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Case Study: mGive Helps National Geographic Society "Cause an Uproar"

Posted by Cassie Bair on Jul 24, 2012 5:08:00 AM


The Organization:

National Geographic Society


The National Geographic Society executed two mobile campaigns simultaneously with different approaches. A soft launch occurred in December 2010 and supporters were encouraged to text LIONS to 50555 to give $10 during Big Cats Week and then asked to join the National Geographic Society’s Mobile Community.

In October 2011, a new mGive keyword was established where supporters could text BIGCATS to 50555 to join the Society’s Mobile Community. After texting BIGCATS to 50555, supporters are immediately prompted to go to a mobile web form to give a mobile donation of $5 or $10 and provide additional contact information.

By integrating mobile into multiple touch points and marketing channels, National Geographic Society was able to generate more than $50,000 out of a “nonexistent source” – in this case, mobile supporters.

The Background:

National Geographic is known for raising awareness through its media and inspiring people to care about the planet, yet many don’t know that the Society is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations in the world. The Society counts on donations from individuals, foundations and corporations to fund the grantees that explore and share their research globally. The organization is engaged not only in inspiring others to care about the planet, but also actively works to conserve resources through its grant making programs.

The Challenge:

Identify how to drive donor acquisition and fundraising with minimal direct mail and email marketing efforts.

The Solution:

Use mobile to build a pipeline of new donors and supporters.

The LIONS campaign was initially created for the Society’s film, “The Last Lions.” A mobile donation call-to-action appeared at the end of the documentary prompting the audience to donate. The film debuted in February 2011 with a theatrical release in select markets including Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles. Later that year*, the film premiered on the National Geographic Channel, and became an ongoing campaign through DVD and other long-term distribution channels.

In October 2011, the BIGCATS campaign was created for Nat Geo Wild “Cause an Uproar” for big cats campaign to raise awareness and funds for the Society’s Big Cats Initiative. A mobile donation call-to-action appeared online and on select social media platforms. This campaign also became an ongoing campaign.

The Result:

Public service announcements on NatGeo Wild and the National Geographic Channel encouraged mobile support. During prime viewing hours, mobile donations spiked, especially during special Big Cat Week programming which raises awareness for the Big Cats Initiative.

By integrating mobile into multiple touch points and marketing channels, National Geographic Society was able to generate more than $50,000 out of a “nonexistent source.” A number of mobile donors did convert to online donors, raising another $1600 from direct email appeals, resulting in more access to traditional marketing channels through mobile.




Campaign Dates

Dec. 2010 – June 2012

Oct. 2011 – June 2012


National Geographic Society asked for a mobile donation, then asked donors to join their Mobile Community

National Geographic Society asked supporters to join their Mobile Community, then asked for a mobile donation

mGive Tools Used

SMS Only

SMS and Mobile Web Form

Mobile Community Opt-Ins



Mobile Community Conversion Rates



Donation Amounts


$5 or $10

Donation Conversion Rates


$5 – 59%

$10 – 63%

Unique Mobile Donors



Donation Totals



(73% of donations made through the Mobile Web Form were $10- over the $5 option - with 34 supporters giving more than one mobile donation)


Additional Highlights:

  • Of the unique 2,816 new mobile supporters from both LIONS and BIGCATS, 768 (or 27%) opted to provide their email through mobile.
  • 25 of these mobile donors went on to make online gifts totaling $2,025, with 23 of the 25 responding to direct outbound email appeals.
  • Breakdown: 29 gifts for Big Cats; 6 gifts for Unrestricted; 7 of the gifts were $100 or more
  • Both LIONS and BIGCATS yielded 2,816 unique Mobile Community members, of which 2,241 are still active equaling an 80% opt-in retention rate.

Although National Geographic is a world-wide brand with headquarters in Washington, DC, a clear west-coast demographic emerged. The California mobile donor/subscriber base consistently remains the largest sector across all keywords, a trend which mirrors donor giving in the Society’s more traditional fundraising methods.

Due to the success of both campaigns, these new mobile donors and supporters will continue to be messaged and cultivated to drive long-term donor value. National Geographic Society is now integrating mobile options across other divisions – including live events, traditional print media, and other social platforms.

“mGive’s mobile platform gives supporters a way to engage with us that is both immediately gratifying and tailored to personal interests. It gives us a way to put something in their hand, wherever they are, and say ‘look at this – you can help now!’” - Ann Maier, Director of Development Communications and Operations, National Geographic Society

*During the Japan tsunami disaster in March 2011, the question was asked whether it would be appropriate to continue to use mobile giving while disaster relief campaigns were running. However, the LIONS call-to-action surprisingly saw a huge increase in participation during this time. A likely conclusion was drawn - people who care about human need also care about animals – there was no need to back away from ongoing mobile campaigns while other world events were happening. Further, perhaps the prevalence of the mobile channel across other nonprofits gives further credence to the mobile medium as a new standard of immediate giving.

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Topics: Mobile Fundraising, Strategies and Tactics, Social Good, Mobile Engagement, Case Study

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