Social media, email and partnerships helped The Nature Conservancy “take the planet out to lunch” with a global picnic to raise awareness of the nonprofit on Earth Day.
In the past, The Nature Conservancy has run Earth Day promotions in conjunction with other organizations, like Disney and Discovery. This year’s picnic, their first solo Earth Day outing, was part of a move to do more mass marketing initiatives in an effort to boost the profile for the Arlington, VA-based nonprofit, says Geof Rochester, CMO.
Rather than focus on what was threatening the planet, for Earth Day the Conservancy wanted to celebrate the positive, says Rochester.
Local picnics in 550 locations around the world, in 50 different countries, were organized via MeetUp.com. On a page dedicated to the Conservancy there, interested individuals could find picnics in their area, or plan to hold their own.
Marketing partners such as Back to Nature, AOL and Chipolte Mexican Grill also promoted the event. The partnership between Chipotle and Nature Conservancy includes in-store messaging via the Chipotle “newspaper” and picnics led by Chipotle’s “student brand ambassadors” at 70 campuses around the country.
Well-known chefs like “Top Chef” contestant Carla Hall were asked to contribute recipes for the picnic, while other famous food names like Mario Batali wrote posts about eating sustainably on the Cool Green Science blog.
“The goal was really awareness, and we hit that metric out of the park,” says Rochester of the April 22 event. Of course, we’re clearly in the fundraising business so we wanted to reach people who might not know of us and hopefully get them into the donor pyramid.”
Attendees were encouraged to post picnic pictures after the event on Flickr, write blog posts and add their thoughts to TNC’s page on Facebook and its Twitter feed. Follow up will be primarily digital—email addresses were collected from participants to help keep the conversation going, says Rochester.
TNC has about one million email addresses on file, and sends out a quarterly magazine via email or direct mail, depending on the recipient’s preference. While the group is moving more and more communications to the Web, the best prospects are those who interact with the nonprofit both online and offline, says Rochester.
Some email blasts are targeted to specific needs or campaigns—many of TNC’s appeals tend to run around climate change, land, oceans or fresh water. Still, the group doesn’t try to segment too strictly between causes.
We don’t want to become a brand that is so isolated we’re setting up walls between people who are interested in fresh water or [another issue],” Rochester says.
TNC reached out to the existing donor base via email to let them know about the picnics. Still, the heavy lifting for organizing the event was done by social media. In addition to MeetUp, people could also donate or sign-up via CrowdRise.
As for offline communications, TNC’s digital efforts are still supplemented by millions of direct mail pieces annually. And later this year, it will begin testing a DRTV fundraising initiative.