Marketing + Direct Response: Building a Cohesive Digital Strategy


In the Spring of 2019, Pathfinder International asked Media Cause to provide ongoing digital fundraising and marketing strategy, content guidance and support, paid media management and technical implementation, and general support for Pathfinder International’s owned technology and systems – in addition to cross-program reporting and analysis. Pathfinder’s goal was, and is, to grow support for their mission of championing sexual and reproductive health and rights within the United States market and worldwide.

The Outcome

Halfway through FY21, Pathfinder International has raised nearly $400k — that’s compared to a 12-month total of $417k for the entirety of FY18. Fiscal Year YOY to date 14% Increase in Revenue. 


New advocacy actions from engaged supporters


Fiscal Year YoY Increase in Revenue


Increase in New Donors

“Media Cause has taken a strategic and systematic approach to building Pathfinder’s digital program, meeting and exceeding every goal we throw at them. They have streamlined our email, social media, and digital advertising tools, helped build up our own internal capacity, expand our supporter list, and dramatically increase our digital revenue. Their team is like an extension of our own, and we are thrilled with what we’ve been able to accomplish together!"”

Tyler Kalogeros-Treschuk & Madeline Halperin-Robinson

The Challenge

Early in our engagement with Pathfinder, we needed to address the challenges in their technical foundation. Their technical stack was lacking in data integrations, meaningful audience segmentation, and productive marketing automation. What’s more, a cohesive data measurement plan was not deployed.

From a fundraising and marketing standpoint, Pathfinder had relatively low volume across a number of channels: low social post volume, low email volume, website visitorship was underwhelming, and timely, relevant content to encourage repeat site visitorship and engagement was lacking.

Subsequently, these factors conspired to negatively affect donor acquisition and retention, engagement and stewardship, and ultimately donor lifetime value and relationship building.

The Strategy

Our approach has been a deliberate, step-by-step process of strengthening Pathfinder’s digital marketing and fundraising program. Together, we have yielded encouraging year-over-year growth since beginning our collaboration.

After setting a strong technical and operational foundation for success through data measurement, quality control, data integrations, and list management in the first half of FY19, we focused on increasing the quality and quantity of Pathfinder’s content and communications across paid and owned media channels – including email, website, social, and search – to increase awareness, grow the email file, deepen engagement, and drive fundraising gains. 

In this period, Pathfinder’s digital marketing and fundraising program went from one that was learning to walk, to one that has started to run. With efficiencies from a tools and team standpoint in place, the program was ready to begin the next phase of its development: to not only scale marketing and fundraising, but for their digital program to enhance and complement other mission-critical goals such as advocacy and awareness of Pathfinder.

The Implementation

Technical Best Practice, Audience Segmentation, and Data Measurement

We implemented data measurement across all owned and paid media assets as well as templatized reports to track month-over-month productivity, constituent acquisition ROI, and campaign performance. In order to do all of this we also had to make sure the data integrations were in place from Raiser’s Edge to Luminate Online so that we could target and measure Pathfinder’s audiences based upon lifecycle data and behavioral data.


Action Center and Website Content

Our multi-touchpoint communications and fundraising strategy was centered around high-quality website content, storytelling, and engaging calls-to-action.

In June of 2020, as Congress considered a critical COVID relief bill, we launched Pathfinder’s first advocacy petition action calling on US leaders to pass funds for the global health response effort. We leveraged organic social, paid media, email, and a website lightbox to drive over 2k petition signatures, raising over $2.5k in supporter donations post-action, and priming donors for an impactful fiscal year end fundraising campaign.

After our first successful advocacy engagement, we launched Pathfinder’s Action Center on their website, deploying a full suite of advocacy and actions to empower new and returning supporters to engage, take action, and ultimately feel closer to Pathfinder’s mission. In 2020, Action Center actions drove over 5,700 supporter signatures, at least 700 new email addresses, and over $5,000 in direct revenue post-action.

Introducing advocacy and engagement campaigns into Pathfinder’s mid-funnel communications has helped cultivate donors while educating them on Pathfinder’s important advocacy work – contributing to a 64% increase in one-time donors in 2020, and a record-setting January 2021 revenue (more than double that of January 2020).


Effective Lead Generation and Donor Acquisition

Our paid media strategy included a mix of timely and evergreen campaigns aimed at supporting and growing Pathfinder’s mid-and bottom-of-funnel audiences. 

With a focus on audience and creative testing, we deployed paid lead generation at lookalike and interest audiences across social media, responsive paid search, and direct-to-donor acquisition. This resulted in 62% more first-time direct donor revenue YoY.


Email Engagement

We ensured email was more than a fundraising mechanism, with regular opportunities to take action without a donation. Through a renewed emphasis on advocacy, we invited the Pathfinder list to raise their voice for health and justice. With interactive quiz actions, including our Sed Ed Quiz from the summertime, we raised awareness of the issues Pathfinder works to resolve. And through engagements asking the list to send thanks to female community health workers on International Women’s Day, we forged connections between those on the email list and those doing the work. While these did not ask for gifts directly, they pointed to the value and urgency of Pathfinder’s work, and gave an opportunity for those inclined to donate.


Responsive Fundraising and Cyclical Appeals

A healthy fundraising calendar has appeals you can plan for, and emergency appeals that respond to current events. In the last 12 months, Pathfinder has jumped on each of these opportunities. When COVID-19 upended services in the spring, leaving countless people Pathfinder serves without access to HIV treatment, safe births, and all manner of reproductive and sexual health care. Pathfinder was quick to communicate this emergency to their donors and ask for their emergency support, which was promptly given. 

Pathfinder also mapped out a robust calendar of cyclical appeals it could plan for a mile away, with campaigns around World Contraception Day, Giving Tuesday, the final week of 2020, Mother’s Day, and their fiscal year-end moment in June. 

These campaigns — though cyclical — nevertheless seized the urgency of the moment to build the case for support, and there was no shortage of news-based urgency 2020. In doing this, we ensured even our cyclical appeals were relevant and timely. 

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