The Union of Concerned Scientists had fundraising metrics that any nonprofit would envy, handily beating industry benchmarks each year. Most organizations would be resting on their laurels, but UCS was asking an ambitious question: How can we do better? Much better?

UCS had hired M+R for a few projects in the past:

  • Microsites like the wildly popular “Got Science” quiz, which recruited over 33,000 people at a cost of less than 17 cents per name
  • A monthly giving “upsell lightbox” that increased sustainer giving by 28% on their main donate page
  • An email welcome series, whose first two messages now convert more new recruits to sustainers than the old series converted to one-time donors

They loved our work. But when they put their fundraising out to bid in mid-2012, they were looking for a single proposal for direct mail and online. They wanted a one-stop shop.

In the end, they decided to sign with two vendors: their top pick for direct mail, and their top pick for online fundraising. They hoped the investment would be worth it.

In our first six months working together, M+R nearly doubled UCS’s response rates over the same period a year earlier.

Through a comprehensive assessment of their past fundraising results, we figured out what had worked and what had tanked in the past, and why. We helped crystallize a single core message: defending science. We overhauled the solicitation calendar. And we set out to write copy for UCS’s unique donor base: smarts without wonk.

Then, on top of that creative, we laid on deep data and innovative testing. From an analysis of how soon to send a sustainer ask to recent donors or activists (answer: very!), to a DM-style “membership summary” box in email that bumped up renewals by 57%, we began optimizing every aspect of the program.

Everything we do now is with an eye to the story we’re telling across channels. We meet with UCS’s mail vendor, OMP Direct, every week, we coordinate campaigns, and we’re consciously running online tests that can be rolled out in the mail.

Here are some highlights from the first six months of our three-year contract.

  • Doubling response rates. M+R nearly doubled UCS’s email fundraising response rates, from an average of .09% to .17%, over the same period the prior year.
  • Sustainers galore. In our first-ever campaign for UCS, we nearly quadrupled our projections, and we increased UCS’s online sustainer base by nearly 20% in a single two-message series.
  • Overall revenue through the roof. One-time revenue across email and web shot up by 27%, sustainer revenue by 88%.

We took a mature, sophisticated, high-performing program, and we maximized online income in a way that other firms simply couldn’t.