The Newseum is an organization dedicated to the mission of increasing public understanding of the importance of a free press and the First Amendment. In partnership with the Freedom Forum Institute, the Newseum tells the story of the news, raises awareness of First Amendment issues, and shows people how the five freedoms of the First Amendment—religion, speech, press, assembly and petition—apply to their lives.
Founded in 1997, the organization is currently navigating a time of transition. Facing the closure of its Washington, D.C. exhibit building at the end of 2019, the Newseum and its development team have been working with Schultz & Williams (S&W) to adapt its membership program for a new era. In doing so, they are building upon successes that S&W has helped achieve in recent years, both in growing the Newseum’s prospect list and level of mission-based membership support.
Using targeted social media advertising and an engagement offer that mattered to prospects, Newseum was able to gather a community of First Amendment Defenders who cared more about Newseum’s mission than visitation benefits.
Social Posts to Postal Codes
Facebook is a great way to reach a lot of prospects at once—but when it comes to fundraising, mail is king. That’s why we used a physical and a digital premium in this engagement offer to fold Newseum’s prospects into the mailstream, making the very best use of every channel in this multichannel campaign.
S&W was charged with helping the Newseum broaden its membership appeal—and its base of support—beyond the D.C.-metro region. This meant teaming up with an organization founded and planned to be visitation-based to prove that its work and impact could resonate with non-visitors, building a case for membership support all across the country. Ultimately, the aim was to shape a blueprint for continued support that will help sustain the Newseum well into the future.
Thanks to the unique possibilities of digital communications, this challenge came with an opportunity. S&W and the Newseum could launch a pilot that would inexpensively test multiple approaches, assess the effectiveness of each, then use the resulting feedback to guide future efforts—or even change direction mid-course.
The outreach program tested multiple pathways for capturing prospect information and prompting donations. The campaign included incentives at varied points along the journey. These incentives included items such as a free decal and a downloadable Defenders of the First Amendment toolkit.
This strategy worked to develop and implement a digital list-building campaign that showcased the organization as the nation’s leader in promoting, explaining and defending free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment.
Following initial contact, prospects received additional follow-up content through a three-part email engagement series, versioned appropriately for those from each test group, as well as an additional solicitation. By capturing both email and mailing addresses, the campaign set the stage for integrating these prospects into multiple direct response efforts, maximizing opportunities for future engagement and conversion.
The pilot effort reached 154,999 people for 284,772 impressions, yielding an average view of 1.84 times per potential prospect. The campaign was successful at bringing in 2,335 new prospects and members from every state in the country! An encouraging proof of concept, the test confirmed that targeted social media advertising and an engagement offer that matters to prospects can have a real impact in building a prospect pool primed for ongoing engagement. In the case of the Newseum, this is a community of First Amendment Defenders who care more about Newseum’s mission than visitation benefits.
One strength of the approach S&W designed is that it combines the power of social media, at a lower cost per point, with more conventional tools. Facebook is a great way to reach many prospects at once—but when it comes to fundraising, mail remains king. This is the reason the Newseum program featured both a physical and a digital premium in its engagement offer. This allowed the Newseum to fold prospects into the mailstream, making the very best use of every channel in a multichannel campaign.
The experience of the Newseum suggests that organizations that appeal to a national audience should think seriously about potential supporters found beyond its home region—or, put another way, that it consider expanding its home region exponentially with the reach of social media and the appeal of a compellingly presented mission.
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