Integrated Fundraising Communications

The Wilderness Society (TWS) is the leading American conservation organization working to protect our nation’s beautiful wildlands. Since 1935, they have been at the forefront of nearly every major public lands battle and their collaborative style and focus on practical solutions has saved some of our most beloved natural treasures from destruction. As the authors of the Wilderness Act of 1964, The Wilderness Society led the way in permanently protecting nearly 110 million acres of wilderness in 44 states.



Increase in online renewal income


Reinstated donors


Increase in donor value

Integrated Solutions to a Fundamental Challenge

Confronting a multi-year decline in membership numbers was ABD Direct’s most important challenge when we began working with The Wilderness Society. A severe drop in donor acquisition performance and a struggle to retain current donors conspired to erode the base of active donors by nearly 10% over the prior fiscal year. We immediately focused on improving retention metrics. Our initial fundraising audit concluded that while response to many special appeals remained strong, response to membership renewal notices had declined. Further analysis showed that several key segments – including low dollar active donors, certain lapsed groups, former sustainers and online donors – were being excluded completely or under-mailed. Ensuring these groups were included in appropriate solicitations was key to reversing attrition trends.

In addition to improving segmentation, ABD Direct revamped the renewal series both on and offline by updating the content and strengthening the “membership matters” messaging across all channels. The combination worked, significantly increasing overall renewal income from the previous year.

There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.
– Theodore Roosevelt

Project Feature: Making Online Renewals Work


The online renewal program’s creative was completely overhauled so that messaging was both in sync with the offline program and appropriate to the specific audience targeted. Previously, e-renewals were primarily used as pre-renewals that alerted donors to the mailings they would receive. Our new strategy ensured that online and offline messaging complemented one another, but we also created dynamic copy for donors and prospects not targeted in the mail.

Testing was an urgent priority as we worked to quickly determine the most effective renewal approach for online donors. Elements tested included imagery, subject line, ask string, timing and number of messages in the series.

The Challenge: Increase Retention by Targeting Ignored and Underperforming Segments

Low Dollar (under $15) Donors

Previously, data selects consistently excluded lower dollar donors due to their perceived low lifetime value. Yet a significant percentage of new members to The Wilderness Society fell into this cadre and, as a result, their potential to the organization was never realized. Our testing showed that these segments performed well in renewals, not only increasing overall retention numbers but generating an impressive return on investment.

Online Donors

The online renewal notices served only to compliment the mailed notices. We broadened the strategy to include a pre-renewal notice to online donors, sending email renewals to lapsed online donors, and using “membership renewal” messaging with non-donor activists. By expanding the online target audience we saw incredible revenue increases of 92% year-over-year.

Deeply Lapsed Donors

Many long lapsed donors were systematically excluded from late-series renewal notices. Adding qualified segments back into the mail plan quickly proved to be a cost effective way to reactive many deeply lapsed but still valuable TWS members.