Case Studies


Case Studies

First United - Case Study

First United - Case Study

First United

How First United Increased Online Revenue 86%

January, 2017



First United is committed at its heart to the struggle for social justice and is a place of welcome for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Established in 1885, today they offer programs of advocacy, housing, healing and hospitality through a community space that supports and celebrates the inherent strengths of all people, of all walks of life.

Work started in the Fall of 2015 and continued through December 2016.



First United was looking to increase net revenue in the short term while building the long-term capacity of grassroots support through annual fund strategies like online fundraising, and monthly giving.

Our work started in October 2015 and continued through December 2016.

This case study looks at 2016 online fundraising work and results.


  • Online revenue grew 86%

  • Online donations grew 94%

  • Website traffic grew 72%

  • Email list grew 118%

  • AdWords clicks grew 301% (conversion tacking not set up before we started so can't compare conversions compared to previous year)



Work was done across all four major areas of our work. Key projects included:

  • Website rebuild
  • Better tools & tracking
  • Email fundraising
  • Facebook advertising
  • Google AdWords
  • Christmas campaign


While the current website wasn't bad, it wasn't optimized for mobile, had little to no tracking, and had a generic donation tool for online gifts. Together, this would limit First's ability to raise funds and understand why (or why not) donations were coming in.

Our two goals for the website rebuild were:

  1. Create a website more geared towards online marketing and fundraising to increase engagement and improve online revenue
  2. Update the brand, design, and user experience of firstunited.ca for both donors/supporters and First United staff.




One of the big reasons we suggested a new site was that the current tools and systems a), weren't working with one another causing friction and extra work and, b), did not allow for proper tracking to see what strategies, traffic sources and pieces of content were or were not working.

Throughout the year, we used tools like Formstack, MailChimp, Stripe, and WordPress - all easy to use, trusted, and have large support communities - so First staff could use and continue on if we were no longer around.


When we looked at the communications schedule, we quickly saw that First United was not sending enough email. In particular, enough non-ask emails. The increased communication was critical to keep donors engaged and connected so when campaigns rolled around they would be more likely to give.

First United also needed to invest in growing their email list so the new website had a large focus on email acquisition.

We also moved them to our preferred email tool, MailChimp, to create automated welcome emails for online donors and new email signups.



We suggested First United invest more into Facebook as a source of online revenue and new supporters. To do this, we ran campaigns timed with their seasonal campaigns (Spring, Fall, Christmas).

To maximize revenue, we targeted current First United supporters with retargeting campaigns.

For acquisition, we looked at First United donor attributes and created detailed targeting and look-a-like audiences to find and recruit new support.




While First United had a Google Ad Grant since 2014, they were using AdWords off and on and without an overarching and cohesive strategy.

We did some simple optimization but with the creation of the new website, we were able to point ads at more focused, compelling, and action based pages.

We could also track what was working in terms of ads, keywords, and campaigns.


First United, like many organizations, raises a lot of their annual fund support in the last few months of the year, so we made sure to invest our time and energy in this crucial part of the year.

We pushed First United to secure a matching donor to match all online gifts (up to a maximum). 

On the campaign landing page, we also had a countdown clock and 'thermometer' to increase urgency.


Seva - Case Study

Seva - Case Study


How Seva Canada Grew Online Revenue 53%

January, 2017



Seva Canada is a Vancouver-based charitable organization whose mission is to restore sight and prevent blindness in the developing world.



Seva had a pretty stable annual fund program - direct mail, online, and monthly giving - but were looking for some new ideas to stay current and keep growing, especially when it came to integrated their offline work to bring it online.

“I really appreciated Shift’s modern approach to something old-school [and] finding ways to enhance this critical element of a development program by shifting things online. They were always looking for ways to help us reduce costs, which is great, and were just really fun to work with!

— Liz Brant, Development Director*



  • Online revenue grew 53%
  • Online donations grew 54%
  • Website traffic grew 107%
  • Increased year end campaign online revenue 70%
  • Increased Gift of Sight (gift catalogue) online revenue 171%
  • Increased year end campaign online donor acquisition 47%

Seva Canada Online Revenue and Traffic - 2015 vs. 2016



After being around for Seva’s Gift of Sight catalogue and helping execute Seva’s 2015 year end campaign, both largely focused on print and offline, we saw a lot of opportunity to do more online. The focus of 2016 was to increase and improve the quality of traffic (largely through the Google Ad Grant), increase conversion by pointing people to more specific, clear, and compelling landing pages, and increase email volume while organically growing their email list.


After seeing some encouraging results with Facebook Ads for their Spring campaign (15 donors and positive ROI) we suggested Seva invest more of their marketing and acquisition budget into Facebook Ads for the fall through their Gift of Sight and Year End campaigns. We used a combination of acquisition audiences (based on website visitors not on Seva’s email list, key interests, etc.) and a retargeting audiences (Seva email subscribers, donation page visitors, etc.) and created 6 different ads and A/B tested adjusting ads and spend based on results as the campaign progressed.

We also created a Gift of Sight focused campaign using the Google Ad Grant AdWords account to drive more traffic interested in giving gifts to the new, streamlined, and simpler landing page. Other AdWords campaign and traffic was optimized for donations by adjusting budget spend per day on donation focused campaigns (as opposed to awareness campaigns) with an emphasis on ads with ‘kids’ language (the focus of the year end campaign).


In our audit, we noticed that Seva was not sending enough email communication to their supporters throughout the year (not just ask emails) and moved to a monthly email schedule with some stories, content, and event invites mixed in with fundraising campaigns to keep engagement high and supporters more informed.

We also helped move Seva from a different email service provider to our preferred tool, MailChimp, to improve the design and user experience while also creating some automation workflows - like an email Welcome Series. We also created a custom Seva email template to better showcase their beautiful photos and brand in non-solicitation emails.


Because of the various gift options required, Seva’s current donation has quite a few steps and requires too many clicks (in our opinion) but without changing the tool the use we focused on how to make the first part of the experience better in hopes to increase the conversion rate.

For campaigns, this meant creating a dedicated landing page (which Seva did on their own, in their website template, with our guidance) that reflected the key messages, story, and ask from the direct mail appeal. We also used this dedicated page for ads and social media posts.

Seva has a great Gift of Sight catalogue but the online component of it had room to improve (and still does). After doing a condensed digital audit on their Gift of Sight/gift catalogue program, the biggest suggestion was to create a simpler, more specific, and easier to navigate landing page for online and mailed catalogue recipients to purchase gifts and make donations.