Everyone wants more sustainers. Sustainers represent efficiency and consistency, which are two key indicators of a strong donor file. The question is: How do you actually get more sustainers?
And how do you do it during a pandemic when many people are downgrading, pausing, or canceling their monthly gifts due to so much uncertainty in the world? Farm Sanctuary’s case for monthly giving has always been very tangible – to provide ongoing care for the nearly 1,000 rescued farm animals now living at their two sanctuaries. These animals’ need for food, medicine, and daily care didn’t stop because of the pandemic.
Because the campaign was slated to start on 3/19/20 (right when the COVID-19 shutdowns started), we quickly rewrote copy, stripped away art to add urgency, and went from four planned emails (focused on a “Sanctuary Sustainer Challenge” technique) to three emails focusing on tangible ways Farm Sanctuary would take extra precautions to stay safe and strong enough to properly care for their animals during the shutdown and beyond.
The copy outlined the specific needs to stock up on supplies, provide more on-site vet care, and allow new sick leave policies for staff – all of which were going to put a strain on resources. We also reminded donors that all the animal residents had been failed by the people charged with their care before coming to Farm Sanctuary. And we urged them to not let that happen again.
Finally, a matching gift was incorporated to boost response with the promise to match the first two months’ worth of gifts from new Sanctuary Sustainers.
The strategic shifts and broad channel reach (email, lightbox, social media) led to the series raising 76% more revenue than the previous year’s campaign, despite sending to half the quantity of the previous year’s campaign and a compressed schedule due to COVID. The FY20 series had a higher response rate than FY19 by 217%.
The campaign also had a nearly $5 higher average gift than the previous year AND most importantly, the campaign attracted 39% more new/renewed sustainers. The campaign also compelled 46 current sustainers to increase the size of their monthly gift by an average of $8.41 per month, compared to 34 upgrades in the previous year. People also made one-time gifts, a lesser financial commitment during troubling times, but still extremely impactful for Farm Sanctuary and its animal residents.
With a strong response we were able to turn our concern about seeming insensitive by fundraising during the pandemic into hundreds of long-term partnerships with those who believe Farm Sanctuary’s mission deserves steady support.