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Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa

A little email goes a long way for Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa

Cypra Managed Services helps non-profit build brand, donor connections

Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa (BBBSO) may not be the largest agency of its kind in Canada, but when it comes to using social media, it is certainly among the most adventurous of the nation’s 152 affiliated BBBS organizations.

The non-profit, which arranges one-to-one mentoring for children ages 6-18 in Canada’s capital region, in 2008 launched its appealing “Mentoring! It’s BIG!” blog and began interacting with constituents on Facebook and Twitter. Such online outreach is a means toward what Executive Director Robert Eves has said are his key goals: to preserve the 39-year-old organization’s solid reputation in the community and keep BBBSO on strong financial footing.

“Brand recognition is becoming increasingly important in the not-for-profit sector,” he wrote in BBBSO’s most recent annual report. “Organizations that are recognized by their community for being well run and results-oriented are better placed to do well particularly during more difficult economic times.”

Since his appointment as director in 2008, Eves and his staff at BBBSO had been puzzling on a method to encourage donors and sponsors to visit the website – and especially the new blog.

So when Cypra Media approached Eves in Spring 2009 with a pro bono offer — to simplify deployment of its first email campaign targeted to donors and sponsors — the answer was yes.

Eager to start, BBBSO immediately planned to ask volunteers to validate donor email addresses with phone calls. The staff was surprised to find out that, with the turnkey Cypra Managed Services, there was no need for volunteers to spend time on that task because Cypra could automatically check and update the BBBSO email list.

As part of the project, Cypra also created a professional HTML newsletter template for messaging the donor group.

“It looked phenomenal,” BBBSO Acting Director of Programs Jennifer Mitchell later said of Cypra’s template design and copy – in English and French. “It perfectly matched the look and feel of our blog and annual report.”

In June, the Cypra Managed Services team had already perfected the wording, updated the lists, tested the campaign and mailed approximately 2,100 messages to donors and sponsors using Cypra’s white-listed and in-box delivering IPs. To gather recipient feedback, improve satisfaction, and increase subsequent mailing deliverability and results, the Cypra team added a link within the message from which recipients would be taken to a custom-created and hosted landing page. Once there, recipients could fill out a brief survey about their language preference when receiving future BBBSO emails.

According to Makrem Galouzi, Cypra’s business development manager, the survey wasn’t part of the original plan for the pro-bono project. “But as we discovered that it would help the organization, we developed the landing page, hosted it and redirected the results live to BBBSO,” he explained.

As a testament to the reputations of both BBBSO and Cypra, the open rate for first-time recipients of email from the organization was 30 percent, a high success metric in the email-marketing business.

BBBSO’s Mitchell said the behavioural statistics from Cypra will be used for reporting to the agency’s board of directors about the impact of its email marketing and branding efforts, as well as for testing, better targeting, and efforts to refine and improve the results of subsequent campaigns.

“Our main goal for this project was to assist the charity in getting ready to email successfully before it committed financially,” said Galouzi. “Through this free mail campaign, we made sure the BBBSO mailing was compliant and tested — before deployment — to mitigate risk and guarantee good results.”

Mitchell said that future mailings with Cypra will focus on upcoming BBBSO events, such as its annual October fundraiser “Big Art in the City.”

If the ongoing email campaign program works out as well as anticipated, the Ottawa agency certainly will be telling its fellow BBBS chapters about Cypra Managed Services.

“We are open to sharing good ideas with each other. None of us wants to be recreating the wheel,” Mitchell said.

To make a donation or find out more about Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa, readers may email info@bbbso.ca or phone (613) 247-4776.