Historically, The Salvation Army’s new donor acquisition approach has been dominated by print and supported by traditional media channels. This had delivered results in the past, but they were experiencing a slowdown in donor acquisition growth and value, resulting in decreasing ROI. 

So, they looked to digital and their digital fundraising agency, ntegrity, for growth. Together, we launched a test digital campaign called ‘Christmas Wishes’ in 2021 with the goal to acquire new and younger donors (aged 35-50yrs). The results? The Salvos acquired a record number of new donors on digital by moving forward with a digital acquisition campaign — 50% more donors acquired than the previous Christmas, digital revenue grew 74%, and the average gift size increased.

Here are the key learnings.

Combine the power of ecommerce and purposeful gift trends to cut through the online clutter 

Three things are true at Christmas: online is a crowded space; people love to give but want more purposeful gifts; they’re looking online for these gifts — in 2022, 80% of Australians made a purchase online, according to Australia Post.

We saw an opportunity for the Salvos to stand out, while aligning to digital supporter motivations. Instead of running a standard needs-based Christmas Appeal, we digitised the Salvos’ gift print catalogue ‘Christmas Wishes’ to an online ecommerce experience. It borrowed from ecommerce best practice productising donations and used adapted creative execution to cut through. We also added more gifts and a greater diversity of price points, including a whole new category for major donors.

So, while there are plenty of charity gifts out there, what really helped differentiate the Salvos was borrowing a design style from ecommerce to clearly signal to online shoppers what was expected.

Build trust with new donors by providing greater transparency 

New and younger Australian donors are more sceptical of charitable institutions and they expect more from charities in terms of donor experience and transparency. The ‘Christmas Wishes’ ecommerce experience provided transparency, tangibility and greater assurance for donors of where their money was going — whether it was a hamper, or shelter for a mum and daughter for a night. Ultimately it helped to build trust, faster. 

Optimise the digital experience to meet customer expectations and avoid donation abandonment 

Younger donors have lower tolerance for digital friction and higher expectations for user experience. Close attention was paid to the website check-out experience and creative, learning from retail ecommerce best-practice. For example, the most popular digital ad featured a $35 gift, but the average purchase from that was $100 plus. This meant most donors were purchasing multiple gifts. The Salvos capitalised on this data, updating their website to make it easier for customers to add multiple gifts, round up their donation and contribute to postage, netting an additional $11k in donations. 

Employ a test, test, test strategy

A digital-first campaign allows you to test just about anything you can think of, then adapt the campaign as you go. We tested digital channels, moving budget around social, display, programmatic, search and email. As well as creative: need vs impact; Salvos officer vs someone receiving help; price vs no price; multiple gifts vs one; ‘Shop now’ CTA vs ‘Donate now’ CTA.

The impact

Experimentation and a digital first approach can have a huge impact on an organisation’s fundraising — especially in cut-throat periods like Christmas. All of this had a huge impact on the Salvos’ results for last Christmas, increasing both new donor acquisition and revenue. 

Garth Stirling is the Head of Services at ntegrity