How PETA Raised $150,000 in Two Months

The Aim

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had a challenge to raise $150,000 in two months using both Direct Mail and email. This was part of their campaign against animal testing.

What was PETA’s approach?

Let’s say you have been a supporter of your favourite non-profit for years. You have recently made a donation to them. Soon you receive an email from them, ignoring your donation and asking you to give far more than your previous donation! Would you give? Probably not. In fact, you might feel alienated and not give again.

PETA personalise their email appeals to avoid this kind of mistake. In this campaign, they planned to acknowledge their supporters’ generous commitments and build on them in a sensitive way, using segmentation.

Over the course of September, October and November 2012, PETA sent out 2 direct mail pieces and 8 emails. Emails went out to a list of 151,476 existing supporters, asking them to support a campaign to end cruel experiments against animals.

The PETA team also decided combine campaigning and fundraising. This is because asking your supporters to sign a petition before requesting a donation can help raise more money than going straight for the donation. It can also reignite an ongoing appeal, as supporters are offered a variety of different ways to help.

“This campaign involved advocacy elements both to support fundraising and to strengthen campaigning.” – Jukka Myllyniemi

They sent out a series of 8 emails, 1 each week, using these tactics:

  • Personalization
  • Regularly including special messages that acknowledged any previous support, whether donations or campaign actions. They did this by segmenting supporters based on the recency / frequency / value model. This means that PETA take account of how long it was since a supporter took action, how many actions they have taken, and if they donated, how much their last gift was. The donation amounts they requested changed depending on the amounts that a supporter had previously given.
  • As the campaign went along, PETA thanked those who had made donations. The thank you message also asked them to invite their friends to participate
  • Showing a donation form on the thank you page of a campaign action
  • Mobile templates for those using smartphones and tablets

What were the results?

This was PETA’s most successful appeal in 2012. PETA met their fundraising goal. Some of the emails in the series had the best responses they have ever seen.

This was one of the first appeals for which PETA had used mobile templates. As a result, the percentage of completed donations on mobile tripled! Given that PETA raised over $3,000 via mobile, this could have been as low as $1,000.

There’s an important extra fact to take into account here. 9 of the 91 mobile donations were set up as regular gifts totalling $110 a month. Without the mobile template, PETA could have missed out on thousands of pounds generated over years of these caring donors’ monthly gifts.

What we learned – key takeaways

  • The more personalization you have, the better. More highly personalised emails saw 0.9% of recipients donate, compared to 0.65% of emails where there was less personalisation.
  • Subject lines and story content make a huge difference to response rates of emails. The most successful email was one with the subject line “More Horrific Tests on Cats Exposed” that told the story of the gruesome experiments carried out on one cat in a US University. This raised twice as much money as the worst performer, “Halting Cruel Experiments” which talked about the changes to EU law that PETA wants. It also attracted five times as many monthly donors to sign up.
  • Without a mobile template, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table. Especially as mobile donors seem to be more likely to set up recurring donations. (Of those who gave via mobile, 9.9% decided to make a monthly gift, compared to 4.7% of desktop donors.) We wondered if this was because owning a smartphone or tablet is an indicator of higher disposable income. However, this didn’t bear out in the average amounts given ($27 on desktop and $22 on mobile.) As it’s more difficult to give using a mobile, perhaps donors make a recurring donation so they don’t have to go through the process again. Or, maybe it’s the design of PETA’s mobile template that has the side effect of attracting more recurring gifts. It would be worth carrying out more research to find out the answers, as recurring donations are so important for non-profits at this time.

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.