Nonprofit Hits a Holiday High With New Online Gift Catalogue
Posted by Meg Mader at Aug 06, 2014 07:03 AM CDT

A Toronto-based emergency shelter for women and children fleeing violence, with its agency partner hjc, successfully transformed its traditional year-end giving campaign into an innovative online giving experience – and won a 2014 IMAB Integrated Marketing Award as a result!

The Redwood provides a safe haven for women and children who have fled abusive situations. Through community support, the shelter has cultivated many loyal and passionate donors since opening its doors in 1993. With the holiday fundraising season approaching in 2013, the shelter made the decision to shift its traditional holiday gift program to online – and they hit a holiday high in doing so.

Difficult Decisions

The decision to focus on a different channel did not come easily. The Redwood’s long-standing holiday giving program accepted physical gifts from donors. While the growing number of gifts allowed The Redwood to provide holiday hope to more and more participants each year, the staff time required to sort and wrap all the gifts also increased. Furthermore, the vast quantity of gifts had to be stored somewhere. The shelter had no choice but to pile up the gifts in the limited “free” space they had – this included the children’s library, the computer room, the piano and tutoring spaces, and the women’s exercise room. So, unfortunately, these rooms, which serve important purposes to women and children, were used as storage and closed off during the busiest time of the year. 

Anxious to find a solution to the program’s related difficulties, after much deliberation, The Redwood decided to replace the traditional holiday gift program with an online holiday gift catalog: the Safe Haven Store. With the help of fundraising agency hjc, The Redwood launched an e-commerce portion of their website, with a fresh, unique design to imitate the holiday shopping experience in their new virtual store.

With gift amounts ranging from $25 to $100+, donors first select a donation amount and then select one item from the list of gifts associated with the chosen price point. For example, a $25 donation would cover a new bedtime story for children or a basket of toiletries for women. A $75 donation could buy new clothes for a woman in need or fund a pizza party for all the participants at the shelter.

The Store + More

The virtual holiday catalog was a big first step, but the organization knew they must integrate a variety of digital elements to ensure its success. The Redwood promoted the Safe Haven Store across channels, carrying the same creative over in a multifaceted online campaign, through coordinated email design, website banners on the shelter’s home page, online advertising through Google, as well as posts on social media. The email series was comprised of four appeals, all with one main call to action: asking supporters to purchase a gift from the Safe Haven Store.

In direct mail, The Redwood developed a reply card insert for their year-end package, which showed images of five gift options donors could choose from. This allowed the offline audience to purchase a few of the same gifts through the mail that were otherwise only found in the online store.

Donors Embrace New Way of Giving

The Redwood believed its donors would welcome this new way of giving, and they were right.

The new online holiday campaign generated a 64% increase over the previous year in combined online and offline revenue. Not only did the organization profit financially overall, but this online store allowed the shelter to better allocate the funds by purchasing essential items quickly and efficiently for families in need. As a result of the initial success, the Safe Haven Store is now available year-round.

This award-winning campaign not only allowed The Redwood to optimize its fundraising, but most importantly, the staff was able to spend more time providing a true safe haven for women and children. Staff members were no longer forced to spend hours organizing and wrapping gifts during the holiday season, and they could focus their attention to the women and children looking for support, helping them to heal and enjoy lives free of domestic violence.

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