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Souls Harbour Rescue Mission – 2,668 nights of shelter

Souls Harbour Rescue Mission 6th annual Homelessness Awareness Week raises awareness and 2,668 nights of shelter ($66,877) for Regina’s homeless

SHRM - case study 1The challenge

Create and execute a social awareness and fundraising component for Souls Harbour Rescue Mission’s (SHRM) unique 6th annual Homelessness Awareness Week campaign in conjunction with their 25th Anniversary.

As SHRM’s first large-scale social media effort, prove that social media coupled with email marketing can successfully create added awareness for the Mission and contribute toward the campaign goal of raising 2,500 nights of shelter ($62,200) in celebration of 25 years of providing hope to the homeless, hungry and hurting in Regina.

Russ Reid solution

Integrated social media strategy aimed to spread mass local awareness of the campaign and call-to-action by:

  • Deploying Facebook, Twitter and email to drive reach of the campaign message and fundraising response to the campaign site
  • The creation and use of integrated ‘Nights of Shelter’ creative to support campaign recognition across digital channels
  • Sharing the personal experience of “homeless Joe” from the rooftop of the Mission through real-time updates in his own voice
  • Proposing and leveraging a social action partnership to inspire viral word-of-mouth for greater awareness and response. SHRM acquired this partnership with the local Saskatoon office of the global engineering company Stantec.

Russ Reid delivered:

  • Full social media strategy, content plan, and management during the campaign
  • Real-time co-developed content in collaboration with Joe and SHRM
  • Social advertising strategy and management on Facebook
  • An integrated campaign e-Appeal
  • Integrated digital creative for,, Facebook ads, and the email appeal

Objectives for this week-long campaign included:

  • 2,500 nights of shelter raised ($62,200)
  • 2,500 hashtag mentions of #Stantec4thehomeless


SHRM - case study 2The 6th annual Homelessness Awareness Week campaign exceeded its goal of 2,500 nights of shelter raising 2,688 nights of shelter ($66,877). In addition, the social campaign experienced an all time high in social engagement and reach for SHRM:

  • reaching 116,815 people on Facebook; acquiring 2,662 content consumers; engaging 10,368 users
  • virally gaining 10,070 post likes from people talking about the campaign on Facebook; 257 shares
  • acquiring 90,634 impressions of @Souls_Harbour tweets alone; 2,749 Twitter engagements; 801 retweets

In social partnership with Stantec, the hashtag #Stantec4thehomeless acquired $3 for every Twitter mention received during the 5-day campaign up to $7,500 (or 301 nights of shelter). The goal of 2,500 mentions was reached on day 3; a total of 2,679 Twitter hashtag mentions were achieved from August 24-28; mentions continued weeks following the campaign.

Significantly, major local well-knowns became aware of the hashtag campaign and encouraged their followers to retweet including:

  • SHRM - case study 3Premier of Saskatchewan @PremierBradWall (61k followers)
  • @ReginaPolice (47.5k followers)
  • Social media maven @FeistyFrugal (41k followers)
  • Local entertainment companies, brands and personalities @ReginaDowntown (10k followers), @SaskMusic (6.5k followers), @RustieDean (My921Regina morning host, 4.5k Followers), @BigDog927Regina (7k followers), @SaskRealtors (4.5k followers)
  • @Stantec also mentioned the campaign several times (14.5k followers)

SHRM’s most successful nights of shelter campaign to date and highly successful social media effort raising more awareness than ever before, the 6th annual Homelessness Awareness Week campaign exceeded every goal from nights of shelter/revenue to social media actions set forth in campaign planning. Russ Reid is especially honored to have been so involved in this campaign from strategy to execution and celebration of a major success for Souls Harbour Rescue Mission!

For additional information on this campaign or how Russ Reid can help your nonprofit grow beyond, contact Andrew Olsen (CFRE, Vice President).

NHFB case study thumb

New Hampshire Food Bank – The impact of changing agencies

Year-over-year growth achieved in identifying strategies for improvement

The challenge

In 2014 Russ Reid was hired by New Hampshire Food Bank (NHFB). Our Strategy team quickly went to work assessing the organization’s programs, including a deep dive on institutional messaging, themes, contact cadence, segmentation strategy, digital properties, and integration —with the goal of identifying strategies that were working well and areas for improvement. Several key areas for improvement were identified.

Russ Reid solution

The Russ Reid team quickly went to work developing and executing a more sophisticated segmentation strategy, refining contact cadence, varying the creative and messaging delivered to NHFB’s donors, and integrating new channels to help maximize per donor value for the Food Bank.

While only mailing one additional appeal, Russ Reid applied a segmentation strategy that better targeted the donors who were most likely to give, while reducing mail frequency to donors who were less likely to give additional gifts.

Russ Reid further enhanced NHFB’s program by integrating digital media campaigns (SEM and Display) into the direct response program, with the goal of increasing the value of newly acquired donors and converting more existing donors to multi-channel givers.


These strategic changes fueled phenomenal year-over-year growth for the Food Bank:

  • 117% increase in the number of acquisition responses from new and reactivated donors
  • 25% increase in income from new/reactivated donors in acquisition
  • New/reactivated donors were acquired at a positive $6.55/gift
  • 45% increase in the number of gifts from existing donors
  • 46% increase in revenue from existing donors
  • 36% higher total return on investment (ROI) compared to plan
  • 29% increase in the number of active donors and a 18% lift in overall revenue
  • Increased retention in many categories of donors: 4% from current donors, 23% from 1-2 year lapsed donors, and 29% from 3+ year inactive donors

To learn how Russ Reid can help your Food Bank grow beyond, please contact Andrew Olsen (CFRE, Vice President).

View a downloadable PDF of this case study.

russ reid paralyzed veterans of america case study

Paralyzed Veterans of America – Analytics

Transforming donor behavior from product‐based transactions to mission‐based giving

The challenge

Founded in 1946, Paralyzed Veterans of America is a congressionally chartered veterans service organization that has developed unique expertise on a wide variety of issues involving the special needs of its members – veterans of the armed forces who have experienced spinal cord injury or dysfunction. PVA uses their expertise to advocate for quality health care, research and education, benefits for members’ as a result of military service, civil rights and opportunities to maximize independence.

PVA established a low‐dollar, high response premium‐based direct mail program roughly 40 years ago. On the whole the program is quite successful with personalized labels, calendars, cards and other specialty premiums generating 8‐10% response rates across the renewal program. In FY12, PVA’s Premium Program generated $67MM from over 5MM donors. However, increased costs and the relative difficulty of upgrading $10 donors, the core of file, has translated to cost of fundraising climbing to unacceptable rates.

Russ Reid solution

Our challenge is to improve program performance and lower the cost of fundraising of this colossal, mass mail marketing program by identifying, cultivating and messaging key affinity and value groups that to date have been buried within the file and messaged only based on product responsiveness and/or gender.

Using demographic overlay data along with giving history, we were able to identify several sub‐segments of the file including donors who are identified as giving to veteran’s causes and, more powerfully, hose with a veteran in the household. Analysis showed donors with Veteran‐related affinity (over 3MM on file) had a 71% higher retention rate than all others and, in turn, higher value. Back‐end analysis of key campaigns also showed directional information regarding messaging and interests. For example within this newly defined segment:

•    ‘Vintage War Plane’ artwork generated an 82% higher lift in response than ‘Rockwell Art’ the proven, longstanding control

•    A non‐premium ‘Mission‐Able’ offer focused primarily on PVA’s mission generated virtually the same response rate as a product/premium offer to Male Veterans Affinity donors

Given this data and our long‐held knowledge that if we appeal to donors with resonant messaging in words, graphics and offers we will increase engagement, loyalty and value, we’ve constructed the basis of a Veteran’s Track, which includes the following:

•    Full cycle of campaigns based on qualifying RFM, etc.

•    6‐8 highly targeted campaigns/offers to include more mission‐based language, patriotic words and images and as in the ‘Vintage War Plane’ test, additional military‐based imagery

russ reid analytics case study


This year‐long test is still underway with panels of Veterans Affinity flagged names receiving the control offers (premiums, with targeted imagery based on gender) to compare against the new treatment.

Our anticipated outcomes include the establishment of a new Veterans Affinity Track replete with targeted messaging, unique contact cadence, treatment and metrics of success. We believe that, ultimately, track treatment will be a blend of premiums/ products like the calendars and cards as in the current program, along with more paper‐ based mission offers akin to ‘Mission‐Able’. All messaging will be focused on patriotism, service, honor and PVA’s mission to help paralyzed veterans.

russ reid kcet

KCET – Sustainer File Strategy

How audience refinement strategies have grown KCET’s sustainer file

The challenge

KCET – the largest independent nonprofit public television station in the country – came to Russ Reid at a time when they were on the brink of breaking away from PBS and were making programmatic changes at the organizational level, in their line‐up of TV programs and in their fundraising programs. One of their main needs was to rebrand their fundraising program to show the new direction of the organization.

KCET had suspended acquisition for a year, so it was imperative that they make significant improvements in their conversion programs – while also making considerable cost improvements.

Prior to Russ Reid, KCET had been sending the sustainer invite to members in specific months of their membership cycle who had specifically indicated that they did not want to receive any add gifts and/or only one renewal effort (out of a typical multi‐effort series).

This amounted to only 150 invites a month with a sub‐par response rate, and a high cost per donor, as they weren’t mailing enough pieces to qualify for nonprofit postal rates, and their original sustainer package was very exclusive and had a high‐end look.

So our key objectives were to:

  • Increase sustainer conversion
  • Rebrand the package to reflect the new direction
  • Save on costs

Russ Reid solution

We dug deep into the current audience selection and segmentation, and after researching potential prospect pools, we determined the members with the highest propensity to convert to sustainers were those who had just joined the organization, renewed or rejoined, having just affirmed their commitment to KCET.

This new audience increased the mail quantity by 87 times! This new quantity immediately saved on costs, as the invites could now qualify for nonprofit postal rates. More importantly, this change increased percent response by 300% and doubled the number of sustainers on the file!

Subsequently, having proved that this new audience was viable, our next step was to redesign the package in a way that reflected the right brand and positioned the sustainer program in a brand new way that would make it more compelling to donors. This new package yielded comparable results – and saved KCET 84%!

Russ reid analytics case study

From FY10 to FY12, the audience strategy remained the same. Additionally, KCET has been managing follow‐up telemarketing campaigns to all donors who receive the direct mail package through their preferred telemarketing partner, achieving high conversion rates that complement our mail efforts.

In FY13, we tested a new audience strategy to mail donors on a quarterly basis, expanding our segmentation selection. Additionally, we redesigned the creative to mirror our show‐focused strategy, which had proven positive on all mail programs. With one sustainer campaign final, we’ve increased conversion by 48%.


In FY10 this approach decreased cost by 84%, increased percent response by 300%, increased number of sustainers by 68% and increased ROI by 438%.

When retested in FY13, sustainer conversion increased by 48%.

Next steps for KCET include culling through their data to determine if moving the sustainer ask further out in a donor’s membership cycle will garner a larger conversion rate.

The Wit & Wisdom of Chairman Russ

In presenting these sayings of Russ Reid, we carefully considered the advice of Robert Benchley: “The surest way to make a monkey out of a man is to quote him.”
Nevertheless, we have often heard these proverbs, platitudes, dictums and bromides from the Chairman of the Board of the Russ Reid Company, and present them for your edification and amusement.
Some of these sayings are wise; some are witty; not all are original; all say something about the essential Russ Reid. So we present them in the words of the Chairman himself: “This stuff is like perfume; you need to sniff it, not swallow it.”

1 “Hello! I’m Russ Reid.” ~on walking up to strangers, potential clients, employees, maitre d’s, friends’ pets, etc.

2 “It’s hard to fall off the floor.” ~an optimistic statement about the success of a proposed new strategy, after the first effort has failed.

3 “He wouldn’t know segmentation if he met it in his porridge.” ~muttered under the breath when confronted with a self-styled direct mail expert.

4 “No good deed goes unpunished.” ~spoken to the wall after a conversation with someone who complained that the heavy mail response had taxed the endurance of the mailroom employees.

5 “The facts are friendly.” ~on how to explain a mistake to a client. Sometimes expressed simply as, “Whoops!”

6 “I’ve learned more from my failures than I ever have from my successes.” ~a sober reflection generally following the previous statement.

7 “We never really grow as long as we blame someone else for our failures.” ~an even more sober reflection following the previous statement.

8 “Handle it! Just handle it!” ~Russ’s version of Star Wars. A defensive weapon used, for example, in the face of computer problems. Always accompanied by hand movements—both hands in front of the body, brushing outward with a rapid movement.

9 “This is like trying to put socks on an octopus.” ~spoken in exasperation when a project has to be approved by a large committee.

10 “When you let someone treat you as less than a person, you’re selling your soul.” ~first uttered on his way home from school when his third-grade teacher took away his copy of Ad Age.

11 “That’s like going up the fire ladder without a hose.” ~when someone forgot to put the codes on a direct mail response card.

12 “There are some immutable marketing principles that can legitimately be used to promote the Christian cause. The greatest sales letter I’ve ever read is Paul’s letter to Philemon. He absolutely lays it on as to why Onesimus should go free.”

13 “Sometimes I feel we don’t have 25 years of experience. We have one year of experience 25 times.” ~spoken deliberately and to no one in particular when employees make the same mistakes he faced and solved years ago.

14 “Many times an entrepreneur destroys what he builds, because he doesn’t have the sense to know when to delegate and when to give up authority so that others can make it bigger.” ~Article 14 in the “Russ Reid Revised Confession of Faith.”

15 “If you really care about your employees, you’ll keep short accounts with them.” ~meaning, “Don’t forget to tell them they did a good job, and be honest with them about their failures.” ~also engraved on the bottom of the company’s monthly P&L statement.

16 “You can’t market the whole Gospel through mass media. But you can start where people are hurting and show them how Jesus Christ can move into that area and help them.”

17 “Once you lose your enthusiasm, you lose your integrity. And once you lose your integrity, you’re a con man.” ~on why he must be a partner with his clients and not just a vendor.

18 “This could be the best and most successful show we ever produced.” ~frequent closing statement in a Russ Reid sales presentation.

19 “There is no lack of money for God’s work. There is just a lack of clear articulation of causes.” ~a reflection on how much money God’s people might be willing to give if they knew about the need.

20 “You can’t be half pregnant.” ~spoken out of concern that implementing only half the project will result in no success at all.

21 “Watch my lips.” ~interpreted means, “I’m the only one who has personally signed on all the notes at the bank.” ~apparently uttered in the presence of Republican campaign officials who adopted it for their own use.

22 “My mother used to say, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Lord would return!’ And I’d respond, ‘Mother, I want to go to heaven only when I die.’ A few years ago I bought a computer company, and shortly thereafter I was heard to say, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Lord would return!’”

23 “Timing is everything.” ~while trying to build a computer company and waiting for the Lord to return.

24 “I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile, then rise to fight again.” ~on selling the computer company.

25 “You’re only dumb when you stand where lightning strikes twice.” ~in response to a recent suggestion that the agency purchase another computer company.

26 “Look, you came to us because we have resources and you don’t. My goal is that when we’re finished it won’t be the other way around. I want us both to be successful.” ~spoken to potential clients who want to know why the Russ Reid Company charges for its services.

27 “Oh, sure, you provide the ocean; we’ll provide the boat.” ~spoken to someone with no money, no staff and no plans, but a great idea which he wants Russ to execute.

28 “You can’t outgive God.” ~explaining why the company returns a good share of its profits to various causes.

29 “That man has the social skills of an aardvark. Let’s start there.” ~which is to say, we can’t make him something he isn’t; let’s accept him as he is.

30 “Process is as important as performance. Relationships are as important as results.” ~repeated slowly seven times after a client calls Russ personally to describe why the board might stop a successful program.

31 “Success is never final; failure is never fatal; it’s the courage to continue that counts.” ~actually, Winston Churchill said this a few years before Russ, but probably not as often. At the darkest hours of the company, well past midnight when all others had gone home or surrendered, fire came to his eyes, his jaw stuck out and he’d proclaim, “Success is…”

32 “We come into the world owing everyone. Our job by the time we die is to reverse the account.”

33 “I also like power.” ~explaining why anyone in his or her right mind would risk all, ride the red-eye, stand down the creditors, stand up to the bankers, and hazard one’s health to build a company.

34 “It’s bigger than I planned and better than I deserve.” ~on celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Russ Reid Company.

35 “Remember whose name is on the door.”

To view a downloadable PDF of this article, click here.

Founder of Russ Reid Dies

Reid built the largest marketing firm serving nonprofit organizations in North America

Pasadena, California — (December 9, 2013) — Russ Reid, a marketer who determined that nonprofit organizations could benefit from a modern, professional approach to raising funds, died Saturday, December 7 at his home in Sierra Madre, California. He was 82 years old.

Reid started the agency that still bears his name in 1964 to assist nonprofits raise money.  That company continues to help nonprofits raise millions of dollars a day, every day.

“Russ’s heart was always in helping organizations that help people,” said Tom Harrison, chairman of Russ Reid. “His application of marketing acumen to nonprofits has literally changed the lives of countless children and families around the world,”

Reid started his company in Waco, Texas in 1964.  His rationale: “We believe the best talent, creativity and technology should be put to work to solve the most pressing problems of our world today.”

Russ Reid applied marketing strategies such as direct mail, direct response television, radio advertising, public relations, government lobbying and digital communication to help such diverse organizations as American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Boy’s Town, World Vision, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Operation Smile, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Prison Fellowship, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army and Nature Conservancy of Canada, as well as Rescue Missions and Food Banks across North America.

With 300 employees in Pasadena, California, Fairfax, Virginia and Toronto, Canada, Russ Reid today has grown to be the largest agency in the world helping nonprofit organizations grow.

The philosophy of putting creativity and innovation to work to help nonprofit organizations fund their operations resulted in major changes in successful fundraising techniques.

One of the landmark innovations Reid developed was the long-form television fundraising program.  The idea of showing the need of children in Ethiopia for World Vision or the help for sick children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or the results of life-altering cleft lip surgery by Operation Smile has moved millions to become involved in these organizations.  The programs show the real-life victims of poverty, disease or deformity, and the work the organizations do to bring relief to those suffering and introduce positive changes in the lives of the victims.

Innovations didn’t end there.  In the mid-1980s, the Los Angeles Mission was a small homeless shelter in a rundown building on Los Angeles’ Skid Row.  The building was old, inadequate and unsafe.  It needed to be retrofitted to protect it and the people it housed from earthquake damage – and the money just wasn’t available.  For the first time, a newspaper advertisement was placed in the Los Angeles Times asking for donations to the Mission.

People responded, and donated money to the Mission to help feed, clothe and house the homeless.  A larger ad resulted in more new donors, and a direct response fundraising program was born.

Over the next months and years, donors who responded to the initial advertisements were regularly contacted by mail to tell them how their support was helping serve those who came to the Mission for help getting off drugs, alcohol and the streets.  These letters resulted in more donations, allowing the program to expand, build a new facility and help even more people.

The program became the model to help hundreds of Rescue Missions and Food Banks across the US and Canada.

“Russ Reid’s innovations have changed the way nonprofits raise money on TV, in the mail and online,” said Harrison.

Reid led the agency through a major transition in 1998 when it was sold to Omnicom, one of the largest marketing corporations in the world.  Reid retired from the daily operation of the company in 2001, but maintained an interest in what new innovations occurred in operations – and new strategies to help nonprofits “grow beyond expectations.”  He also kept close personal relationships with company leaders.

Survivors include his wife of 32 years, Cathie, his children Mark (Susan) Reid, Paul (Sherri) Reid, Anne and John Oppermann and Janis Reid (Brenda Bos), eight grandchildren and his brother Bob Reid.

Services are pending.

About Russ Reid

Russ Reid provides services in digital fundraising, direct response television, and direct mail to help nonprofit organizations grow. Russ Reid is a part of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group Inc.

About Diversified Agency Services

Diversified Agency Services (DAS), a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC) (, manages Omnicom’s holdings in a variety of marketing communications disciplines. DAS includes over 200 companies, which operate through a combination of networks and regional organizations, serving international and local clients through more than 700 offices in 71 countries.



Food for Lucinia

DRTV brings Food for the Poor into living rooms to recruit long-term donors

By Heather Fletcher

Toddler Lucinia hides behind her sister, Netla, and coyly peeks at the camera with one dark mahogany eye. But when Netla shifts to the right, Lucinia is revealed and smiles shyly directly into the lens for a fraction of a second before looking away.

It’s a moment anyone who’s met a toddler for the first time knows and holds dear. But those six seconds are the only ones in the five minutes of video from Food for the Poor that may feel familiar. This toddler lives in a swamp in Prolonge, Haiti, and is among the sick and starving children helped by the Coconut Creek, Fla. charity.

Direct response television (DRTV) can tell Lucinia’s story in a way that no other direct marketing channel can. That’s why Food for the Poor started using DRTV for fundraising in 2011, says Angel A. Aloma, the nonprofit’s executive director. “Even for our regular donors, when they see a program on television,” says Aloma, “unlike direct mail, they’re seeing a more three-dimensional person, the poor themselves and the way they’re walking and talking and looking for food in a garbage dump. And, although we can describe it in words, when they see it on video, they see the mother crying … It becomes a stronger motivator when they get a piece of mail to answer back and to send a donation.”

Even before considering the disconnected cross-channel impact of the nonprofit’s DRTV, Aloma says this direct marketing channel he tested in 2011 has already had a trackable effect on Food for the Poor’s donations via Web and the call center, as the program’s call to action sends prospects online and to their phones.

Widely released in 2012, the 58-minute television program hosted by actress Cheryl Ladd immediately surpassed the charity’s fundraising goals, Aloma says. Although the television program requested $19 a month, the average gift came in at $21. Among the 40 percent who gave once, the donations were much larger—about $60, he says. Aloma’s expectation that DRTV revenue would grow as time went on became a reality during the first quarter of 2013. Plus,    the desired outcome— that most of the donors stay long-term—continued.

During Q1 2013, the DRTV program titled  “The Least of These” saw a $22 average monthly pledge, a $70 one-time gift and between 60 percent and 65 percent of donations come from monthly giv- ers, says Amy Hunter, vice president and group director at Pasadena, Calif.-based Russ Reid Company. She worked with Food for the Poor to create the  television spots and was helping create more as of presstime.

“I have to say that it has helped tremendously with promoting our brand,” Aloma says of his charity that provides food, housing, medicine, education and more to people who need it in 17 Caribbean and Latin American countries. Chuckling, he adds, “Because when I go to different conferences… they don’t ask me for a food pantry. They kind of know who we are now.”


Lucinia Adds Dimension

“We have met kids that are really at the cusp of dying by the time we get to them,” Aloma says.

There’s that—an intellectual reason to give.

“Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has one of the highest mortality rates of children,” Aloma says. “Guatemala is a country in the Western Hemisphere with the highest degree of child malnutrition and stunted- ness related to malnutrition… about 50 percent of their children are malnourished. And when you go into the mountains, you see it from babies up to 7-, 8-, 9-year- olds. We met a 7-year-old that weighed 29 pounds. So it’s really severe, severe malnutrition—with all the different symptoms of kwashiorkor and marasmus and all of these different ailments that come from malnutrition that can often be deadly.”

Hearing the disembodied facts—Lucinia is a toddler, living with her mother and two sisters in a parasite and bacteria-laden swamp in which she almost drowned—is far different from seeing the smiling little girl who hasn’t eaten in three days.

“In this part of Haiti, over two-thirds of the children are malnourished,” says the emotive female narrator in the video about Lucinia’s family. While she adds another fact—“One in eight never lives to see their fifth birthday”—Lucinia’s 11-year-old sister, Rosaline, is laying on her mother’s lap. Guirlene stretches out her right arm to rub Rosaline’s bloated stomach in a clockwise motion to put the girl to sleep, because the nap may stave off the hunger pangs.

“Basically, we used six stories from the field,” Aloma says. “Three from Haiti and three from Guatemala. And we portrayed the situation in those countries, the poverty of those countries, the need. And we asked donors to give—for food and medicine—$19 a month as a sustaining gift.”

This television program with children’s stories, interspersed with donation requests from former “Charlie’s Angels” star Ladd, represents one of the best ways to connect with long-term givers Aloma calls “sustaining donors.”

This, even though direct mail is Food for the Poor’s fundraising workhorse, being its main acquisition channel and bringing in just under half of the organization’s income. DRTV is “nowhere close” to generating that kind of revenue, Aloma says, but it’s a valuable acquisition tool.

Hunter  says DRTV is the  “best way to get to scale on sustainers,” and Food for the Poor has already seen the majority of its “The Least of These” donors become monthly givers. Fundraisers, in general, appear to agree with Hunter and Aloma that DRTV pulls in loyal givers. The “Journal of Nonprofit and Public Sector Marketing” supposes that the donor recruitment channel’s “healthy return on investment” is partly due to how fundraisers are treating it—as a way to find committed givers—and that donors now have convenient paperless payment options.

It probably also helps that Food for the Poor’s DRTV is very on-brand—viewers see the starving, suffering children the charity is trying to help. It seems Food for the Poor is taking Russ Reid’s advice—don’t be afraid to make your prospects cry.

“No mother should have to live with the constant fear that her children might die,” intones the narrator as a visibly depressed, worried Guirlene holds a sleeping Lucinia. “No child should have to suffer like this. There are thousands of children just like them whose lives are in danger right now. All it takes is a simple act of compassion to save them.”

Now just Rosaline stares into the camera lens and, in the online version, the screen fades to black as the URL pops up, just above an ever-present donation button that reads “Become an Angel.” That button leads to a landing page with a donation form.


How to Donate

Aloma knows Food for the Poor’s donors don’t always follow prescribed methods of reaching his organization. The television program directs viewers to donate by calling a traceable phone number, such as (800) 487-1158, or clicking on That landing page is the donation form.

He and Hunter agree many prospects will, instead, use search engines to find the organization’s site, then hunt through the home page to find the donation form. Aloma says that’s why Ladd’s image and the words “Angels of the Poor: Become an Angel” are so prominent there. Visitors who click on those displays land on a page bearing another likeness of Ladd, two donation buttons and two lines of hyperlinked text that lead to the donation form. “So whomever comes on the Web,” he says, “from the very first moment they come on, they know that that’s where they need to go to donate for that program.”

At the moment, the organization doesn’t have a breakdown of how many donors arrived through the Web vs. the call center. (Hunter says generally, 25 percent to 50 percent more DRTV viewers travel to the Internet than dial up the call center.) The charity also doesn’t know how many viewers later donate via direct mail or another channel if the viewers don’t use the direct response phone numbers or URLs.

“When we have the food program on television, we have direct mail appeals that come out, also promoting food,” Aloma says. “We have a phone campaign, also promoting food. And we have radio programs and print ads that also promote food and hunger. So we have that kind of integration that helps to promote. … But the television program lifts—because they lift recognition of the name, it lifts the response of all other fundraising methodologies. In other words, from 7 percent to 12 percent [overall] lift can be gotten by direct mail and by phone work and by print and by radio, because people will recognize our name from television, and that gives us credibility. When they get a piece of mail from us or a phone call from us, they’re more willing to respond positively, because of the publicity television has given us.”

In the meantime, Aloma says, Food for the Poor is feeding the DRTV donor information into its database.

“Everyone goes into direct mail, eventually,” he says. “Even someone who gives a donation to Web will eventually get some mail. It may be in reduced quantity, but, if you come in through the television, you’re followed up with mail after that.”


DRTV Is a Channel and So Is Oxygen

The television program runs on cable and broadcast channels all over the United States, Aloma says. But during the test year, 2011, he says Food for the Poor and Russ Reid examined seasonality, geography, time of day and television channel. After optimizing based on those results, Food for the Poor rolled out the program for a wider release in 2012.

“That [broadcasts] all through the year,” Aloma says. “And that’s what we determined the first year, which months to go heavier on. But there’s never a month where there are no showings at all. Except [what] happened to us in November because of elections—television ads became so expensive in the fall, because of the election campaigns using up so much of the space, that we were not able to go on TV at that time.”

Time of day didn’t end up being as relevant as other factors, he says.

“What is more important is the type of programming that it follows,” Aloma says. “And it’s very difficult to pinpoint. … On Oxygen, you have these crime dramas and the program, sometimes, following that has done very well. And then, sometimes, following a more religious-type, family-type program, it has also done very well.”

Food for the Poor values every viewer and every viewing, regardless of response. Because, Aloma says, “Sometimes, the second or third time they hear of us is when they decide, ‘OK, it’s time to answer. It’s time to respond.’ … Because, even for our regular donors, when they see a show on television, they may not give to that, but it touches their heart.”


Hard at Work in June

“Right now, we’re working on a new 58-minute program,” Aloma says. “Because [Russ Reid says] that every three years we have to renew, because the audience may have seen that one numerous times already. “As they’re doing that, they’re going to get out the two-minute program,” Aloma continues. “It should be sometime towards the end of June/beginning of July that the new programs—both the two-minute and the new 58-minute—should be ready.”

Simultaneously, Russ Reid is working with Food for the Poor to integrate all of its fundraising channels, he says.

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Human services digital case study

Case study: Growing online revenue in significant ways for locally-based nonprofits

The challenge

Russ Reid partners with 150 Rescue Missions and Food Banks across the United States and Canada. These locally-based nonprofit organizations need a digital strategy to drive rapid, scalable revenue and recruitment growth. For maximum efficiency, they require a nationally managed strategy; for maximum effectiveness, they need an agency partner who can execute that strategy in a customized way for each local context.


Russ Reid solution

Russ Reid delivered a comprehensive digital strategy featuring an e-commerce website redesign, paid search and display advertising, and integrated fundraising campaigns including direct mail, email and social media components. Key features of the solution included:

  • Websites designed based on nonprofit and general e-commerce best practices
    • Donor-friendly information architecture
    • Streamlined, easy-to-use e-commerce solution
    • A content management system allowing flexibility to complete updates in-house
    • Simple and effective site analytics tools to measure success
  • Digital marketing plan
    • SEO
    • SEM/Display advertising
      • Paid search to drive qualified traffic and conversion
      • Display to fuel search and site traffic while increasing awareness
  • Integrated campaigns
    • Direct mail
    • Email
    • Social media touts


Our digital strategy achieved dramatic revenue growth in every market that deployed our comprehensive digital solution. Four examples of success are as follows:

1.   Phoenix Rescue Mission, Phoenix, AZ

  • The number of daily website visitors doubled
  • Page views per visit increased 137%
  • Time spent onsite increased 74%
  • Site conversion rate increased 10% year-over-year
  • Online giving increased an average of 20% since launch
  • Donor email list grew 34% in 6 months
  • Email revenue during the holiday season was 4 times higher than previous years

2.   Union Gospel Mission, Dallas, TX

  • Site traffic has increased 50% since launch
  • Paid search is converting 1.5 times higher than organic, and driving more than double the revenue
  • Site conversion rate has increased by 50%
  • Year-over-year online giving is up by over 100%
  • Transactions are up 64%

3.   United Food Banks, Mesa, AZ

  • Year-over-year site visits were 7 times higher during peak giving month of December
  • Online revenue doubled
  • Transactions increased 59%
  • Average give value spiked to $141

4.   Union Mission Ministries, Norfolk, VA

  • Online giving increased 108% post-launch
  • Mission has seen more volunteer inquiries than ever
  • Email revenue has doubled post-launch

Examples of new banner creative


Examples of new website design:


To view a downloadable PDF of this case study, click here.

Digital Application Developer

The Digital Application Developer will manage all client digital work and will provide expertise and guidance in the selection of eCommerce and other “back end” digital solutions for digital fundraising efforts. The Digital Application Developer will:

  • Facilitate the delivery of the highest quality digital product on time & within budget.
  • Deliver all assets and resources to vendor throughout the project; maintain weekly status.
  • Be knowledgeable of clients’ requirements and policies in order to establish technical requirements.
  • Provide technical focus, thought leadership, and strategic roadmap to execute development of digital projects and related emerging digital technologies. Be knowledgeable of the Digital channels, and an expert in eCommerce.
  • Able to accurately estimate the costs and time needed to complete projects.

Desired Skills & Experience

  • 3-5 years of experience in web development
  • Four year degree, preferably in Engineering or Computer Science
  • Experience with ecommerce platforms,
  • Expertise and experience with tracking tools like Google Analytics
  • 2-4 years’ experience using Word Press, PHP, MySQL, Javascript and other web languages
  • Knowledgeable in .NET technology and MSSQL

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