American Heart Association’s database insight boosts donations

Two years ago the nonprofit industry was in the midst of a crisis — charitable donations had plummeted from around 15% of revenue in Q4 2007 to 6.6% in Q3 2009. The American Heart Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing deaths related to cardiovascular disease, was suffering similar difficulties, says Anu Gandhi, director of marketing for Consumer Health at the American Heart Association.

“This was in the midst of the recession,” Gandhi says. “We saw individual giving going down. We were out there doing a lot but we were hit just as much as anybody else.”

Conversely, the organization’s Go Red for Women group, a social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health, continued to grow year over year. Yet, those 750,000 women who were engaged with the initiative weren’t giving money; in fact, less than 3% of those who signed up for the operation donated to the organization. The marketing team at the American Heart Association, needed to find a way to turn the 750,000 women who were engaged with its Go Red for Women campaign into donors.

It decided to leverage its customer knowledgebase to understand what motivated its members. Subsequently, the company would develop a campaign library of messages that offered inspiration, which would then be utilized to generate and nurture leads.

The association tapped interactive agency MarketNet and data analytics company Optimization Group to glean insights from the customer database to drive donations.

“MarketNet and Optimization Group looked at all the research in our database,” Gandhi says. “We tried to understand why women initially took part in the movement, how they heard about it, how they engaged with it, and what they would like to do in the future. This information helped us develop an understanding of their path inside the movement.”

The three companies segmented 9,073 women in the database based on “Mind-type.” The basic premise of mind-typing is that every person has a specific way he/she feels and views interactions with an organization. The American Heart Association showed the women various statements and the women provided a response regarding how much they liked or disliked the statement. Based on their responses, the women were mind-typed into several different categories.

“Ultimately the biggest impact this had was realizing that not everybody is going to donate in response to or react well to our statements,” Gandhi says. “Everyone is not going to react the same way.” 

Next, the three companies established a matrix based on who responded best to certain types of statements. The American Heart Association then sent personalized nurturing emails in the tone it believed each woman would like.

The results are impressive: During a four-month period from May 2009 – September 2009 the American Heart Association’s donation landing page received donations from 1,887 people, 543 of whom the organization could tie directly to the campaign. The campaign generated $25,200 dollars, which equaled out to $46 per person. Overall, 2,778 Go Red for Women database members donated $1,652,100 or $595 per person.

The American Heart Association is now in the process of analyzing its newsletter database to determine how best to engage with recipients. “We’re looking at how we can leverage all the database information to determine how we can get women to open the emails,” Gandhi says. “At the end of the day, we want them to donate, but we also we want them to make lifestyle changes and be supportive of the movement.”

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