The Act for Peace Ration Challenge pulled in $2.1 million in 2016 – and won Most Innovative Fundraising Project, Donor Acquisition Over $5 Million and Special Events Over $5 Million!
The Act for Peace Ration Challenge has achieved great results in the short timeframe it has been running. The event started in 2014 after the nonprofit’s Marketing & Communications Director, Ben Littlejohn, and Communications Coordinator, Karen McGrath, visited a Burmese refugee camp.
Determined to do more to help, they and 100 other people ate rations for a week in a pilot event that raised $60,000 to provide rations, seeds and training to refugees.
When the Ration Challenge was officially launched in 2015, participant numbers jumped to 1,600 and funds to $450,000. Then, in 2016 with the Syrian refugee crisis making headlines around the world, the campaign’s focus shifted to refugees living in Jordan.
Littlejohn had visited the region in late 2015. One woman he met, Rasha, hadn’t received any rations for seven months. “It was heartbreaking to look her in the eye and explain we didn’t have enough money to help her family. Since then, thanks to the amazing fundraising efforts of people taking the Ration Challenge, we’ve been able to provide more support to Rasha and thousands of other refugees around the world,” he says.
During the three-month 2016 campaign, registrations jumped to 8,000 and over $2.1 million was raised (95.8% of participants were new to Act for Peace). The bonus? The Act for Peace Ration Challenge has won three categories in the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s 2017 awards: Most Innovative Fundraising Project, Donor Acquisition over $5 million and Special Events over $5 million.
Campaign aims and strategy
For the 2016 campaign, the fundraising team wanted to raise money and engage new supporters to become regular givers. Acquisition channels included Facebook advertising (which accounted for 80% of participants), remarketing, display and search engine marketing.
Previously unexplored channels included content marketing (the What did the War Take from You? video was watched 124,000 times), online influencers via YouTube’s Friendly Jordies (315 people were recruited) and outdoor advertising (which didn’t work!). Word of mouth was estimated to account for about 15% of registrations.
Technological tools utilised included a bespoke peer-to-peer website, a bespoke registration wizard for capturing and converting leads and triggering activities known to increase participation, along with the use of gamification and marketing automation software.
The Ration Challenge benefitted from its strong insight (‘I’m angry and ashamed at how refugees are treated in Australia’), proposition (‘Show refugees we’re with them, not against them’) and its associated creative, all of which resulted in a message that really resonated with its audience.
Content was emotive, engaging and authentic, and while participants found the reality of having to survive on a ration pack for a week a tough experience, they also found it eye-opening and emotional, driving social media sharing and increased participation.
The result? Participant numbers increased by 389.53%, unique sponsors by 375.51%, income by 368.85% and the regular giving donor file by 25%. Although the average gift remained stable at $49 between the 2015 and 2016 campaigns, the number of donations increased from 9,027 to 43,400 (380% growth) and a total of $2.1 million was raised – enough to feed more than 7,000 refugees for a year! A post-campaign participant telemarketing effort resulted in a 12.3% conversion to regular giving.
Success and looking to the future
Littlejohn explains three things – luck, hard work and testing – were the keys to the campaign’s success.
“I say luck in terms of happening upon an idea that resonated with people – and that hadn’t been done before in that way,” he says. “In fact, this was the most important element because it made people want to get on board.”
The team also worked extremely hard to ensure it was executed to the best possible standard with all team members dedicated to every aspect of it. Thirdly, from the pilot onwards pretty well all aspects of the campaign were tested.
In 2017 the nonprofit will be launching a new database, bringing in marketing automation software, relaunching its regular giving and bequest programs, and developing a version of the Ration Challenge for churches and schools (something that was tested during 2016). It will also be taking the campaign internationally.
“We’re all excited about seeing the impact this will hopefully have on the conflict and disaster affected communities we work with,” Littlejohn says.