Community Building: Meeting Supporters Where They Are

Overview

In 2020, as a global pandemic changed the way we live and work and put the communities Pathfinder serves at heightened risk, new priorities emerged. We continued to test and learn what messaging and content resonated across audiences while introducing advocacy and engagement campaigns via the Action Center, launching SMS as a new platform, and capturing new subscribers and donors through paid and organic channels.

As a result of our community-building efforts, we’ve seen strong gains at all parts of Pathfinder’s communications funnel through a fully integrated strategy – driving 82% more website traffic, over 600 new SMS subscribers, and nearly 12,000 new advocacy actions from engaged supporters. 

By weaving fundraising narratives into advocacy efforts; remaining top of mind and topical; and meeting donors where they are (in the channels they prefer), we’ve successfully primed action takers for giving. By leveraging advocacy as an engagement and cultivation tool, Pathfinder has seen a 42% increase in new donors in FY21. Best of all, Pathfinder has seen a 20% increase in online revenue and is poised for continued growth in the year ahead.

Client

The Outcome

Through FY21 (July 2020 – June 2021), Pathfinder International has raised over $0.5M — that’s a 21% increase compared to the previous fiscal year and 36% increase from the fiscal year before.

12,000

98%

82%

YoY increase in new donor direct acquisition

advocacy actions taken

YoY increase website sessions

The Challenge

Pathfinder International sits in a unique niche. They are an international nonprofit, but unlike many of their peers, Pathfinder’s work is not focused on disaster relief. Rather, they focus on reproductive health and rights, but not within the United States, where so many battles are now being waged

As a result, Pathfinder’s work is not always top of mind or prominent in the news. They do the hard work long after headlines fade — all the more reason their mission is so important.

It has been important for Pathfinder to shine the brightest light possible on their issues and work whenever the opportunity arises. What’s more, we’ve strove to connect engagements to fundraising, serving opportunities to give when the audience is warmest.

In practical terms, this has meant Pathfinder has needed to focus critically on tactics, the user experience, leveraging a myriad of channels, and moving assets to market quickly — all to meet eventual donors where they are in the world and drive lifetime value.

The Implementation

We implemented data measurement across all owned and paid media assets as well as templatized reports to track month-over-month productivity, constituent acquisition ROI, and campaign performance. To do this, we also had to make sure the data integrations were in place from Raiser’s Edge to Luminate Online, so that we could target and measure Pathfinder’s audiences based upon lifecycle data and behavioral data.

When it came to sustainer asks, the Pathfinder email list showed itself to be impervious. Two years in a row, well-plotted, strategic monthly giving drives fell flat. Early 2021, we changed our strategy to a passive approach using “daisy chain” fundraising. In this fundraising model, we asked the email list to take a quiz, sign a petition, take a survey, etc., and upon completion, we redirected them to a monthly donate page. Using this tactic, we were able to cultivate and prime with an action, before asking them for a gift. This tactic has helped us drive consistent growth in monthly giving throughout the year without directly asking — an approach that had fallen repeatedly flat.

Our multi-touchpoint communications and fundraising strategy was centered around high-quality website content, storytelling, and engaging calls-to-action.

In June of 2020, as Congress considered a critical COVID relief bill, we launched Pathfinder’s first advocacy petition action calling on U.S. leaders to pass funds for the global health response effort. We leveraged organic social, paid media, email, and a website lightbox to drive over 2k petition signatures, raising over $2.5k in supporter donations post-action, and priming donors for an impactful fiscal year-end fundraising campaign.

After our first successful advocacy engagement, we launched Pathfinder’s Action Center on their website, deploying a full suite of advocacy and actions to empower new and returning supporters to engage, take action, and ultimately feel closer to Pathfinder’s mission. In 2020, Action Center actions drove over 5,700 supporter signatures, at least 700 new email addresses, and over $5,000 in direct revenue post-action.

Introducing advocacy and engagement campaigns into Pathfinder’s mid-funnel communications has helped cultivate donors while educating them on Pathfinder’s important advocacy work – contributing to a 64% increase in one-time donors in 2020, and a record-setting January 2021 revenue (more than double that of January 2020).

Pathfinder has long supported safe abortion services across 20+ low- and middle-income nations, but they haven’t always talked publicly about it.  In the last year, that changed, as Media Cause helped Pathfinder begin to advocate against the Global Gag rule and spotlight abortion as one of the critical health services they provide. This included a focus at vital moments in the fundraising calendar, including the end of fiscal year match.

This boldness extended to other parts of the Pathfinder program, including their new definition of gender, and condemnation of the abortion ban in Texas. Pathfinder has become outspoken, fiery, and distinctive by leading with their mission and values, separating their brand from countless others in the global health space.

Seeing immediate success with Pathfinder’s advocacy program launch, we sought out new channels to engage supporters in real-time with action opportunities and organizational updates. Launching a new SMS channel in November of 2020, we brought over 2,000 supporters into Pathfinder’s messaging program in its first year, engaging supporters with timely messages, advocacy alerts, and fundraising opportunities to complement what they were receiving on other channels. We quickly learned that supporters who subscribed to Pathfinder’s SMS program were highly engaged and generous, contributing over $22K in FY21 for a strong average gift. SMS subscribers have also shown to be primed for advocacy messages.

While advertising bans on other platforms created advertising hurdles in late 2020 and early 2021, we seized the opportunity to test new paid channels with Pathfinder’s media budget. As rapid response and timely messaging became more prominent in Pathfinder’s communications priorities, we launched a test of Twitter ads aiming to engage new audiences and grow Pathfinder’s presence on the platform. Engagement rates on Twitter ads surpassed industry benchmarks significantly at 4.95%, compared to the nonprofit average of 1.8%. 

We also ensured that email was more than a fundraising mechanism, with regular opportunities to take action without a donation. Through a renewed emphasis on advocacy, we invited the Pathfinder list to raise their voice for health and justice. With interactive quiz actions, including our Sed Ed Quiz from the summertime, we raised awareness of the issues Pathfinder works to resolve. And through engagements asking the list to send thanks to female community health workers on International Women’s Day, we forged connections between those on the email list and those doing the work. While these did not ask for gifts directly, they pointed to the value and urgency of Pathfinder’s work, and gave an opportunity for those inclined to donate.