By taking an alternative approach with its donor renewal campaign, Children’s Cancer Institute achieved 238% of its net income target – and won the FIA’s Donor Renewal Over $5 Million award in 2017! Lise Taylor reports.


donor renewal campaignIf there’s one notable thing Children’s Cancer Institute learned from its 2016 Charlie’s Promise campaign it is that, in addition to telling success stories of the children who do survive cancer, donors want to hear about those children who don’t survive.

“This measured risk was taken to demonstrate the need and provided us with the opportunity to include a strong call to action. Because of its success, this type of approach will be incorporated into future messaging,” says Direct Marketing Manager Rebecca Linigen.

And she’s glad they took the risk, as the campaign was one of the two winners of the Fundraising Institute Australia Donor Renewal Over $5 Million category.

The challenge: decreasing second gift rates and declining average gift value

This was a crucial campaign for Children’s Cancer Institute. After a period of high volume, premium direct mail acquisition, its fundraising team had recognised during
2015 that it was facing decreasing second gift rates and declining average gift value. The nonprofit’s response? To take a bold approach with its 2016 tax appeal that would refocus on donor retention.

This was when the team chose to expand its core storytelling, which focuses on the 80% of children who survive cancer, and tell the important story of the three children who lose their battle every week in Australia.

In early 2016, the team came up with the Charlie’s Promise campaign, which told the highly emotive story of eight-year-old Charlie Carr, who passed away from neuroblastoma in 2015.

The campaign provided a strong call to action: medical research is the only thing that will stop this from happening to other children and it needs funding. It was also designed to make the most of the increase in Facebook followers the charity had gained (these rose from 34,000 in the 2015 tax year to 94,000 in the 2016 tax year) and its new, streamlined website donation page.

“With so many new supporters joining the cause in the 24 months prior, it was a critical time to engage them before they lapsed by reminding them about why their support is
so vital,” explains Linigen.

What made the difference

Charlie’s Promise was a fully integrated campaign designed to stabilise the warm appeal program by increasing donor retention.

It functioned across direct mail, social media, web and email, and put the issue of childhood cancer at the forefront of the donors’ minds. This was coupled with a highly targeted data segmentation strategy. Other aims included bonding new donors, reactivating lapsed donor segments and increasing the average gift.

To maximise traffic to the donation page, targeted Facebook advertising, sponsored posts and display ads were used. These communications were seen by over 140,000 people, generating 4,278 donation page referral visits and 396 donation conversions.

The total income generated by new online donors increased by 149% , generating an additional $10,388 worth of income year on year. Despite mailing 30,427 fewer donors in the warm tax 2016 appeal than the 2015 warm tax appeal, the 2016 campaign achieved a 14% increase on net income year on year.

Sad stories do galvanise donors

What made this appeal so different was that while Charlie’s story was inherently sad and sensitive in nature, donors found it inspiring.

Linigen ensured both the impact and need were clearly communicated, and donors responded in force, with the campaign achieving 238% of its net income target, predominantly driven by a strong average gift (20% increase year-on-year) and an increased response rate in the active 0-12 segment. It also tripled its target return on investment.

Looking forward the fundraising team intends to focus on its key takeaways. “As this appeal was the first time we could measure the success of our new cash acquisition strategy focused on donor retention, we have gained some key learnings about balancing our messaging between impact, hope and need. We plan on replicating this approach in the future,” says Linigen.


• achieved 238% net income target
• achieved 146% gross income target
• beat average gift target by 20%
• beat response rate target by 40%
• achieved 307% target return on investment
• increased net income by 14% year-on-year; increased average gift by 20% year-on-year; increased response rate by 22% year-on-year.



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