Flash fundraising with flair: Using bold strategies to reach fundraising goals

Mercy For Animals (MFA) is perhaps best known for its work exposing the cruel abuse of the secretive factory farm and slaughterhouse industries. MFA’s undercover investigators have brought numerous companies’ abusive policies and practices to light. In the last year alone, thanks to exposing abuses and hard-hitting advocacy work, major companies like Walmart, Safeway, Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s were convinced to introduce sweeping animal welfare policies.

Addressing the complex and disturbing issue of animal cruelty requires Mercy For Animals to take on significant challenges to run campaigns that keep supporters engaged.

When we recently launched the Flash Fundraiser campaign for MFA right on the heels of the busy year-end fundraising season, we knew we needed to present fresh new messaging, eye-catching graphics, and tried-and-true strategies to foster a sense of urgency for their audience. We also knew that the most thrilling part of MFA’s work was the dangerous and emotional nature of their undercover investigations. Our campaign plan centered around the importance of contributing to those investigations and supporting the investigators who take part in them.

Here’s what we knew:

  • Images of animals in appalling environments facing unspeakable cruelty foster an emotional response from MFA’s fans and supporters.
  • Presenting a deadline creates urgency and encourages list members to donate quickly.
  • Offering a match allows for rapid momentum for a campaign’s revenue possibilities.

Here’s what we set out to prove:

  • Could running a short campaign or a “Flash Fundraiser” help ramp up urgency?
  • Could image-based emails engage audiences in ways that text-based emails cannot?
  • Will a smart combination of strategies help raise money during a stagnant time of year for fundraising?
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Here’s what we did:

  • We sent three “Flash Fundraiser” appeals during a short two week period directly after a series of renewal appeals.
  • We used innovative design to grab the attention of readers.
  • We presented a dollar-for-dollar match up to $50,000.
  • We used animal cruelty imagery to tug at the audience’s heart strings.
  • We used minimal copy to make the fundraising ask quickly and succinctly.

Here’s what we found out:

  • The three emails we sent performed at the same relative conversion rate as the renewal appeals that went out to MFA’s list right before the “Flash Fundraiser” campaign launched.
  • We found that there were a number of donors who did not respond to the Renew/Join language they had recently been presented with. Those donors were responsive to the Flash Fundraiser look and feel, match, and short deadline.
  • The Flash Fundraiser brought in enough money to exceed the match.
  • We were able to organically bring in multiple sustaining gifts that will continue to increase the overall revenue of this campaign over time.

The biggest take-home elements from this campaign are: be creative, take risks, play to your strengths, and know your audience. These results are due to a successful deployment of typical but hard-to-achieve tactics. With the help of Mercy For Animals, we were able to launch timely, well-crafted, and compelling appeals that aren’t afraid to live outside of the box; and we were able to raise a lot of money while doing it.

Jack Hilson is an Account Executive at Donordigital and has over five years of experience in non-profit and political campaign-based digital consulting, specializing in email marketing, Google search ads, Facebook ads, and social media management. 

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