Integrated Fundraising Communications

Six years ago, Amnesty International—an iconic brand with a 40+ year history in the grassroots and direct mail fundraising space—found its program in a state of crisis. For three consecutive fiscal years, the program had experienced sharp declines in virtually every metric—gross revenue had declined 15%, new donor counts were dropping and, most concerning, donor retention was falling even more rapidly, resulting in an active donor file that was just 75% of what it was in 2011.

Not surprisingly, Amnesty decided to make some changes and ABD Direct was honored to be chosen as their new direct mail partner.

“In deciding to honor Amnesty International with the Nobel Peace Prize… the Nobel Committee does so in the conviction that the defense of human dignity against torture, violence, and degradation constitutes a very real contribution to the peace of this world.”
– Presentation Speech by Aase Lionæs, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1977.

Reasserting the Iconic Amnesty Brand to Improve File Health

Our first step was to do a comprehensive program audit deconstructing all elements of the program—strategic and creative, donor development and acquisition. Initially, we found little to feel good about. Not only were the numbers of donors declining but the value of their donors was also falling. In partnership with the Amnesty team, we established a new series of key performance indicators against which to evaluate the program and identified a number of culprits we believed were responsible for the decline, including:

  • Dependence on a new acquisition package that had been bringing in sub-par donors with low retention rates;
  • Plummeting performance from consecutive year members, most alarmingly among $100+ donors;
  • An overly aggressive telemarketing program that was generating a negative net and significant donor backlash and burnout; and
  • Donor appeals that relied on expensive production techniques and gimmicks at the expense of mission-based content.

We understood immediately that there was not just one silver bullet answer to this crisis and set about implementing strategies to address what we saw as the program’s most destructive weaknesses:

  1. Top-to-bottom revamp of the Membership Renewal Program. As a “people’s movement,” being an active member is extremely important to those who donate to Amnesty. We immediately reviewed and revised data selection criteria and conducted a thorough performance review, retaining the strongest elements of the series and replacing lower performing notices.
  2. An urgent focus on Reinstatement and “At-Risk” Donors. To address the recent loss of long-time loyal members, we developed communication strategies for both lapsed donors and donors our models classified as “at-risk” of becoming lapsed.
  3. Creative that showcased Amnesty core mission. Guided by recent focus group data, we replaced headline-chasing, freemium and technique-driven appeals with campaigns that highlighted the issues that had historically attracted donors to Amnesty.
  4. Focus on Acquiring High Value Donors. By overlaying long term value metrics and online match back data, we were able to better identify the best sources of high value donors and which messages, creative, and channel they were more likely to come in on.







Project feature: An Omnichannel Campaign Highlighting Amnesty’s Core Mission

Every December, Amnesty International holds Write For Rights, the world’s largest grassroots human rights campaign. We were, however, surprised to discover the organization had never integrated Write For Rights into its direct mail program.

Beginning in 2015, the direct response team worked closely with program staff responsible for Write For Rights to address this missed opportunity. Deadlines for selecting the prisoners of conscience to be featured were adjusted, fundraising permissions were obtained, and photos and other campaign graphics were coordinated.

The result was a new direct response campaign that not only produced a very successful pillar appeal but helped to dramatically increase participation in this critically important human rights program.