Blackbaud Digital Services helps British Red Cross create successful virtual event Miles for Refugees
The British Red Cross helps millions of people in the UK and around the world get the support they need if crisis strikes. Maddy Janes, Mass Participation Manager and Product Manager for the Miles for Refugees virtual event explains how it grew over three years, from 177 registrations and £28,000 total profit in Year 1, to over 2,200 registrations and a total profit of £285,000 by harnessing the power of digital through a microsite and behavioural communications.
Q: Why did you choose to partner with Blackbaud?
A: We partnered with Blackbaud because we felt confident that by working with them we could create a successful virtual event that really represented us. This was our first virtual event, at a time when many of the flagship charities were already doing them, so a lot of research was undertaken to analyse how other charities had created success with theirs. Our biggest concern was around recruiting participants, but we had confidence that Blackbaud’s expertise in supporting virtual events would create a high level of engagement. We decided that partnering with Blackbaud and their in-house digital team was the best way to create the digital supporter experience that we needed to ensure success.
Q: How did the Blackbaud Digital Services team help you succeed?
A: We couldn’t have done it without the Blackbaud Digital Team. What’s amazing about working with them is that we came up with the original idea and fundraising concept, and they just ran with it—which helped us bring it all to life. We weren’t worried about the operations of how it would work; we were reassured that Blackbaud had worked on projects like this so many times before with a variety of different charities. It was great going into the partnership with a high level of confidence, knowing you have this amazing platform that any charity can easily plug into and the expertise to help achieve the participant engagement needed.
The ease of reporting the progress of Miles for Refugees using live data throughout the campaign was another huge reason for its success. A significant amount of resource was put behind the campaign, so being able to report in real-time and be reactive as the campaign progressed and being able to make strategic decisions that kept the event engaging for our supporters were both important. Seeing in real-time that it was going to raise significant funds for the charity was also hugely important in driving internal engagement.
Q: What has the additional funding from Miles for Refugees enabled you to do?
A: The money raised through Miles for Refugees makes a genuine, tangible impact. Last year it helped fund a specific project—Surviving to Thriving. This existing project had research that demonstrated its effectiveness in supporting a significant number of young refugees within the UK but was coming to an end, due to a lack of funding. The funds raised from the virtual event, with the support of the Blackbaud Digital Services team, allowed this programme to continue supporting the lives of young refugees. As a direct result of the funds, we were able to offer support to asylum seekers and refugees without parents in the UK through advice and leadership opportunities. One of the beneficiaries of the project stated, “Without your continued support, I don’t know what my life would be like. I can start thinking about the future, rather than just having to think about the now.”
Q: While working with the Blackbaud Digital Services team, what have you been most impressed with?
A: We were incredibly impressed with the ideas and fundraising guidance that were presented to us, and that they genuinely worked! We loved that Blackbaud proactively came to us with ideas that made a real difference to the campaign, improving the experience for users and making it more fun and more engaging! Ultimately, we have built up a strong partnership. We have always felt really comfortable with how the Blackbaud team works, knowing that if a suggestion is made it’s genuinely for the benefit of the project. Every development decision on Miles for Refugees has been driven by data, so it was really reassuring that the Blackbaud Digital Services team also works in this way.
Q: How did your supporter stewardship develop throughout the campaign?
A: Having run the event successfully for two years, we implemented Blackbaud’s Behavioural Communications in 2019 to take the event to the next level with automated email communications for supporters. The Blackbaud team really supported us in defining the user segmentations for the emails, creating a strategic plan for the supporter journey, and building automated ‘reactive’ emails. Decisions around why specific days were chosen as the send days were all backed up by data. Building this kind of supporter stewardship journey and gaining this level of insight is something we don’t have the resource do to and wouldn’t have had without a partnership with Blackbaud.
Q: What’s in store for the future?
A: Within British Red Cross there is a drive towards inclusion and mass participation. As well as exploring the possibility of new Virtual Events, we want to see how far we can take Miles for Refugees. We have a few ideas, and we’re are excited to see how the event can grow even more!
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