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Case Study: Nonprofit Ups Brand Awareness Among Youth Demographic

Date: December, 2012 --

In the spirit of the season, we bring you a short case study of a nonprofit campaign from the UK that was remarkable for its ingenuity and its extraordinary impact. This organization’s problem was a common one: Lack of awareness within the youth demographic. The ingenuity they showed in targeting this audience and the resulting impact on word of mouth and overall brand awareness will be discussed in this case study, which was compiled by Data Services, Inc. in partnership with our friends at the Prescott Report.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) is an independent UK charity providing year-round 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service around the coast of the UK and Ireland. During the summer they have lifeguard services on many of the busiest beaches in England and Wales. Since its founding in 1824, its lifeboats, and since 2001 its lifeguards, have saved more than 140,000 lives. In short, it saves 21 lives a day in the seas around this island nation.    

It is not government-supported. Its entire budget, amounting to Ⱡ385,000 per day, is funded by donations from the public. However, it is one of the least known charities among young people, and it was among young people that it realized it needed to find a new population of givers.

With the campaign we’ll discuss it became one of the most talked about charities in the UK, at least online. The goal was not to necessarily raise money but to raise brand awareness.

In order to accomplish this they selected a target group of 12 of Britain's most popular young bloggers. Each blogger was sent a direct mail package, a large padded brown envelope with instructions, and no indication of the identity of sender. The package instructed these 12 to open the package while filming themselves, read and examine the contents, and challenge their own readers to speak about who they really are. Are young people really the lazy, cruel and useless generation the media says they are? Is this really a generation without values, views or vision?

It worked. The 12 bloggers incited fierce debate among their readers. Only then did the charity reveal that RNLI was the sender of the packages. When this was revealed by the bloggers it generated a huge response online. The bloggers were all invited to visit the charity's headquarters, where they filmed the visit, wrote songs, and did other things to spread the word about its work.

Results: 8000 texts were sent and 50 videos were made and uploaded. One of these videos was featured twice by YouTube editors and ranked one of the top 10 most viewed across seven countries in one month.

Lesson: Non-profit specialists tell us that acquisition campaigns are lucky to break even and charities run on repeat and especially long-term givers. This campaign was not to be measured by ROI, but by WOM, which clearly was high. At some point, many of the young people who participated in the online debate will join that giving community, perhaps online and perhaps through the mail. Talk to Data Services, Inc. about how their MarketView database management and analytics platform can help you turn a mountain of customer behavior and R/F/M data into actionable business intelligence to improve the efficiency and targeting of your fundraising and development efforts. Moreover, all nonprofits understand the importance of keeping track of your best customers and Data Services, Inc. has the industry-leading data quality and data processing solutions to ensure your message reaches your domestic and international audience.