With more than 638,000 Australian children living in jobless families, the need for increased support has never been greater. Providing support since 1922, The Smith Family today focuses on helping disadvantaged Australian children to get the most out of their education, so they can create better futures for themselves.

Challenge

With such a worthy cause to fight for, Rosie Simpson, Head of Fundraising at The Smith Family, decided to set some aggressive targets for the team. “In 2013 we decided to significantly increase the number of disadvantaged children that we reach and improve the effectiveness of the work we do, so my team needed a strategy to increase our funding to help achieve that goal”, Simpson explains.

“We categorize donors into three types: individuals (or what we call ‘mums and dads’), corporate and major donors. We had a few channels that we wanted to target, but soon realized that digital spanned all of them– so from that point on, it was clear that our website was a priority. People are far more open to using digital channels for fundraising nowadays, and we really needed to tap into these digitally active donors”.

Every dollar counts

It’s unsurprising that, as a charitable organization, the team needed to be able to prove that every dollar spent on the website build would provide a clear return. “Our Digital Innovation Project was essentially a five-year business case, with the top priority being ROI. Some might think of this as a restriction, but it was a very positive consideration for us, as it meant that we always prioritized work that would bring the biggest wins first—for us, that was the improvement of our donation forms”, reveals Simpson.

Results

With such a tight rein on spending, The Smith Family’s team has been delighted with the post-launch results so far. “We’ve exceeded the benchmarks we set out to achieve”, announces Simpson. “In fact, our last Winter Appeal (running annually in May and June) was our most successful ever and turned our website into a million-dollar fundraising channel”.

“We realized we’d hit the nail on the head, in terms of how people wanted to donate, when we saw a regular trend of online donations above the $10,000 mark”, continues Simpson. “We’ve built trust through the channel, and now we’re seeing the results of that trust. For example, we’ve seen an overall donation conversion increase of 33% and an average donation value increase of 8%, and our online forms now account for more than 25% of our annual fundraising total – figures that would have been deemed impossible on our old website”, enthuses Simpson.

The next step

With compelling anecdotal proof of the importance of content, The Smith Family has very clear ideas about their next phases for development. “Personalization will be a big focus for us”, explains Simpson. “We’ve realized that being able to present donors with information about causes that they’re most likely to be interested in, based on previous behavior, can play a key role in their decision-making process”.

“We also want to see how Sitecore can improve the user experience; for example, we’d like to create a donor portal where sponsors can feel more connected to the students they’re supporting, by being able to see letters from them, get reminders to send a birthday card or receive updates on their sponsored student’s progress”, explains Simpson. “This would provide a self-service destination, similar to online banking, which will incentivize users to visit the site more regularly. The portal would also enable us to evidence exactly how their dollars have made an impact on a student’s life; which is hugely rewarding for donors and will play a key part in motivating them to donate regularly”.

Charity with a competitive edge

With donations on the rise, Simpson remains convinced that Sitecore was the right platform for the project. “We did get a lot of push-back on Sitecore, initially”, recalls Simpson, “because people couldn’t understand why a small organization like ours would need such a sophisticated solution. What they didn’t understand is that, in charity, it’s even more important to engage with people than in the private sector”.

Simpson continues, “Unlike a business transaction, where the customer gets something tangible in return, we’re asking donors to trust us to put their hard-earned cash to the best possible use. The ‘return’ for them is purely philanthropic – so we need to show how the dollars they’ve given us have made a direct difference to a real person, in our case a disadvantaged Australian student. Content and communication are key to relaying that message – which is why a leading-edge solution, like Sitecore, is so important”.