Case Study

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.

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