The holidays are hectic. That’s no secret. Wish lists are long and to-do lists are even longer: gift shopping, travel, family gatherings, and that must-watch marathon of A Christmas Story on TV. But despite the chaos, the true spirit of the holidays revolves around giving back. It can be hard to remain focused on what’s important during the most wonderful time of the year. Thankfully, The Salvation Army takes up the call to remind us all what the holidays are truly about.

The Ask

DEG and The Salvation Army began collaborating on the non-profit’s email program in October 2017 and quickly got to work preparing for the holiday push. October through December is the most charitable time of the year. The Salvation Army Southern Territory needed to make the most of people’s generosity, but also desired to educate donors on important causes. Every community is affected by homelessness, hunger and many other needs in which the organization provides aid. The question became how can The Salvation Army remind and inform donors of the causes they care about during this particularly time of year where generosity and need are heightened.

The Answer

The Salvation Army and DEG developed a four-phase approach to the holiday season. The first two phases—“Pre-Holiday” (starting in late October) and “Pre-Thanksgiving”—focused on awareness and soft asks. The Salvation Army gathered relevant data during this time to address donor’s interests more effectively in the final two phases. “Shopping Season” and “Christmas to New Year’s Day” drove the majority of the donations. Nearly 50% of the donations arrived in the final two weeks of the year.

The Salvation Army and DEG found a way to remind and inform donors of the causes they care about during this particularly time of year where generosity and need are heightened.

The campaign’s creative was a distinct effort to stretch the boundaries of The Salvation Army’s brand in order to reach and engage a younger donor audience.

Facing scrolling wish lists, ads featuring new cars wrapped in giant bows, and pictures of gifts sprawling beneath Christmas trees, getting people to turn their attention to charitable needs was no small feat. To maximize attention, DEG and The Salvation Army crafted creative messaging and visuals that showed donors the difference they could make for the cost of popular Christmas items, including an email made to look and feel like the Christmas ads grabbing consumers’ eyes. Dubbed “This, Not That,” DEG challenged the audience to stop and think about the true value of their money. Donors could keep a child warm for the price of an ugly Christmas sweater or feed a hungry family for the price of a fancy fruitcake. Twenty bucks here or $50 there would make a huge impact on the life of someone in need.

The campaign concept was critical, and not only because it succeeded in getting through to donors. The creative was a distinct effort to stretch the boundaries of The Salvation Army’s brand in order to reach and engage a younger donor audience. DEG was trusted by The Salvation Army to venture into uncharted territory for the traditionally conservative brand. Where The Salvation Army would traditionally have a static hero image and light copy below, DEG employed animation, vertical imagery and more conversational language to deliver a more authentic spirit of both the organization and the causes it serves.

Behind the scenes, one of The Salvation Army Southern Territory’s challenges was a low email deliverability rate. DEG optimized this area of the campaign, reconfiguring the back-end of The Salvation Army’s email database to increase inbox placement rate, because donors can’t give to a cause if they don’t know about it.

The Results

The months-long holiday campaign was a resounding success. Its attention-grabbing creative and optimized delivery enabled the non-profit to eclipse its goal a month early, generating 32% more donations than expected. Or, in more important terms, DEG and The Salvation Army were able to deliver hundreds of thousands of dollars that provided coats for the cold, food for the hungry and beds for homeless. Creatively challenging people’s understanding about the true meaning of Christmas rang the bell for The Salvation Army, making the 2017 holiday season one to remember.

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