Content and Storytelling for Year-End Fundraising Gains


Since 1952, Hope Services has delivered a range of services to thousands of people with developmental disabilities. They currently help approximately 3,500 participants and their families, from infants through seniors, who reside in the eight California counties in California: Santa Clara, San Benito, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Monterey, Alameda, San Francisco, and Marin.

During the end of year appeal in 2020, Hope Services leveraged a sizable budget in Direct Response Television (DRTV) but unfortunately to little known effect. In 2021, we worked with Hope Services to be more efficient with limited resources to drive net revenue gains.

The Outcome

Between November 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021, Hope Services increased gross fundraising revenue by 105% and increased net fundraising revenue by 76%.


Average Email Appeal Response Rate (60% above industry benchmark)


Revenue per 1,000 appeal emails delivered (8% above industry benchmark)


YoY Increase in the number of gifts
The Challenge

Given that Hope Services has a smaller, local geographic footprint and an existing supporter email base that was relatively small, it was important to garner as much support as possible from their most loyal supporters. Each in-market asset needed to be very compelling, placing a premium on effective storytelling to drive conversions. 

Our challenge as an agency was to net more funds in 2021 than the 2020 year-end campaign, which relied on a costly investment in DRTV and grossed $202,329.

The Strategy

In order to rise to this challenge, Media Cause focused on leveraging these elements to improve on 2020 wins and increase conversions:

  • Personalized storytelling
  • Compelling and varied multimedia content 
  • Tangible giving levels relating to service costs
  • Increased sense of urgency 
  • Leveraging a generous matching gift offer


Storytelling and Patient Stories: 

Hope Services has an incredible assortment of patient stories, videos, and photos demonstrating the impact they have for clients of all ages, and their loved ones. The client approached EOY with a selection of videos, highlighting pediatric clients and the progress that Hope Services helped them make. These patient stories played a critical role both in the cultivation and solicitation strategies as compelling case-in-points for Hope Services’ impact. 


Cultivation and Engagement

An effective fundraising calendar does far more than ask. It’s critical to demonstrate impact, engage your audience, and say thank you. The calendar we developed with Hope Services prioritized fundraising at key moments (Giving Tuesday and 12/27-31). Between these EOY tentpoles, we shared heart-warming patient videos, sent sincere messages of thanks, and asked the audience to sign a card congratulating April, one of Hope Services’ longest standing clients and front desk receptionist. 


Matching Gift

We utilized a matching gift offer during Giving Tuesday and the 12/27-31 period to lend additional urgency to these moments and improve the case for support. 


Giving Handles

By assigning tangible equivalents to what a gift can provide Hope Services, we were able to help articulate the impact that a donor could have:

  • $250 provides a tablet and headset for a client so they can participate in Hope’s distance learning program, From Hope to Home.
  •  $500 provides staff with a five-month supply of sanitation kits to keep client transportation vehicles safe and clean.
  • $1,000 provides ten Counseling Center clients with a one-week supply of rapid COVID self-test kits.
  •  $2,500 provides a Hope Services program with a one-year supply of on-site activity kits.
  •  $5,000 provides lunches and movie outings for 80 senior clients.

These giving handles were leveraged in a number of channels and formats and particularly on Hope Services’ Donation Form.

The Implementation

Multimedia Assets

We shared compelling video assets of two pediatric Hope Services clients, Danny and Emmett, showing their progress and the incredible role that occupational therapy has played in their lives. The videos were narrated mostly by the clients’ mothers, who shared what partnership with Hope Services has meant for their entire families and their outlook for their sons’ futures. In sharing these videos, we were able to point out that COVID-19 didn’t halt services, like it did to so many forms of healthcare. Instead, Hope Services wasted no time moving to a remote model and sustaining progress for Emmett, Danny, and hundreds of other people who rely on them.

Cultivation and Engagement

We prioritized cultivation and engagement in the Thanksgiving period and between Giving Tuesday and the final five days of the year. This gave the audience a break between high-volume fundraising periods and helped keep Hope Services front of mind throughout the entirety of the holiday giving season. In particular, we wanted to give the audience an opportunity to contribute to the mission without making a gift. To accomplish this goal, we launched a three-message arc introducing April, one of Hope Services’ longest-standing clients and front desk receptionist and invited the audience to sign a card of congratulations. This engagement fostered a sense of connectivity between the audience and the recipients of services, building affinity ahead of the crucial final five days of the year.

The Website

The homepage is a critical asset for fundraising. Investments in paid media and email routinely lift web gifts, and truly organic visitors to a site are excellent fundraising prospects. We collaborated with Hope Services to optimize their donation page experience in accordance with best practices by eliminating distractions, extra steps, and competing calls to action. The form had excellent imagery, with a close-up of Emmett’s face, and giving handles to demonstrate the tangible impact of donations.  

To ensure fundraising was front-and-center, we ran lightboxes for the duration of year-end. These assets spotlighted the matching gift offer when it was active, and reverted to more evergreen end-of-year messaging between these moments.

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