We recently got the opportunity to do a complete analysis of SPCA International (SPCAI). The animal welfare nonprofit works to stop the abuse and suffering of animals with innovative programs that serve both animals and their human caretakers around the world.
Background and problem we set out to address
SPCAI is currently a Pursuant client in the digital space. The organization approached us about conducting an integrated analysis to assist them in their strategic planning. SPCA International has a substantial amount of data across channels but has never looked at their data in an integrated way. The team at SPCAI had a number of business questions they had been grappling with and hoped the analysis would address:
- What is our opportunity to build and grow a sustaining giving program?
- What value can we gain from communicating in a multi-channel, integrated fashion?
- How do our results compare against industry benchmarks?
- What are the demographics of our file and how do we need to customize our messaging to speak with them in a more relevant fashion?
- How is the health of our brand impacting or not impacting our fundraising efforts?
- How can we improve our approach to testing – particularly in the email channel
How we proposed to address it
To address these business questions and meet SPCAI’s needs, we took a multi-faceted approach. That approach included interviewing SPCAI stakeholders and integrating several different data sets from SPCAI, including digital and direct mail. We then performed a comprehensive analysis including current and historical trends in the area of acquisition, retention, upgrade and donor lifecycle, reviewed metrics against benchmarks, and then provided recommendations based on our findings.
What we learned
As with any organization, SPCAI is faced with a unique mix of challenges as well as opportunities that if addressed, will position them well for future growth. Some will be relatively easy fixes and others will take more time. We will highlight a few of them here.
Unlike other organizations in the animal welfare sector, SPCAI has not developed a robust sustaining giving program. The organization’s stakeholders knew this was a missed opportunity for them but they lacked the staffing to focus heavily on such a targeted program. Pursuant was able to give SPCAI ideas for how to immediately improve their outreach, plus long term strategy suggestions. Sharing benchmarks and case studies from other Animal Welfare organizations demonstrated how SPCAI measured up. While SPCAI had not observed the same volume or rate of increase as the rest of the sector in recent years, SPCAI had observed an increase in donors and revenue this fiscal year to date. This information gave them the context to prioritize and strategize further investment in sustaining giving.
One of the other challenges the SPCAI team asked us to investigate is the health of their brand and its relationship to fundraising. SPCAI had earned a poor rating on watchdog sites in 2012 as a result of past fundraising vendor relationships and associated press. We were able to examine the historical giving and donor trends and confirm that this incident did indeed have a negative impact on the general donor and revenue trends for the years since. However, steps the organization has taken to protect their brand appear to be paying off as evidenced by the improvements in year-to-date revenue and donors. The issue continues to have a negative impact on their overall file health and so our recommendations included steps the organization could take to mitigate this trend in the future with messaging and creative execution.
A third business question SPCAI was looking to answer was around the demographics and other unique characteristics within their file and how that information could be leveraged to inform strategy. We soon discovered that SPCAI’s constituent file is over-represented at the general donor level, while mid and major are under-developed. Average gift for SPCAI was relatively stagnant, reflecting a transactional file. This lack of stratification and diversification within the file is something Pursuant sees with a lot of clients and needs to change in order to sustain long term growth. SPCAI has great potential for multi-channel integration as evidenced by the majority of revenue and donors still coming from offline sources. When we overlaid the SPCAI file, we found the profile of their donors to consist of women 65+, giving consistent low dollar gifts. The profile helped to validate the approach that SPCAI was already leveraging to tap into this rich pool of potential planned giving donors but do so in a more proactive manner. This combination of data points informed a set of recommendations for the organization that centered around the development of a segmentation strategy followed by an intentional upper donor experience pathway to further develop the top of the donor pyramid and cultivate more planned giving donors.
Finally, on a more tactical level, we investigated the online donor experience and its relationship to the offline experience for SPCAI donors. Our interviews with stakeholders, our experience integrating the data from different sources and our review of their email templates and campaign performance, yielded several recommendations of ways to make small changes to help move the organization toward better integration and optimized experiences. Some of those recommendations included customized gift arrays to drive higher average gifts, making the “Donate” button more prominent, allowing donors to choose the projects they were most interested in donating to, and the creation of a holistic multi-channel campaign calendar to align strategy, audience, messaging and metrics.
What SPCAI has done as a result
SPCAI was impressed by Pursuant’s work and indicated that they were not expecting such a comprehensive analysis. Meredith, SPCAI’s Executive Director said, “I was pleasantly surprised by the scope of the analysis. It opened my eyes to see how much money we are leaving on the table. It’s exciting. The ideas were intriguing. I’m impressed by the out-of-the-box thinking at Pursuant.”
Stephanie, Director of Communications said this about the analysis: “Pursuant unearthed data in specific areas that we were interested in but also showed us trends we weren’t aware of. We have a small team, so a deep dive into this data would have been impossible without Pursuant. It’s eye opening to see how much opportunity there is to move donors up with thoughtful strategy.”
SPCAI opted to implement many of the easiest strategies immediately. The Pursuant team designed a new donation form for SPCAI’s website that immediately improved sustained giving conversion rates. SPCAI has already seen some positive results from the implementation – yielding thousands more a month, doubling overall revenue and yielding an improvement of over 150% in the number of sustainer donors! Next up, the SPCAI team is working to implement dynamic gift arrays and digital drip campaigns for better targeting and to drive donor upgrade. Following that, they will be prioritizing the development and implementation of an integrated, multi-channel campaign plan. We are thrilled to hear about these great results, knowing that these improvements will enable SPCAI to save more animals around the world! Keep up the great work SPCAI!