The Situation

The Philadelphia Zoo’s membership revenue is the mainstay of the organization but it’s not their only vital revenue source. The Zoo also utilizes and counts on revenue from an Annual Fund program, but it is difficult to “sell” to members. While Zoo Membership confers substantial benefits, gifts to the Annual Fund offer no associated premiums or benefits. Members are asked to make a “straight-up” charitable/mission-based contribution to the Annual Fund. This action requires very different motivation than the original appeal to join the organization, which is often a value-based proposition. As a result, the Annual Fund struggled to make this appeal effectively in the past.

In addition to the inherent challenge of this campaign, there were two other major obstacles to deal with. First, there was no existing control. Rather, a new appeal was developed for each campaign, spotlighting a different animal/subject. Secondly, there was a challenge with regard to external factors. The appeal mailed just before Hurricane Sandy unexpectedly hit the east coast of the United States with severe consequences. The effects of the super storm were devastating, and created substantial delays in mail delivery. Additionally, there was unexpected competition for philanthropic dollars as giving to crisis response organizations spiked in the wake of the storm.

The Strategy

DMW Fundraising developed a mission-based Matching Gift campaign, highlighting one of the Zoo’s most popular exhibits, the Great Ape Trail (home of the orangutans). All members of the Zoo received an initial mailing, but only members who had made a gift to the Annual Fund in the past were sent a follow-up mailing, a targeted and multi-part mailing strategy the Zoo had never implemented prior to this campaign.

All members with a valid e-mail address on record also received a series of three e-mails, which deployed on the initial and follow-up mail dates and a few days before the end of the calendar year, respectively. This type of integrated effort had never been tried before by the Zoo.


The Results

  • The campaign was a big success!
  • Gross revenue increased by 60% and net revenue increased by 144% compared to the effort mailed at the same time the previous year and offered to a similar sized audience.
  • The never-done-before follow-up mailing lifted net revenue by 14%!
  • Web giving represented 15% of total giving.
  • This campaign is another example of how DMW can partner with an organization, assess its current needs and opportunities, and maximize results to achieve the campaign goals.
increase in net revenue