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Charting Pathways: Acquisition and Journeys for Sustainable Growth. 

The challenge

After cuts were made to direct marketing in 2020 to cover revenue losses in other areas of the organization, the Diabetes Canada donor base was in decline. Direct mail acquisition had a growing cost to acquire, and digital media was not bringing in enough new donors. The new donors that were being acquired were not retaining at sustainable levels. 

What we did


  • Deep dive into the direct mail acquisition program which resulted in a series of tests in 2021 including testing into new audiences and package optimization by audience
  • In 2022 rolled out distinct strategies for trade/rental lists and inactive audiences
  • Updated the welcome package and in 2023 added a 2-page Impact Report to tax receipt packages 
  • Moved new donors to high performing renewal packages quickly with new donor treatments
  • Cross-marketed offline acquired donors via email where email addresses were available
  • Continue to test and optimize with CPA being our top metric for success


  • In late 2020, brought in a new media buying partner focused on conversion, and recommended heavying up investments in search
  • In 2021 the digital strategy shifted from direct mail leading with integration to a digital-first strategy with both integrated and unique offers to digital audiences, leveraging content across channels
  • Alongside the shift in the digital media strategy came a shift to email marketing with distinct strategies and journeys for donors giving online/offline, online only, and non-financial supporters – this included increasing the number of emails, using similar content but personalized to the audience with unique offers 
  • In 2022, automated email data; data in the email system is now a mirror of the CRM with segments and tags to enable dynamic and real time targeting and unique journeys for key audiences
  • Identified a technical challenge on the donation form (historical issue) that was resulting in the majority of new online acquired donors being removed from communications 
  • Identified donors removed from communications and developed a re-onboarding series using Affinity Survey insights and optimized the e-series for new online donor onboarding in 2023
  • In 2022 and 2023 tested into email lead generation, developed lead journey with unique conversion offer – full roll out for always-on lead gen in plan for 2024
  • All digital strategies are supported by deep dives into audience and channel performance 

Our approach to donor journey development includes two phases: initial onboarding and the first-year ongoing journey. The objective is to secure a second gift and foster greater engagement. Diabetes Canada employs three distinct journeys for online donors: new email leads, new donors, and re-onboarding. Utilizing insights from the 2023 Affinity Survey, we crafted strategies and enhanced experiences for each journey. This survey helped pinpoint strategic themes guiding content and messaging. For Diabetes Canada, building trust and transparency, affirming the decision to donate, demonstrating impact on those with diabetes, and emphasizing the urgency of finding a cure were vital. All touchpoints are meticulously planned, focusing on donor needs or calls to action, reinforcing strategic themes, and providing relevant content.  

The Result

  • 46% growth in revenue post-pandemic after scaling back fundraising activity in 2020; 7% increase in revenue in 2023
  • 37% increase in revenue in email marketing in 2023
  • 28% increase in number of new donors acquired since 2020
  • Improvement across all retention metrics including second gift
  • Re-onboarding program has resulted in nearly $60K in additional revenue YTD
  • Generated 13,000 email leads in 2022 at $2 per lead; to-date over 3% of the leads have converted