The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is a nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come.
A pillar appeal for this organization has been their annual calendar effort, but this was only delivered via mail, and we knew there was great opportunity expand the impact of this appeal by introducing a robust digital component. So, in October 2018 we ran a multi-channel fundraising campaign to promote the ATC’s 2019 calendar. The ABD Direct team identified opportunities to improve the campaign’s performance all around by refining the segmentation, improving various aspects of the mailpiece, and importantly, turning this into an integrated, multi-channel effort to ensure we reached the most people who would be compelled to support the ATC and in return receive their calendar.
across direct mail and digital channels
of gifts greater than the $70 minimum
The Calendar Appeal featured the calendar as a back-end premium, required a minimum gift of $70 in order to receive it and had a deadline of November 1 to create a sense of urgency around qualifying for the offer.
The direct mail effort mailed in early September. It was a relatively simple package which featured the calendar and the deadline on the carrier. The letter also showcased the calendar, and a business reply envelope rounded out the package. We adjusted the letter this year to make sure the messaging included why it was important to protect the Appalachian Trail and what donor funds would support. Prior efforts included language that was purely transactional—give to get the calendar—and we thought the addition of mission-driven content was critical. Further, in past years the direct mail piece had always been sent in a closed face carrier. We wanted to test a window carrier to the low dollar audience to see if that additional closed face cost was needed. We kept the $100+ group with the closed faced carrier and sent that first class as well.
To make this campaign a multi-channel one, we also promoted the calendar offer through a series of three emails and a lightbox on the homepage of the ATC website, all linking to a unique donation page featuring an image of the calendar and including a $70 minimum in the gift string.
Through the email campaign we not only promoted the calendar offer and deadline but also—like we did in the direct mail piece—demonstrated the importance of supporting ATC’s critical work to protect and preserve the last remaining contiguous open space in the eastern United States.
On the website, we ran a lightbox which featured one of the incredible photos of the Trail and encouraging visitors to make a gift to receive their official ATC calendar for 2019.
This multi-channel campaign was the best performing calendar effort in ATC history, raising more than $131,000 across all channels. The overall average gift for the campaign topped $100, and fully 78% of the gifts came in greater than the $70 minimum.
The test we conducted in the mail showed us that we could mail the low dollar audience in the window carrier, and the performance IMPROVED over the closed face carrier. This provided a cost savings and an increased average gift from the group. Additionally, we were able to get the same gross revenue as the prior year in the mail while cutting the mail quantity by 1/3, producing significantly better net revenue for the organization.
Digitally, the most successful of the emails was the final email sent on November 1 encouraging constituents to give before the midnight deadline, raising over $11,000. Web promotion raised over $13,000 throughout the month of October with an average gift of $96.
In 2017, ATC did not do any promotion of the calendar offer through email or on their website. The only promotion done was a lightbox, which raised just under $11,000 in digital revenue. This year’s digital efforts raised nearly four times as much as the prior year.