Today isn’t just any ordinary Tuesday.
With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday kicking off the holiday shopping season, nonprofits around the world unite to mark the beginning of the charitable season. This global movement dubbed #GivingTuesday encourages individuals to donate their time, money, and talent to their favorite causes.
While charitable giving did uptick to $390 billion in 2016 (a 2.7% increase from the previous year), nonprofits still struggle to maintain fundraising engagement and drive volunteer participation to their organizations.
Similar to their for-profit counterparts, nonprofit teams thrive when they tell compelling stories to their audiences. Network for Good reports that 55% of nonprofits experienced a positive impact in fundraising because of great storytelling.
Nonprofits like Watsi and DoSomething are taking storytelling to the next level. Through personalized messaging, these organizations boost audience involvement — and we’re proud to help make that happen in Customer.io. Let’s take a look at their journeys…
Watsi Makes Every Single Donor Feel Special
Watsi is on a mission to make universal health coverage available to everyone, especially individuals residing in developing countries. Fueled by technology, the nonprofit bridges the gap between donors and patients. Its crowdfunding platform enables people across the globe to directly fund medical care needs, ranging from prescription eyeglasses to life-changing surgeries, with 100% of their donation.
Watsi has the patients and the right technology. But how do you get someone in a Miami studio apartment to donate to a stranger who lives in a Tanzanian village?
Simply put: it’s the stories.
Watsi shares stories of patients that not only highlight the treatment needed, but also their personalities and lives. For example, while learning about a seven-year-old girl named Dorcas who needs surgery to correct her clubfoot, you’ll also discover that she dreams of being a politician or doctor someday.
The Watsi team began exploring how to connect their audience with these patients into their email marketing campaigns early on. As Grace Garey, cofounder of Watsi, told us, “Through lots of manual experiments, we realized that the key to successful email for Watsi was personalization, segmentation, and relevant storytelling.”
The result is a breath of fresh air to the donor experience, delivered by tailoring messages and relying on smart segmentation to ensure the right stories get the right donors.
One of Watsi’s most effective emails from the early days, back in 2015, was a personalized message from the doctor of a donor’s most recently-funded patient. These customized updates drew donors closer to those they’ve supported, creating a sense of meaningful interaction, and thereby encouraging them to fund more patients.
It’s important to note that Watsi didn’t achieve email marketing success overnight. Their team made a deliberate effort to monitor donors’ actions and A/B test their campaigns. Through experimentation, they found what content resonated with particular donor groups. “Instead of debating internally about our content and approach (e.g. a weekly digest vs. a monthly newsletter), we’re going to assume nothing, fearlessly test everything, and see what works,” writes Grace on the Watsi blog.
Now Watsi’s revelations and learnings around how they communicate with their donors have become part of the organization’s fabric and an expression of their mission. As Director of Marketing Brigitte Bradford says, “making people feel like everyone deserves healthcare and feel connected to every person’s story is part of what we do.”
DoSomething Inspires Change, One Text Message at a Time
DoSomething is activating youth in 132 countries to take action in their communities, online and off. The New York-based nonprofit has already supported the participation of more than 5.5 million young adults in causes and campaigns, from helping hurricane victims in Puerto Rico to rallying against bullies on the playground. DoSomething ignites young people’s passions by making it easy for them not just to learn how to volunteer their time and gifts — but to do something to take real steps to improving our society.
DoSomething isn’t mailing pamphlets or relying on email to keep engaging their young audience. As LivePerson reports, more than 70% of Gen Z and Millennials prefer to talk via text message as opposed to a voice call. Instead, the nonprofit uses this generation’s preferred storytelling tool — SMS (or text messaging) — meeting teens on their playing field to nudge them towards action. It’s paying off, as the organization’s CEO Aria Finger told Entrepreneur: “Our most effective communication tool is SMS and we are super real on it.”
DoSomething’s communication style is interactive and conversational, while giving teens the option to personalize which issues matter most to them. When they choose a campaign, DoSomething provides steps on how to take action on the issue on their site and via SMS. Members are encouraged to upload pictures showing how they took action and get chances to win scholarships and swag for creating change.
For instance, the organization teamed up with Chevrolet and model Amanda Steele to launch the Ride & Seek campaign. This initiative empowers young people to wear seat belts and practice safe driving. To sign up, they just text SEEK to 38383. And then the following message pops up on their mobile screens:
Freddie Bologno, DoSomething’s Director of Mobile Messaging explains why the friendly, participatory approach works:
When you think of who you typically text with it’s going to be your friend and family, that’s why DoSomething strives to be authentic as possible when talking with our members. We don’t want to be just another brand in their phone, but a friend they can trust and look to for ways to make an impact.
To manage these SMS social impact campaigns, DoSomething uses Twilio-powered Actions and webhooks in Customer.io. Their team uses behavioral logic combined with segmentation to send texts based on their volunteers’ actions.
“Everything we do is a mixture of product and content. If our campaigns aren’t excellent, with excellent names and titles, and amazing impact, they’re not going to go anywhere. But if we don’t have a good product, if we don’t have a frictionless website, if we don’t have excellent SMS capabilities, then we’re also going to go nowhere,” Aria told the radio show The Business of Giving.
*A note: DoSomething never asks its young members for money. As Freddie explains, "Instead we want to tap into their passion and energy to create change. For [this] Pay It Forward campaign, we’re looking to older people who care about the work we do to donate so that we can get more young people creating the biggest impact.”
From Stories to Donor Action
#GivingTuesday is a time to celebrate and champion community service. Like Black Friday, it’s also a time for emails from organizations to flood your inbox. But there’s a way to stand out in the way you communicate your stories. With personalized messaging, nonprofits hold the key to increasing connections, volunteer participation, and donations.
What’s your experience with sending personalized messages? Share your comments below!