A couple of months ago a friend, John Holland emailed me about the Focus Ireland “Shine a Light” campaign. Sleep out for Focus Ireland, raise some money.  In a fit of enthusiasm I signed up.

Only later did I realise that the target for the campaign €5,000. My initial reaction was a stronger version “oh bugger”.

Eventual total was €6,076 (€25 offline).  Here’s a summary of how I raised the money and a few interesting things I learned along the way.

Step 1: Astroturf your own charity page.  Arriving at a page that is blank is interesting. What do I donate? What will other people donate. Working on some idea on signalling theory so the first few donations on the page were from me.

Step 2: email a bunch of friends. So the next step was a general email to a few dozen people which brought in another few hundred euro.  Also a very kind friend did a little astroturfing of her own and put in a few smaller amounts suggesting some of the people coming to the page might be scared off by the €50 donations.

Step 3: Small bit of blind panic wondering how we’re going to get to €1,000 much less €5,000

Step 4: Go for broke. So with a few thousand twitter followers and 1,500 people I actually know on LinkedIn I decided to do a little bit of email and social media marketing.

Step 5: Create a link to the page in Bit.ly to see how many people will click through to the page

Step 6: Download the email address of 1,500 people on LinkedIn and email them asking for sponsorship. I started by emailing the first 30 people individually. I then switched to BCC’ing groups of people. At this point after about emailing 1,000 people via BCC on my GMail account in groups of 200 I broke Gmail and it wouldn’t let me send any more emails.  I switched to another Gmail account for the last 500 or so.

Quite a few people emailed back and those donating drove the sponsorship over €2,000.

Step 7. Starting to think with my analytical hat on I decided to pull the email addresses into MailChimp. First step was to remove anyone who’d bounced, or sponsored or for some particular reason didn’t make sense. This took the totals down.  I pulled in the data and split into two groups – split on the surname rather than anything else and send in two different lots. One in the middle of the night, one the following morning. (To make sure that nothing blew up with the first campaign).

The analytics on this are quite interesting. Relatively high open rates and quite a different click through rate on the two groups.

This drove the sponsorship over the €3,500 figure which was great.

I was also tweeting and Facebooking the link  and some money came in this way.

Step 8 was to redo the Mailchimp campaign a few days before the sleepout. Segmenting into 4 groups of quality. People who’d opened > 2 times, people who’d opened 1-2 times, people who’d opened once and people who hadn’t opened at all.

At this point I discovered that Mailchimp had flagged me and was reviewing my account. With only a few days to go I decided to go back to the Gmail approach.

This time I asked for a very specific €5-10 figure. To try and not intimidate anyone. I removed anyone I knew who’d sponsored me or who’d replied privately and reran the campaign.

In my third mass emailing I watched the figure go over €4,000. Then with a €900 anonymous donation hit €5,000.

And it kept on going.

Here’s a summary of what I learned

People are generous. The amounts varied from €5 to €900 and each donation was great. I’d love to know who donated the €900.

The Sponsorship page for Focus Ireland is dreadful and needs to be improved. About 450 people arrived at the page and about 200 people sponsored. Somewhere along the line thats a few thousand euro in sponsorship that was lost.  At an average of €34 per person donating thats qu

Very few people who landed on the link after I hit the target sponsored me. I’m not sure if this was a case of target unlocked and people felt they were off the hook or for some other reason. I’d love to understand more.

Most important of all.  There are over 5,000 people homeless in Ireland. Over 45 families were made homeless in Ireland last year and Focus needs all the support you can give. You can donate here 

as a p.s. hear are some of the raw analytics from Mailchimp

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