Fairtrade Foundation’s Multi-Pronged Approach to Nurturing and Growing their Supporter Base

The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent non-profit organization that works as part of a global coalition to support farmers’ and workers’ rights. Last year, the UK charity noticed a disturbing trend: for the first time in years, their supporter base was on the decline.

This could not come at a worse time, since the implications of Brexit meant that they would need to re-negotiate many established trade deals. Fairtrade Foundation was counting on their community of supporters to pressure decision-makers to secure a fair deal for farmers and workers.

The Problem

Not only did Fairtrade Foundation UK’s supporters drop from 139,000 in 2015 to 137,000 in 2016, supporter engagement was also low. An analysis of their email list revealed that:

  • 45% of supporters opened at least one email in the last 3 months
  • 25% of supporters opened at least one email in the last 3-12 months
  • 30% of supporters had not opened a single email in the past year.

Fairtrade Foundation enlisted the help of
Glyn Thomas to help them devise a re-activation and growth plan.

The Solution

Fairtrade Foundation focused on three strategies to cultivate their supporter base over a six-month period:

  1. Re-activation: Fairtrade Foundation identified their disengaged supporters and launched a six-email stream to engage with them. They used clear, concise language such as “Do you still want to hear from us? Click yes or no.” Any supporter that engaged in an action in one of the six emails was pulled out of the re-activation stream.
  2. Paid acquisition: Fairtrade Foundation hosted a petition on Care2 calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to make UK Trade fair. Action takers were then sent a different six-email stream featuring videos, quizzes and news. Fairtrade Foundation also launched a Facebook ads campaign. They were very thoughtful about their targeting to make sure that they made the most out of their spend. First, they easily exported their entire supporter list out of Engaging Networks and uploaded it to Facebook. Then, they let Facebook algorithms dictate the best audience for their ads based on that list. Finally, they excluded their current supporters from the campaign (so as not to spend money acquiring supporters that they already had).
  3. Organic reach: Fairtrade Foundation was explicit about asking their activists to share the Theresa May petition with their networks. They used large “Share on Facebook,” “Share on Twitter,” and “Email a Friend” buttons on their post-action landing page as well as in action confirmation emails.

Rebecca Turner, Senior Campaigns and Supporter Development Manager and Harriet Hill, Supporter Campaigns Officer at Fairtrade Foundation UK present this case study at our 2017 Community Conference in London.

As part of these strategies, Fairtrade Foundation tested multiple variables – such as subject lines, body copy and images – to optimise performance. They also used this opportunity to make their templates mobile-friendly.

The Results

Because Fairtrade Foundation uses Engaging Networks email, campaigning, and fundraising tools, it was very easy to track supporter behaviour throughout the journeys. They were thrilled with the results:

  1. Reactivation: 10,000 of their disengaged supporters took one of the actions in their six-email stream and became re-engaged.
  2. Paid acquisition: Fairtrade Foundation acquired 15,000 new supporters through their Care2 acquisition and nearly 8,000 new supporters from their Facebook campaign.
  3. Organic reach: Their petition was shared 13,000 times, resulting in 1,300 new activists.

Combined, the efforts resulted in nearly 35,000 newly-engaged activists! Fairtrade Foundation is continuing to track the performance of these supporters. They’ve found that many have since taken a second action, and that the new supporters are having an overall increase on their open and click-thru rates.

Chloe Green is a copywriter and digital campaigner with almost a decade of experience in the charity and political sectors. She’s delivered campaigns, copy and consultancy for a raft of good eggs including Anthony Nolan, the National Union of Students, St Mungo’s, and Hillary for America. She was Social Media Manager at the Labour Party between 2016–2019 and now she’s Head of Creative with the lovely team at Forward Action. She leads on fundraising emails, UX copy, and all creative facilitation. She’s an expert in email list growth, digital strategy, organic and paid-for social media, and digital mobilisation.

Rachel founded the specialist charity web agency, Rechord, in 1999. Between 1999 and 2012 they created hundreds of different web applications for organisations in the UK and internationally.
In 2013 she became the 'Donor Whisperer' and focused on helping small to medium-sized non-profits to reach new donors and activists and from there increase their income. She uses a unique process that combines the benefits of consultancy with capacity building.
Her clients include Traidcraft Exchange, the Overseas Development Institute, Jubilee Debt Coalition, the Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, Tax Justice UK, The Canary, Humanity and Inclusion, the Anti-Tribalism Movement, BRACE, New Family Social, Arseh Sevom - and that's just the last year.
She also feels weird writing about herself in the third person.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Hannah is Senior Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, working on their local campaigning programme, Local Action for MS and also on social care and carers. She’s worked at the MS Society for a year and a half, and was previously at the MND Association and National Voices.

Executive Director of C6 Digital, London based agency

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Having gotten his start organizing with anti-war veterans and working as Sala Labs, Sales Engineer, and Partner Manager, Bryan now brings his expertise to non-profit and mission-driven clients as 4Site Studios Director of Digital Strategy. Specializing in challenging and complex projects, Bryan works with each client to craft holistic approaches tailored to goals, budget, and outcomes.

Mary Margaret Callahan is the Chief Mission Officer for Pet Partners, where she is responsible for leading mission delivery including the therapy animal program and grassroots advocacy program. She joined Pet Partners in 2013 and has worked to establish the organization as both an influencer and a resource within the animal-assisted intervention (AAI) and human-animal bond (HAB) community. In 2018 she was named one of PetAge Magazine’s Women of Influence. Mary Margaret lives on a small farm outside Seattle with her husband, daughter and menagerie of animals including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens, goats and miniature donkeys.

Joe Derry Hall is a freelancer working on creative digital and communications. His interests include tech innovation, upending power and reimagining different futures. Joe has been the winner of a Mozilla Creative Media Award and the joint winner of a BAFTA digital award. He was previously in-house in campaigning and communications roles at Amnesty International, the Climate Coalition, the Ecocide campaign, Save the Children, Scope and others. He is one of the initiators of Right Way Up, an experiment to create a radical, practical new vision for the social change sector.

Anna Chowcat is the Digital Manager at Refuge and oversees the charity’s digital function and output. Since joining Refuge, Anna has been instrumental in introducing a number of digital engagement programmes including digital campaigns, bespoke email supporter journeys and user friendly donate/campaign pages. Before joining Refuge, she has worked in digital engagement and campaign roles at The Labour Party and Leonard Cheshire Disability.