (10-20 day periods) the charities averaged 12.36% conversion of site visitors as compared to 2.44% March through May (90 day periods that included an Easter and a Camp fundraising ask).

The average gift increased 11%, or $14.44, over the March to May average.

Of the three charities with data before and after our campaign, 56% of all online donations from June 21 till August 22 were attributed to the match campaign.

One of the Biggest Insights: Mobile Matters

The three big charities with complete data from previous months increased their mobile conversion rate by 867% during the 10 days of the match, when compared with March through May. They had 128 combined mobile donations for a 0.6% conversion rate on those three months, in comparison to 116 mobile donations during the 10 day match for a 5.8% conversion rate.

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These three organizations raised $13,653 through mobile during the match campaigns as compared to $5,158 the three months of March through May.

Tablet giving changed too. Tablet conversions went from 2.45% conversion March through May to 12.87% during the campaign. They raised $11,766 from tablets during the campaign, up from $5,456 March through May.

Whereas mobile and tablet represented 13.9% of online giving in March through May, during the campaign they contributed to 20%, an increase of over 43%.

Match campaigns can transform fundraising campaigns through the power of multiplication, extending the impact of each donor. But these campaigns are about so much more. The partnerships over this year contributed to hundreds of thousands of dollars raised, and many lives changed. The human impact happened when the excellence of collaboration met the innovation of technology.

The first day in the new kitchen! Thank you Lucy Kristen and Grace Place pic.twitter.com/bp9fS4UiOT

— Regen Brampton (@RegenBrampton) August 28, 2015

Victoria Dandelion Society's Easter Match, a Case Study

History

The Victoria Dandelion Society (VDS) was founded in 2011 by Reverend Al Tysick, in order to meet the need for both tangible and emotional support within Victoria’s homeless community.

We had been working with VDS since early on, building them a new website and implementing email and direct mail programs. Thanks to this we were we were able to follow best practices from the start, not only in the website we built but in fundraising campaigns. We have seen the fruits of this in continued growth of VDS’s donor base.

This year a rare opportunity arose when an anonymous donor stepped up, offering to match gifts up to $75,000. Having experienced great success with match campaigns run for larger clients such as Union Gospel Mission, we wanted to bring those outcomes to our most grassroots client, the Dandelion Society.

The Game Plan

This was not the first match campaign we had organized for VDS—they had participated in two campaigns through Chimp.net in 2014 with moderate success. In both these cases the donor had been directed to an external site, so we decided on a new approach to streamline the giving process and hopefully bring in more donations.

The new Spring Match campaign would keep donors on the VDS site, creating less distractions that would draw away from the process. We would implement an aggressive email campaign as well as two print appeals in order to reach a diverse array of donors and create a truly integrated campaign.

Frontier laid the groundwork for this campaign by inserting a ‘soft’ launch in the February print appeal and the Winter Newsletter. This ensured that donors would be expecting the match and thus more receptive when it was fully launched, despite our email strategy being fairly aggressive.

The campaign included 8 emails, 2 direct mail appeals, web boosts and several social media posts. The core messaging was simple: Donate now to help twice as many people, increase our impact on the street.

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Print appeal and envelopes with match campaign branding

The 8 emails were segmented so that not every contact received every one. Those who clicked donate on a certain email would not receive a reminder, and those who hadn’t donated were sent a follow-up. As the campaign deadline drew closer, the frequency of emails increased to give a sense of urgency.

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Results

Our persistence paid off. Including matched funds the campaign brought in $91,026. For a small organization like VDS, this was a huge success. The previous two match campaigns through Chimp.net had only raised $6,830 and $5,044 respectively, affirming that the fewer steps the donor has to complete, the more likely they are to give, and that integrated campaigns perform best.

The results of this campaign confirmed our suspicions that an aggressive approach can work, especially when people are given a deadline. It creates a sense of urgency and often will encourage donors to give more.

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.