How First United Increased Online Revenue 86%

Background and Client

First United is committed at its heart to the struggle for social justice and is a place of welcome for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Established in 1885, today they offer programs of advocacy, housing, healing and hospitality through a community space that supports and celebrates the inherent strengths of all people, of all walks of life.

Work started in the Fall of 2015 and continued through December 2016.

Why We Were Hired

First United was looking to increase net revenue in the short term while building the long-term capacity of grassroots support through annual fund strategies like direct mail, online fundraising, and monthly giving.

Our work started in October 2015 and continued through December 2016.

This case study looks at 2016 online fundraising work and results.

We knew where we wanted to go with our Digital Marketing, but we had no idea how to get there. Shift cleared a path for us that we travelled together.
— Natalie Lanoville, Director of Resource Development, First United

The Results

  • Online revenue grew 86%
  • Online donations grew 94%
  • Website traffic grew 72%
  • Email list grew 118%
  • AdWords clicks grew 301% (conversion tacking not set up before we started so can't compare conversions compared to previous year)

What We Did

Work was done across all four major areas of our work. Key projects included:

  • Website rebuild
  • Better tools & tracking
  • Email fundraising
  • Facebook advertising
  • Google AdWords
  • Christmas campaign

Website Rebuild

While the current website wasn't bad, it wasn't optimized for mobile, had little to no tracking, and had a generic donation tool for online gifts. Together, this would limit First's ability to raise funds and understand why (or why not) donations were coming in.

Our two goals for the website rebuild were:

  1. Create a website more geared towards online marketing and fundraising to increase engagement and improve online revenue
  2. Update the brand, design, and user experience of for both donors/supporters and First United staff.
first united case study website rebuild

Better Tools & Tracking

One of the big reasons we suggested a new site was that the current tools and systems a), weren't working with one another causing friction and extra work and, b), did not allow for proper tracking to see what strategies, traffic sources and pieces of content were or were not working.

Throughout the year, we used tools like Formstack, MailChimp, Stripe, and WordPress - all easy to use, trusted, and have large support communities - so First staff could use and continue on if we were no longer around.

Email Fundraising

When we looked at the communications schedule, we quickly saw that First United was not sending enough email. In particular, enough non-ask emails. The increased communication was critical to keep donors engaged and connected so when campaigns rolled around they would be more likely to give.

First United also needed to invest in growing their email list so the new website had a large focus on email acquisition.

We also moved them to our preferred email tool, MailChimp, to create automated welcome emails for online donors and new email signups.

Facebook Ads

We suggested First United invest more into Facebook as a source of online revenue and new supporters. To do this, we ran campaigns timed with their seasonal campaigns (Spring, Fall, Christmas).

To maximize revenue, we targeted current First United supporters with retargeting campaigns.

For acquisition, we looked at First United donor attributes and created detailed targeting and look-a-like audiences to find and recruit new support.

Google AdWords

While First United had a Google Ad Grant since 2014, they were using AdWords off and on and without an overarching and cohesive strategy.

We did some simple optimization but with the creation of the new website, we were able to point ads at more focused, compelling, and action based pages.

We could also track what was working in terms of ads, keywords, and campaigns.

Christmas Campaign

First United, like many organizations, raises a lot of their annual fund support in the last few months of the year - particularly online - so we made sure to invest our time and energy in this crucial part of the year.

We pushed First United to secure a matching donor to match all online gifts (up to a maximum). We then integrated the campaign with the Direct Mail appeal, Print Newsletter, and all online ads and social media posts.

On the campaign landing page, we also had a countdown clock and 'thermometer' to increase urgency.


Interested In Learning More About Shift and Working Together?

We'd love to hear from you and see how we can help build and grow your digital fundraising.