RSPCA NSW’s first Australian Internet Cat Film Furstival event did more than raise $100,000. Paige Gibbs reveals how a phone conversion campaign to attendees signed on 47 new regular givers with 93.62% retained at six months.

Cat Film FurstivalCaption: RSPCA NSW’s Cat Film Furstival engaged cat lovers with a fun day out then built on the momentum with a regular giving phone ask.

Cat people are a passionate group and one that is valued dearly at RSPCA NSW. They are, however, a difficult crowd to create an event around. Unlike RSPCA’s hugely popular ‘doggy day out’, the Million Paws Walk, cats don’t tend to congregate well without four walls to hem them in and even then, they are not always the best minglers. So their owners have not been adequately represented in the RSPCA NSW social calendar and that’s something the organisation was determined to change.

The lightbulb moment came in the form of an internet news item about an arts organisation in the United States that had created something of a phenomenon by hosting a night of internet cat films. Not only did the event sell out in its first year, it became so popular that last year the festival was moved from the confines of the arts centre to a stadium that accommodates 10,000 people.

We contacted the arts organisation and petitioned for the Australian rights to the show reel. The organisation was very amiable and the rights were secured promptly and for a small charity-based fee. RSPCA NSW was now the proud promoter of the first Australian Internet Cat Film Furstival.

Tapping the popularity of cats

The main goal for this initiative was to find an event that resonated with the passionate cat lovers on RSPCA NSW’s database. We also wanted to tap into the popularity of anything and everything cat. Cats are the second most searched term on the internet – pornography being the first. Cats are so hot right now. Their images can be found everywhere from t-shirts to coffee cups to daily memes shared by millions of people worldwide.

We also wanted to use this event as a way of acquiring new supporters and donors who might not otherwise put RSPCA front of mind. Our final goal was to create an event which had future growth potential and was self-sustaining. Another plan was to test converting attendees to regular givers after the event.

500 target smashed when 2,000 people came

We had fun with this event, which we held at Bicentennial Park on Sydney Harbour. We created the ‘Cattoo Purlour’ which sold temporary cat tattoos. We had cat face painters and the event’s major sponsor distributed hundreds of cat ears.

Media pickup was high and our VIP section, The Cats’ Meow Club, sold out well in advance so we knew we had at least 300 confirmed attendees. Our target for the evening was 500 people to break even. We ended up having 2,000 attendees – many of whom came dressed as cats – and the event raised $100,000. It was also a successful acquisition event and attracted new cat-loving supporters.

Signing on 47 regular givers: Yr 1 income $14,980

We try and capitalise on every opportunity to test and – if successful – roll out regular giving conversion campaigns to all tepid prospects. Event attendees have become an essential part of our regular giving growth strategy.

Key to successfully converting the film festival attendees was ensuring that the calls happened straight after the event when the attendees were on an ‘RSPCA high’. We planned the calls around the post-event thank-you campaign.

Right after the event, attendees received a thank-you e-mail outlining what their support achieved. Two to five days later, they received a call from our telemarketing agency to again thank them for attending the event. The agent moved on to talk with them about their love of cats and the work that the RSPCA does with the thousands of cats that come through our doors. Finally, they made the regular giving ask.

We leveraged our knowledge about their love of cats to build a meaningful script and identify giving handles and case studies to support the donation ask. A good script targeting this specific audience was vital to the success of this campaign.

Also we tested a small component in direct mail (single gift ask) just to ensure that telemarketing continued to be the best acquisition method for event attendees. We sent them a compelling direct mail pack about a recent kitten rescue – however the results again proved telemarketing to regular giving is the best way to convert event participants to donors.

We called 525 attendees and spoke to 374. We acquired 47 new regular givers with an average gift of $25.96 per month. The conversion rate was 12.57%. After six months, we have retained 93.62% of the converted donors. The forecasted net income for year one is $14,980.

What we learnt

From a fundraising perspective, the key campaign learning is that attendees – providing they had a pleasant experience – are highly engaged. They leave the event with an understanding and sympathy towards the cause. This is the perfect opportunity to call them quickly to talk about how important their support is and some of the amazing work that they can support through regular giving.

For RSPCA NSW, events are not only essential for supporter engagement but they continue to be a fantastic channel for regular giving acquisition. Donors acquired this way are also very loyal. They feel connected to the cause in two ways: through support of events that are targeted to their interests and through regular giving.

Feline future ahead

The future of the RSPCA Internet Cat Film Furstival looks bright. Attendees were surveyed after the event and an overwhelming amount said that they would attend again. We are planning this year’s event and will shortly be asking people to submit their own cat videos so we can curate an all-Australian selection.

We are definitely not ready to move the festival to a stadium just yet but we do believe that there is great potential in this event to attract and convert new, loyal supporters to long-term donors. The next RSPCA Cat Film Furstival will be held in October 2015.

Paige Gibbs is Executive Manager Marketing, Fundraising and Communications at RSPCA NSW.

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