Lessons from Stonewall: How to unlock individual giving with a digital mobilisation pilot

When it comes to digital mobilisation, the potential is huge. You can find thousands of brand new supporters who are ready to take action and donate.

But knowing where to get started – that’s the real challenge.

At Forward Action, we think pilot projects are the perfect place to begin. So that’s what we unpacked in our February webinar(watch the recording), where Forward Action’s Digital Strategy Manager, Beth Miles, and Stonewall’s Head of Individual Giving and Innovation, Jake O’Dwyer, sat down to discuss tactics that will set your digital mobilisation pilot up for success.

Here are their five key tips:

1. Test your framings

A pilot is all about learning, so test, test, test your messaging.

Run different core messages alongside each other to establish which issues galvanise your community and motivates them to take action.

2. Work with Facebook (not against it)

When it comes to Facebook – keep it simple. For Stonewall, broad was always better. Rather than narrowing down audiences, Stonewall’s ads went out to all genders over the age of 18 in the UK.

Keeping your audience volume as big as possible can feel daunting, but Facebook’s algorithm will find your people. For Stonewall, it gave the public the biggest opportunity to engage with their work, and proved most effective at bringing in leads.

3. Make every touchpoint count

Once you’ve got your supporters’ attention – make it count. Don’t put all the effort into getting people brought into your cause without compelling next steps there and then.

Stonewall served their supporters a varied series of actions in a daisy chain after the main sign up page. They kept these updated with current campaigns in order to keep the asks fresh.

4. Plan for success beyond sign ups

Sign ups are not the end point. Once your supporters are signed up, you need to keep them engaged. Stonewall served their supporters a 5 email welcomes series, split up depending on whether emails had been opened and actions taken.

The welcome journey not only asked for donations, but followed up with share asks and campaigning actions to give this new audience multiple ways to make a difference and cement their place in the movement.

This then evolved into regular emails and bigger appeals to put the power of this new audience into action, with the aim of taking supporters on a journey they’ll want to stick around for!

5.Think MVP

The priority in any pilot is to learn, iterate and establish benchmarks as quickly as possible. So don’t feel you have to strive for perfection.

Focus on getting something live and keeping the tech simple. That means a straightforward way for people to sign up and opt in, and tech set up ready to email them. Stonewall used a combination of Blueprint (Forward Action’s own platform for building high-performing web pages – get in touch to find more), Typeform and Mailchimp, but Meta lead-gen forms are an easy alternative if you don’t have a sign-up page.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our webinar run down. Want to join our next webinar? Get our emails.

Of course, every pilot is unique, and we had lots of questions in our webinar to dig into the specifics. Here are the answers we shared:

Q: How do you handle targeting for Facebook Ads

Let the algorithm do its thing!

We always recommend broad audience targeting. If you’re aiming to build a list of supporters or mobilise people into action, engaging people based on shared values is key.

Q. What do you do when Facebook’s algorithm only attracts and engages people who oppose the charity? Did you find that using a broad audience led to more or less negative comments than you usually encounter?

There is always a possibility of dissenting opinions online, especially if you’re running bold values based campaigns.

However, while it’s a possibility, this is rarely a significant problem. Optimising all paid social for sign ups, rather than engagement, so the algorithm finds people who support your values rather than oppose them, will help you avoid an onslaught of negative comments.

Ultimately though, the value of putting your content out to a wide range of people outweighs the risk of negative feedback. Remember, a pilot is about testing and learning, and getting your message out to a range of people will allow you to gather those learnings quickly.

Q. What ad spend allowed Stonewall to reach 700,000 people?

We spent roughly £18,000 over three months which led us to recruiting over 30,000 new supporters. We typically recommend spending around £4,000 per month on acquisition advertising. However if your priority is to figure out what works, this can be cut in half for the testing period.

Q. Were you also testing Instagram Story ads?

In this pilot we didn’t test Instagram Story ads. We’ve historically done lots of testing on different formats across Meta, and Facebook newsfeed has outperformed the rest time and time again. Anecdotally, Instagram can be between 2-5 times more expensive than Facebook. Creating good Instagram story content can be time consuming and costly, and our best practice is to use static images on Facebook newsfeed placements only.

However, if you have content that you think would work and are keen to get learnings on Instagram, testing with small budgets would be the way to go.

Recently, we’ve started re-testing Twitter ads for acquisition using the same content as we use on Facebook, and the results (from a very small sample size) have been promising. If you have the capacity in your organisation to invest in some low-level testing of other platforms, this could be a great way to increase the breadth of your learnings and discover more about how people interact with you.

Q. Does asking for a phone number in the handraiser have any effect on the proportion of people who add their email?

When it comes to asking your supporters for their phone number, we always recommend testing.

Firstly, you should only be collecting telephone numbers if you are going to use them – and use them soon, contacting prospective donors when they’ve just engaged with you.

Our general advice is to keep sign up forms as simple as possible, having contact form fields outside of just email can decrease the email opt-in conversion rate. However, we tested this with Stonewall and found opt-in rates didn’t decrease.

These test results, plus the excellent telemarketing conversion rates, made it a no brainer to keep asking people to leave their number.

We know getting started with digital mobilisation can feel like a challenge, but these tips and tactics will set your pilot up for success.

Remember, running a pilot is not about perfection. This is just the beginning of unlocking the potential of digital mobilisation, and gathering learnings to make your next campaign even bigger and better.