World Vision’s hard look at marketing found online gaps

3 minute read

For a charitable organization such as World Vision Canada, forging a lasting connection with a donor is as critical as attracting a donor in the first place.

That’s why the decision by the country’s largest child sponsorship agency to revamp its first official touchpoint with donors – its direct mail “welcome pack” onboarding package – was the focus of an intense collaboration between the group and its expert partners.

Rather than simply brief its agency partners about its expectations for the new welcome pack, which would be personalized to each individual donor, World Vision was determined to be engaged at every step of the creative process.

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“The agency didn’t go away and come back with a plan, we worked together on every single step,” explains James Carroll, the non-profit’s director of supporter experience. “We actually saved a lot of agency effort. Instead of creating three concepts to choose from, we worked for an afternoon and developed a concept to go forward with.”

Cut overhead

World Vision also wanted to transition from using a large inventory of pre-printed welcome pack materials to a more customized, print on demand schedule. To ensure that the charity could make the shift seamlessly, it included its fulfillment partner, Bassett Direct, in the process. “Once Blue North and World Vision were unified on what we were doing, we immediately had Bassett come in as well and verify the things you can do and can’t do with what you have.”

The new approach avoided situations where the charity and its partners “dream up and fall in love with an idea – that we were going to have variable print on demand – and then find out that it’s either way too expensive to do or technically is impossible,” says Carroll.

World Vision has charted the success of its new Welcome Series with continuous donor measurement statistics that show donor engagement and satisfaction are higher than they have been in decades. Specifically, the direct mail campaign raised donor satisfaction by more than 15% and raised first-time donor understanding of the sponsorship experience.

Tapping into the power of the stamp

For World Vision, mailed material still plays a key role. “The physicality of our campaigns is the tactile piece. Canadians still enjoy having something to touch.”

Although the organization had spent a great deal of time and effort putting donor-aimed information on its website, they noticed their supporters responded better to hard copy. “They still liked to leaf through the information, to actually have something in their hand,” explains Carroll.

At World Vision, it’s described as the power of the stamp.

“The power of the stamp is the importance that a sponsor puts on a physical letter being sent from a country or continent like Africa. They can feel it.  They can feel the wrinkles, they can smell the difference in the paper, and they feel the difference. It’s just much more tangible for them.”

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World Vision has attempted to mimic the faraway sight and touch of sponsored child letters online, but it’s not the same, says Carroll. “Having that mail piece in their hand, people value that much more.”

Better engagement through data

Data is key to driving engagement and measuring success for the charity. That includes fine-tuning and utilizing donor information to maximize the impact of its appeals.

“The only way we can drive engagement is to be more customized and to be more personal,” he explains. “We can speak to someone on a one-to-one level. We can go beyond printing someone’s first name, we can regionalize it.” For example, World Vision would customize the information presented to donors down to the child, his or her community and the specific initiative of that community (such as clean drinking water) versus presenting more generic information from the charity.

As a fan of direct mail, Carroll believes that too many non-profits mistakenly avoid tapping the substantial benefits it offers. “I think the misconception that direct mail is expensive can be dispelled by engaging the right partners that have access to technology and can introduce partnerships to the organization.”

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Carroll suggests involving these partners early on in the process when the organization is still considering its potential. That way, you can leverage their expertise while it can make a true difference and collaborate on a level that will allow the vision to unfold organically.

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