Year-End Campaign in Review: What We Learned

Ending a campaign of this magnitude is like stepping off a roller coaster. I’m mildly disoriented, exhausted, but also ecstatic that we far exceeded the goals we set. In retrospect, we learned a lot. What we do next with what we learned will help us build a sustainable infrastructure that puts Mozilla on surer footing to protect the Web for generations.

In this post I am sharing what I think are the year-end fundraising campaign hits and misses — the “gems” we must mine to keep getting better at fundraising campaigns at Mozilla.

Big Wins

More than $3.19 million USD raised in six weeks.
More than 300,000 people responded to Mozilla’s call to protect and support the Web. They each donated around $9 to Mozilla. Last year, during the same time, we raised $1.2 million from just over 100,000 donors. We also broke our one-day giving record. On 12/30 we received $356,122 from over 30,000 donors. On the same day in 2013 we received $311,922 from over 20,000 donors.

Over 2,200 new monthly donors.monthly-giving
For the first time, the fundraising team redesigned the donation form to surface monthly giving. A check box was offered next to one-time gift (though one-time was selected by default – see the image). During the campaign 2,202 donors chose to give a total of about $12,000 monthly. That’s an annual expected income of more than $145,000. Monthly donors offer the security of sustainable income. This was a big win, and there is much to explore in growing a recurring donation program.

Conversion rates soared.
Going into this campaign we knew there was a big opportunity to increase conversion on the donation form. We calculate “conversion rate” by dividing the number of people who complete a donation by the number who viewed the form. The benchmark conversion rate from our 2013 form was about 5.5%. Most fundraisers would be thrilled with a 10% conversion rate on a donation form. By the end of the campaign we were seeing outstanding conversion rates upwards of 25%! The team accomplished this by testing, testing, and more testing — and also trimming page load times where we could. Relying on testing and data-driven decision-making made all the difference. Though the snippet impressions were just 63% of the total last year, the optimization strategy yielded more donations. The donor experience was at least 4x as successful. In graph form, that looks like this:

Fewer impressions, but more revenue.

Fewer impressions, but more revenue.

Giving outside the U.S. grew. By a lot.
Of the $3.19 million raised, 44% or $1.4 million came from outside the United States. More revenue came from outside the U.S. this year than came from the entire 2013 campaign! yen-donationDonors from 176 countries gave, and giving at least doubled in 96 countries. Despite the heavy optimization and testing focused on the U.S. audience, giving outside the U.S. improved more (140% growth in U.S. giving vs. 169% growth in giving from all other locales). By far the biggest growth in giving came from Spanish-speaking countries because we translated the donation form and snippet to Spanish for the first time this year. Giving in the following countries at least quadrupled in 2014 compared to 2013: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Columbia, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Spain, Mexico, Panama, and Chile.

Our campaign machine hummed.
Nearly 90 people from at least six different teams across Mozilla contributed to make this campaign work. Folks from brand, engagement, L10N, snippet, Webmaker, legal, creative, social, email communications and even executives pitched in. A core group met daily in December for an “EOY Stand-up Meeting” to review and triage tickets and tasks, review test results, and identify and remove blockers. Our single source of truth was a wiki page, and in total more than 266 tickets were created and closed during the campaign. A cross-team debrief in January helped clarify what we did really well, and what we need to improve in 2015.

Donor support got much, much better.
Donors were better taken care of during this campaign. The new donor FAQ was launched just before the campaign and was visited more than 34,000 times. An email address at the bottom of the donation form was monitored and answered by an actual person, who replied to more than 800 individual emailed questions (and at least one phone call). We expanded ways people could donate, too. The campaign team built donation forms for 16 additional currencies and we began accepting bitcoin in November.

Where We Can Do Better

Start earlier. Test earlier.
In the end, there were more great ideas than we had time to build or test. There were also a number of “edgier” concepts that required careful consideration and testing before we would consider rolling them out to a broad audience. Pivoting based on test results late in the campaign puts a lot of stress on the team and on our systems. We launched our first snippet tests in November 2014 — we should schedule some time to test earlier in the year, starting in Q1 if possible.

Reduce snippet annoyance.
How many times can you ask for a donation before the requests become annoying to the user? That line is different for everyone, and during a campaign, there’s a careful balance to strike. On the one hand, more than 300,000 Firefox users saw our fundraising snippet message and gave — because giving feels good and they appreciate Mozilla enough to dig out a credit card and complete a form. On the other hand, like every large organization that does fundraising, we get some blow-back. While it’s a given that fundraising can be uncomfortable or annoying for a relatively few people, there is definitely room to improve our users’ experience. For instance, we need to either 1) turn off the fundraising snippet promotion for users that donate or 2) give the user an “[X]” to close or turn off a snippet they find bothersome while still offering plenty of opportunities to give. Solution #1 has privacy implications but there’s a renewed interest on the product team to make this a priority.

Optimize channels other than snippet.
With a smallish core team and limited time, we had to make choices about where we would get the highest return on investment (ROI). Because 50% of giving comes from Americans, we focused much of our optimization on the U.S. English version of the snippet. That meant Firefox for Android, Promotion Tile, more country locales, and other channels got much less attention. The team knew these were missed opportunities and it was a bit painful to have to set them aside. The channels hold a lot of promise and, if resources allow, should get more focused attention in 2015.

Do a better job of thanking donors.
How we thank people who give is not exactly ‘bad’ at the moment but it could be much better, much warmer, and more “Mozilla”. We tweeted to a few donors who used our #lovetheweb hashtag. Every donor got a receipt by email after they donated. Those donors who opted in to receive email (about 30%) also got a warm email from Mark Surman. There are better ideas, like creating a thank you video from Mozilla volunteers and employees that would be shared with donors after they gave. A project like that takes time and talent, but whatever we create, it should be a special show of appreciation that captures just how we feel about our community of supporters.

There will be a few more posts detailing a few of these strategies. Overall, our fundraising trajectory is going in the right direction. If we double down on our hits and learn from our misses, we will get better at growing our global community of supporters and executing small-dollar fundraising campaigns.