New England Aquarium is a beloved institution that draws nearly 1.3 million people per year to experience its marine life exhibitions and connect with the natural world. As an international leader in marine research and education, the Aquarium was looking for ways to steward its vibrant member and donor base into a deeper level of commitment to its mission. As the Aquarium’s agency partner, Schultz & Williams (S&W) was asked to help launch a mid-level program designed to develop members into philanthropists and re-engage lapsed donors. Our goals were to:
- Help establish an identity for the Aquarium’s Giving Society by nurturing a sense of “belonging” to an exclusive group of individuals invested in the Aquarium’s mission and engaged with the organization at a higher level
- Develop a strong offer that strikes the appropriate and effective balance between emphasizing the expanded benefits at the higher giving levels as well as the philanthropic nature of giving at these levels
- Increase the number of Society members and expand upgrading strategies to boost average gift and overall program revenue
Understanding the Challenge
As a popular destination with a vibrant member and donor base, New England Aquarium was faced with how to turn these assets into philanthropists and to re-engage lapsed members in order to increase revenue and strengthen the public’s support of its mission.
The answer: establish and launch a mid-level giving program, nurturing a sense of “belonging” to an exclusive group of individuals who not only support the Aquarium’s mission, but who engage with the organization at a higher level.
Deepening the Commitment
S&W created a “Giving Society” offer that focused on the Aquarium’s local and global conservation work, the role aquariums play in the 21st century, and how New England Aquarium is leading the way through innovative research, education and advocacy.
Popular attractions like the Aquarium have an immediate appeal and value proposition for those looking to visit multiple times throughout a year. Encouraging members to become engaged donor constituents requires a different conversation—one that is about the importance of the Aquarium’s commitment to finding practical, scientific solutions to the challenges facing our oceans and about the need for additional investment from a special cadre of donors.
S&W created a Giving Society offer that conveyed both the expanded benefits of increased and exclusive access to the Aquarium’s offerings as well as the philanthropic nature of giving at these higher membership levels. In order to connect prospects with the Aquarium’s local and global conservation work, messaging focused on the role aquariums play in the 21st century and how New England Aquarium is leading the way through innovative research, education and advocacy.
To help establish the case for support, the Giving Society package included information about two critical areas of need where the Center for Ocean Life is focusing efforts and “signs of hope” for species that are recovering thanks to the Aquarium’s conservation efforts:
- A personal appeal for support from John Mandelman, vice president of the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life
- State of the Oceans” Executive Summary highlighting the work being done at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life
To tailor the “ask,” we customized the messaging for targeted prospects from the general membership base, annual fund donors and lapsed Giving Society members. To showcase the exclusive benefits at the Society levels, the package also included a revamped Giving Society brochure with new messaging and creative products.
The launch of the new Giving Society exceeded the goal for both revenue and donors, and it yielded actionable data to continue building a robust and sustainable mid-level program for the Aquarium.