Case Studies

  1. Horizons Week: A Multi-Channel Partnership between Horizons for Homeless Children and Comcast SportsNet and New England Cable News
  2. Haiti: Multichannel online messaging leads to fundraising success at Oxfam
  3. End-of-Year Online Fundraising: Exceeding goals at Oxfam

Horizons Week: A Multi-Channel Partnership between Horizons for Homeless Children and Comcast SportsNet and New England Cable News


Horizons for Homeless Children is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of young homeless children and their families by ensuring that they are prepared for school success. For more than 20 years, Horizons has provided high-quality early education, opportunities for play, and family support services in Massachusetts. While the Horizons’ Playspace program is known throughout the state, Horizons for Homeless Children has little brand recognition. A majority of private donations, 85 percent , come from a small group of major donors. Horizons’ desired to expand its donor base and identify new major gift prospects.

Horizons has long benefitted from an involved Board, The Board recruitment strategy has focused on recruiting individuals with substantial influence in the Boston business community. Bill Bridgen, the General Manager of Comcast SportsNet and New England Cable News is a current Board member.

Comcast SportsNet New England (CSN) reaches more than 4 million households in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Comcast SportsNet’s programming includes the Boston Celtics., the online home of Comcast SportsNet, provides continuous news, video and in-depth, up-to-the-minute coverage of New England sports.

New England Cable News (NECN) is the largest regional news network in the country, serving more than 3.7 million homes in more than 1,000 cities and towns throughout all six New England states.

CSN, NECN, and Horizons for Homeless Children partnered to launch the first inaugural “Horizons for Homeless Children Week” – a weeklong awareness and fundraising effort running from March 4-10, 2013. The week focused on recruiting monthly donors and increasing brand awareness.

During this week, Horizons for Homeless Children, CSN, and NECN delivered more than 16.5 million impressions via broadcast, offline, or online channels. Horizons raised $95,000 annually and recruited 348 donors (246 one-time donors and 102 monthly sustainers). Horizons experienced a 246% increase in the number of new monthly sustainers, a 25% increase in web traffic, a 22% increase in Twitter followers and a 29% increase in Facebook followers.

The Challenge

How to raise brand awareness and recruit new donors for a medium-sized, state-based nonprofit?

The Solution

Horizons Week included several on and off-air elements with the goal of raising money and awareness for Horizons for Homeless Children.

  1. Focus on board recruitment and corporate cultivation
    Horizons for Homeless Children has focused on strategic board recruitment, ensuring that board members represent significant industries in the Boston community. Key industry segments represented on the Horizons’ Board include: broadcast, banking, venture capital, law, real estate, and others.Additionally, Horizons, through its volunteer programs, is able to provide corporate volunteer and engagement opportunities, further promoting partner engagement. Prior to Horizons Week, staff at CSN, and NECN had participated in the Angel tree project, a holiday toy drive, and painted Horizons’ early education in Roxbury so were familiar and committed to the Horizons mission.
  2. Make a monthly ask
    Horizons recognized the value of monthly sustainers. Prior to Horizons Week, its monthly donor program was nascent. Given the unique nature of this event, it was decided to ask donors to commit “as little of $15 per month.” Upon reaching the donate page or call center, the donor could choose to opt for a one-time donation. Horizons recruited 102 new monthly donors, 246% increase.
  3. Deliver the message in multiple ways, multiple times, over multiple channels
    Horizons Week featured the following elements:

    • Broadcast PSAs featuring CSN and NECN talent, the Boston Celtics, and Olympians Kayla Harrison and Aly Raisman
    • On-air graphics with a $15 per month ask and calls to give online or via phone
    • News and sports feature feature stories on CSN and NECN
    • Online banners on,,, and
    • Three fundraising appeals to existing one-time donors (with annual gifts less than $100) and non-donor constituents
    • Online content (PSAs or stories) on and
    • An auction at NECN’s Platinum Plate Gala to benefit Horizons for Homeless Children
    • A 50/50 Raffle at a Boston Celtics game
    • Staff presentations at Comcast SportsNet, and NECN

    On-Air Graphics and PSAs

    Horizons for Homeless Children Week

    Ally Raisman

    On-air graphics promoting Horizons for Homeless Children were visible 24 hours per day for the full seven days of broadcast on both CSN and NECN. On-air graphics generated 6.9 million impressions. PSAs generated 7.9 million impressions.

    Broadcast and Online Content

    A key component to Horizons Week was storytelling. CSN and NECN produced seven stories about Horizons. These stories created the emotional connection to Horizons’ work. Stories focused on children and mothers who received Horizons’ services. A new story premiered each day of Horizons Week. All stories were available on and after initial broadcast.

    Online Banners

    Online banners and content promoting Horizons for Homeless Children were available for the full seven days. 882K online impressions were served.

  4. Involve other corporate partners
    Both Horizons and CSN reached out to their existing corporate partners to support Horizon’s Week. Corporate partners were offered matching partner days during the week. For $5,000, they would be credited via on-screen graphics as being a matching partner for that day. This $5,000 was a direct contribution to Horizons for Homeless Children and was committed regardless of whether that amount was raised during the day. Walmart, Sovereign Bank, Comcast, and the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation were corporate partners.
  5. Include event-based fundraising
    One month prior to Horizons Week, NECN hosted their annual Platinum Plate Gala. Historically, Horizons had been the recipient of the auctions proceeds from this event. During this year’s Platinum Plate Gala, Horizons received $28,000 in auction proceeds.
  6. Make sure the donors have multiple ways to give
    Horizons invested in providing donors with multiple ways to donate. A unique landing page with vanity URL was established. An inbound call center was open to receive phone donations from 6am-12pm every day during Horizons Week. People who wished to give by mail were forwarded to donor services and provided supplemental information.

Multichannel Online Messaging Leads to Fundraising Success at Oxfam


Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization, is the leader in emergency water and sanitation disaster response and long-term disaster recovery. When a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti in early January 2010, initial media reports stated that hundreds of thousands were displaced and injured. It was clear that Oxfam’s response was going to be large and long-term.

Historically, Oxfam had attracted many new and repeat donors after catastrophic disasters, such as the 2005 Asian tsunami and Pakistan earthquake. However, with the increase in natural disasters and the inconsistent media coverage of these disasters, Oxfam’s ability to attract both new and repeat donors for humanitarian response had been hampered. By implementing an integrated online marketing campaign within the first 24 hours of the Haiti earthquake and sustaining these efforts, Oxfam was able to successfully raise more than $6.6M online.

The Challenge

Donor engagement in the aftermath of natural disasters is highly emotional, immediate, and inspired by the profiling of the disaster and its aftermath in the media. Generally, 50-70% of all disaster-related giving occurs within 48 hours of the disaster itself. Oxfam had to quickly provide actionable messaging across all online marketing channels to optimize donations and ensure adequate funding for its response to this catastrophic disaster.

The Solution

1. Communicate with your online and social network communities within hours of a major disaster

Oxfam sent its first email appeal to its online community by 9:30pm EST, less than 5 hours after the earthquake. Oxfam distilled existing news reports on the human impact of the earthquake and made a clear request for support. This appeal was rebroadcast on Oxfam’s FaceBook page and Twitter stream.

2. Send continuous email communication to your online and social network communities for the duration of the disaster

Oxfam sent seven email appeals in the ten days after the Haiti earthquake. Each appeal provided a situation update about Oxfam’s response in Haiti, suggestions for ways to help (such as personal fundraising), and a clear request for additional support. All appeals were rebroadcast over FaceBook and Twitter.

3. Optimize your website for donor conversion within first 24 hours

Oxfam implemented a pop-up light box that contained a simple donation form. Additionally, on its homepage, Oxfam prominently displayed its Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator ratings and featured several stories from Haiti offering unique “on-the-ground” perspectives. All stories contained a donate button that linked to the Haiti donation form.

4. Listen to the media and be responsive with your messaging

Immediately after the earthquake, Oxfam’s message focused on our expertise in disaster-response and its existing presence in Haiti. However, as the Haiti media reports began to focus on how aid was not reaching the victims. Oxfam quickly adjusted its messaging to talk about how its response was reaching specific communities.

5. Implement an ad words campaign in the first 24 hours

Oxfam utilized its existing Google grants account and invested in key search terms on both Google and Yahoo resulting in a 400% return on investment.

6. Implement paid and pro bono online advertising campaign within first 24 hours

For paid advertising, Oxfam had a list of reliable vendors whose lists already showed high conversion on Oxfam-related issues. Oxfam repurposed existing Haiti appeals for these buys. List buys resulted in a 1500% return on investment. For pro-bono advertising, Oxfam maintained a list of advertisers who had supported Oxfam in past emergencies. Pre-existing banner creative was provided to these advertisers.

7. Leverage your partnerships, alliances, and professional networks

Oxfam reached out to non-humanitarian NGOs, such as MoveOn and the Alliance for Climate Protection, to for-profit groups, such as Buzz Agent, to send out fundraising appeals on Oxfam’s behalf.  These partnerships resulted in over $600K in donations.

8.  Focus on being part of the media story and optimize earned media

Oxfam focused on getting “on-the-ground” reports out to the media within the first 24 hours. Additionally, Oxfam confirmed that they were listed as a recommended humanitarian charity on all major media websites.

9. Utilize FaceBook Causes

While Oxfam had previously utilized FaceBook Causes with low-levels of financial success, the Oxfam Haiti cause generated more than $125K in donations. Oxfam reached out to FaceBook Causes immediately after the earthquake to establish the Oxfam Haiti Cause, the first Haiti FaceBook Cause. Oxfam also worked with the FaceBook Causes staff to ensure prominent placement of Oxfam’s Haiti Cause.

10. Make sure mobile is part of your giving program

There is no doubt that the big story coming out of Haiti was the success of mobile giving. Oxfam quickly implemented its text to give program during the first several days after the Haiti earthquake and co-promoted the text code in all communications.

End-of-Year Online Fundraising: Exceeding goals at Oxfam


Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization, is highly reliant on the generosity of its loyal individual donors—raising 75% of its unrestricted operating revenue from these donors in the last two months of the calendar year. So, when the recession hit in Fall 2008, it posed a serious threat to Oxfam’s fiscal stability. Early online appeals that utilized traditional messaging failed. By implementing a series of new messages and approaches, Oxfam was able to increase end-of-year giving by almost $200,000 over 2007 and bring in over 3,500 more donations, surpassing end of year online goals.

The Challenge

How can an organization raise unrestricted dollars in a down economy?

The Solution

1. Focus on a single, urgent message

Oxfam chose to focus on just one message – the fact that 100 million more people went hungry in 2008 and give that problem a name: the Global Hunger Epidemic. This message was both true to the brand and conveyed the urgency for the donation.

2. Set a fundraising goal and promote it

Oxfam set a public goal of raising $2 million online by December 31st (a natural tax-year deadline) and promoted the goal in all email and web copy, as well as in a thermometer graphic.

For the first time ever, a ‘lightbox’ popped up above the homepage with an end-of-year giving promotion featuring the thermometer and radio giving buttons.  Additionally, multiple rotating features promoted the end of year giving message. The result: passive giving to end- of-year campaign pages topped $450,000, plus $1.4 million in passive giving to the main donate page during this period.

3. Use video to create emotion

Oxfam conceived and scripted a short, online video. Oxfam staff produced it in-house with basic editing software, and included it on every appeal and donation page. The video used moving text, simple animation and compelling music to make the case for giving.

4. Optimize landing and donation pages

Oxfam created simplified APIs to streamline the giving process.

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