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.
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