True North Inc., New York Follow Update

  • 630 Third Avenue
  • New York, New York 10017
  • United States
  • Phone: (+1) 212 557-4202

ASPCA - "Cracking the Code of Online Donor Acquisition" - True North Inc.

  • Cracking the Code of Online Donor Acquisition
  • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • True North Inc.
  • United States
  • Cracking the Code of Online Donor Acquisition
Product CategoryInstitutional/Public Interest/Non-Profit Org.
Date of First Broadcast/PublicationApril 5, 2012
Media TypeCase Study
Length264 Seconds
Creative Director Daniel Brown
Associate Creative Director Vicky Wetterer
Media Director Annika Bryntse
Account Supervisor Meghann Kelley
Director of Client Services John Como
Chief Creative Officer Tom Goosmann
Cracking the Code of Online Donor Acquisition


The ASPCA's mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals. Monthly donations to the ASPCA come from a unique group of loyal donors called Guardians. Our goal was to build an online program to acquire more Guardians. Every potential donor is different, and motivated to donate by a different emotion or outside influence, such as an event or news story. Our program incorporates a robust media mix with a variety of messages and images at various touch points, each customized for users on different sites. We have also established a proven control that has been challenged and occasionally outperformed, but remains a consistent strong converter. Our program has generated thousands of new ASPCA donors, with more acquired each day. 


Campaign Objectives

The primary campaign goal focused on acquiring monthly donors, i.e., ASPCA Guardians. Secondary goals include acquiring one-time donors because they present a lower threshold for those not willing to commit to monthly donations.

Marketing Strategy

Every potential donor is unique, different, and motivated to donate by a different emotion or outside influence, such as an event or news story. Our program incorporates a robust media mix with a variety of messages and images at various touch points, each customized for users on different sites and optimized based on real-time results. Our proven control creative was established in the program’s first year, and continues to be challenged and occasionally outperformed.


We rotate a variety of ads as the centerpiece of a multichannel campaign that includes email, social, interactive ads, unique landing pages, and website materials. There’s not just one creative ad, there are hundreds, each with its own unique approach, drawn from an inventory of components that are designed to pull on the heartstrings of potential donors. The ads leverage ASPCA-related topics such as abuse, homelessness, dog fighting, puppy mills, and animal hoarding. Knowing that people’s motivations are complex and subject to different influences, our creative changes based on real-time response and timely/seasonal events such as Valentine’s Day, the December holidays, New Years, Mother’s Day, and the onset of summer. The online channel changes and grows larger, every day. Controlling where prospects go or what they are influenced by is nearly impossible. Because of this, we adapted our concepts to find our prospects where they already are, with one holistic experience. By syncing creative messaging among multiple platforms, especially in a Retargeting mindset where the user is more “bottom-of-funnel” or closer to conversion, a holistic message proved to instill confidence and push our prospect to donate. 


The ASPCA was facing a challenge all-too-familiar among nonprofits: Their mix of advertising channels had become saturated, DRTV was struggling, and maintaining a healthy ROI had become increasingly challenging. Their donors were aging while younger digitally-driven donors were hard to reach. Several attempts at online donor acquisition had ended with poor results. Beginning three years ago, the ASPCA engaged our agency to develop a scalable online program to reach new sustainers. We were warned in advance, however, "the channel just didn't work when it comes to fundraising." 


In the nonprofit industry, few have accomplished the scale or results the ASPCA Online Acquisition Program has. What's most notable about the program in the past year are the following:

• 44,000 new sustainer donors were added.

• 92% of donors acquired were new-to-file, meaning we are not cannibalizing other channels but rather building our own machine to generate new donors.

• 18% increase in average donation amount, compared to the other donation values generated by offline channels.

• The donors acquired stay on file longer, compared to other offline channels, which when mixed with higher donation values, shows the value these donors have to the organization.

• 12% increase in monthly donors year-over-year with a CPD 20% under the allowable CPD shows the scalability and efficiency of this program. Additionally, the holistic approach (i.e., channel integration) incorporated into the program provided the added tools needed to outperform our longstanding control concept. For example, a control display creative without cross-channel integration was tested against a new display creative with cross-channel integration. The new creative test outperformed the control with a 24% lower CPD. This shows that by aligning our message across multiple online platforms, we are able to establish more creative controls and convert more donors.