The Sky Island Alliance works to protect the unique habitats and species of the U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico. Its “Bring Back the Cats” campaign focused on restoring large felines—jaguars, mountain lions, ocelots, and other emblematic species—through the restoration of wildlife corridors and landscape connections.
With guidance from Training Resources for the Environmental Community, the Sky Island Alliance designed a comprehensive campaign that combined traditional and online outreach to donors. The campaign, rolled out over the last 10 weeks of 2009, began with two challenge gifts of $5,000 committed in advance and a campaign kickoff event attended by 120 people.
The kickoff was followed by one email per day for five days sent to the Sky Island list of 3,500 addresses. “We used different photos and content for each one,” says Executive Director Melanie Emerson, “but the subject line was the same. People were calling us to say, ‘Stop sending the same email!’ Next time we’ll add a unique subject line to let people know it’s a series.”
The campaign was reinforced with Facebook postings for the organization’s 500 fans. “We had no reportable fundraising results from Facebook,” says Emerson, “though we can’t track the source of all our gifts.”
Sky Island continued the campaign with a personalized mailing to 150 to 200 major donors and prospects, seeking gifts of at least $250. Several of these donors had attended the kickoff event. Meanwhile, Sky Island staff posted regular “Cat of the Week” updates on the Web site and sent follow-up emails with campaign updates.
Program staff mailed personalized thank-you notes to all campaign donors and made thank-you phone calls to those giving $200 or more.
Finally, Sky Island sent a year-end mailing and email request to capture any last-minute donors.
By the time the campaign ended, Sky Island Alliance met its goal of $30,000, including $5,000 contributed online. When the challenge gifts are subtracted from the total, the average campaign contribution was $135—a number that would make any grassroots organization proud.
“The big donors continue to give in traditional ways,” Emerson says. “Handwritten notes [on fundraising letters] from staff and board made the biggest difference. Donors told us that’s why they kept us on their list this year.”
As this campaign demonstrates, combining multiple strategies—events, email, phone calls, Facebook postings, personalized mailings, Web site updates, and handwritten notes—yields big results. A relatively small percentage of their goal was raised online, but online contact deepens donor engagement and spurs offline giving.
To quote someone who knows from experience, Stacey Kawakami, a Regional Online Organizer with the Sierra Club, “Email is one more touch, so do it—but snail mail gets better results.”This case study is excerpted with permission from Reality Check: How Grassroots Environmental Organizations Are (or Are Not) Raising Money Online, a report prepared for the Institute for Conservation Leadership. The full report is available free here. The report was prepared by Andy Robinson, P.O. Box 350, Plainfield VT 05667, phone (802) 479-7365 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (802) 479-7365 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, fax (802) 479-7366, Web www.andyrobinsononline.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org.