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Life by chocolate: An in-depth look at BHF’s DECHOX campaign

British Heart Foundation’s DECHOX campaign is all about a fun chocolate fast. But the sophisticated, personalised email campaign behind it yielded some sweet results in 2016, as Elly Crump shares.

Donors sign up to the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) many different activities and challenges every day, each with their own goals, interests and motivations for why they are raising money for us. Engaging with this diverse mix of fundraisers isn’t always easy, and a one-size-fits-all approach is simply not enough when encouraging them to see their challenges through. At the BHF, we not only aim to raise funds and develop a long-term relationship with each fundraiser, but want to make our challenges enjoyable, eye-opening and rewarding for them.

Charities have a range of tools at their disposal to help boost fundraising, but we find email makes a real difference when directly engaging with our fundraisers. After seeing results with dotmailer in our 2015 DECHOX campaign, we decided to make even better use of email campaigns to raise money by connecting with people in memorable ways. For our 2016 DECHOX challenge, we tailored conversations with fundraisers through useful advice, encouragement, and fun ideas which really brought the campaign to life.

DECHOX is an annual challenge aimed at encouraging women, aged 25 to 45, to give up chocolate for the entire month of March to raise money for life-saving heart research. The campaign has also been an engaging way to introduce the charity and its research to the public, creating a community of ‘DECHOXers’ to spread the word.

Getting creative

For this light-hearted campaign, we wanted to show our DECHOX-ers we were with them every step of the way. We sent tailored emails to each person based on how their fundraising was going, using insights from individual fundraising pages to connect with them in creative and personal ways.

Overall, we sent a series of 11 personalised messages to each fundraiser over two months, following their journey from the initial sign-up process, during the challenge and post-challenge. Each of these emails could have up to 12 variations of content based on fundraising, which was segmented by remitters (those actively raising money) and non-remitters (inactive) but then also broken down by fundraising bracket achieved so far.

At the initial stages of the campaign, we could quickly send welcome emails and share fundraising tips to help fundraisers kick start their challenge. During the next stage, we sent out relevant content such as choc-free Easter recipes and free downloads. We also incorporated highly-personalised visual content including fundraising countdown clocks, live totals and individual targets, which we found to be a great way to keep up momentum. Content of emails was reviewed throughout the campaign, depending on what had already proved popular, which was measured by click-throughs.

We mainly measured participant success by fundraising target, using this to tailor emails, but engagement information (such as open rates and click-throughs) was also key to encouraging success. For those not reaching targets or showing any signs of engagement, we could follow their journey by sending integrated SMS messages of encouragement as well as sending tips to kick off their fundraising.

Finally, prizes were given dependent on how much a participant had fundraised and post-event surveys were sent to fundraisers. Keeping in touch with our fundraisers during the entire process allowed us to keep track of their challenges and support when we suspected they were about to pick up the choc.

Personal touch

Personalisation was a key focus in the 2016 campaign, and it was clear this worked when we look at our results compared to the previous year. Thanks to these personal touches, the amount of emails opened (click rate and click-to-open rate) more than doubled from 2015 to 2016. We also found that remittance rates (the number of participants that pay in their fundraising total after signing up) reached 44.7 per cent in 2016, a 10 per cent increase from the 2015 initiative. Overall, remittance rates tend to increase if you constantly engage with fundraisers, so content like recipes, countdown tools and free downloads helped us achieve these results.

The number of fundraisers signed up stands at 19,829 for 2016, in comparison to 18,698 in 2015. We believe that our army of DECHOXers can grow even bigger this year as we continue to engage with our fundraisers in dynamic ways. It’s also promising that for the 2016 campaign we experienced a 10 per cent increase in the average gift amount in just one year – rising from £91 in 2015 to £100 in 2016.

On a broader level, the overall DECHOX income (plus gift aid) totalled £860,000 in 2016, up from £760,00 in 2015, proving the value of new ideas and engagement in 2016.

The year ahead

The campaign’s success in 2016 proves that personalisation works. Getting in touch with fundraisers in this way is just one approach of many, but it’s been powerful in showing our care and thanks to each fundraiser while they challenge themselves for our cause. In particular, emails showing current targets and counting down to fundraising deadlines have been incredibly useful in tailoring conversations with fundraisers, so we’re exploring how else we can use this feature for the next campaign. We’re looking at other challenges running throughout the year where personalisation will also work well and will engage with fundraisers in the same way.

Overall, personalising our approach to fundraising has been crucial to the DECHOX campaign’s success. Every participant is fundraising for their own reasons, so our goal is to help them enjoy the challenges to keep them committed. Motivated fundraisers are the ambassadors for the organisation so we aim to offer a fun, informative and worthwhile experience for them.

Elly Crump is email marketing manager at the British Heart Foundation