Digital Welcome: More than a Thank You!

Digital Welcome: More than a Thank You!

Guest Bloggers | 6 March 2020

Giannina Walsh, Individual Giving Manager and Stephanie Fletcher, Performance Manager at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, look at how they have tested digital welcome journeys at the charity to improve attrition and cancellation rates.

Giannina and Stephanie will be running a case study session at the Digital Fundraising Conference. Book your ticket now.

As retention marketeers, we’re clearly biased when it comes to the need for supporter stewardship. However, there are many reasons why we need to invest in the time to say, ‘thank you!’ to our new regular givers.

It allows key admin to be completed, contact details to be checked and most importantly, it signifies the start of the relationship the supporter has with our charity.

In 2018-2019 reducing the cumulative attrition (i.e. cancellation) rate by just 0.8% resulted in a significant net increase which could fund vital work to transform the lives of seriously ill children including projects like; research into a pioneering new treatment or cure for a rare disease, building two new audio consultation rooms, buying 11 new anaesthetic machines or providing spiritual care for patient families and staff for a year.

The charity’s regular givers are currently worth a significant proportion of the charity’s (mostly unrestricted) income. They could also become a challenge fundraiser, have a corporate connection, or even consider leaving us a gift in their will. Having a retention strategy for regular givers is therefore crucial.

A digital test programme

Back in 2016, we launched our first digital welcome test programme to see which content and marketing channels resonated with new regular givers, develop our learnings of a new CRM and ultimately improve attrition.

Today, we now have multiple triggered journeys live on our CRM and have successfully improved attrition and digital engagement in the test plans.

However, this took bags of patience, collaboration and a lot of learning along the way.

So, what did we learn?

  • Sending welcome emails to supporters on the ‘same day’ as sign-up (instead of a week later) performed significantly better – with a whopping difference in open rates of 15%. The cancellation rate was also significantly improved in the group receiving a welcome email on the same day with a difference of 14%. With results like these, we were able to work with our marketing agencies to send out welcome emails on our behalf. Now, if a supporter signs-up online, via the door, private site, DRTV or over the phone they’ll get an immediate warm welcome from us.


  • Emails that focus on the case study fully, without other messaging around our supporter promise, performed better with digital engagement and attrition. This could show that for our supporters, the child really is first for them.


  • Sending an email with a video improves the click rate, and attrition. However, video performance was optimum when it was 60 seconds or less, more ‘upbeat’ (showing ‘impact’, rather than ‘need’) and included the parent’s voice.


  • We need more time to learn about the impact of serving video Facebook ads alongside welcome emails. We now have a suppression process in place, which means we’ll be able to see the impact of Facebook ads on new supporters going forwards.


  • A ‘test and learn’ approach really did work! Once we knew that sending an email on the same day with a case study made a difference, we ended the test and rolled this out fully. Between 2017 – 2018 email open rates improved a further 15% overall and click rates by 4%. With results like these, it provided buy-in from marketing agencies and other teams in the charity, and justified our content decisions.


  • Building CRM triggered communication journeys was more complicated than anyone ever thought. Designing personalised digital supporter journeys will always be our aim, but we still have some way to go on reducing process complexities.


  • We need to learn more about our audience post GDPR. Now that we have moved to an opt-in basis for digital communication, we are beginning to see key differences in our online and offline audiences across demographics, including attrition. Do we need to rethink our supporter journeys?


  • Impossible without collaboration. Simply put, this project would have been impossible without the collaboration and the specialist technical knowledge from data selections, insight, digital marketing and our marketing agencies.


Giannina and Stephanie will be speaking at the Digital Fundraising Conference this month. Read about their session. take a look at the full programme, and book your place here.

Giannina Walsh is Individual Giving Manager and Stephanie Fletcher is Performance Manager at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.