"We ask them if they are a proud parent of a cat or dog, and we try to use their preferences in everything from the graphic wrappers on their weekly e-news alerts to fundraising efforts," shares Sullivan.
One example of how the ASPCA uses pet preference to personalize its communications is its virtual pet adoption, one of the nonprofit's most successful online appeals. In the adoption portion of its Web site, visitors can sponsor one of the pets in the ASPCA's New York shelter. When that pet is adopted, explains Sullivan, the ASPCA will e-mail sponsors and offer them the opportunity to sponsor another pet of the same species.
"If you know that you have a cat lover out there, it's easier to get them to sponsor a shelter cat rather than a pit bull mix," she reasons.
Pet preference also dictates the content subscribers receive in the ASPCA News Alert, a weekly e-mail newsletter. The newsletter contains adoption stories and articles, such as tips for protecting your pets when the mercury drops, as well as ways to participate with the organization through online adoption or writing members of Congress in support of legislation. Subscribers are segmented into three groups: dog, cat or non-animal specific, and newsletter content is targeted accordingly. For example, if subscribers indicate in their profiles that they are a proud parent of a dog, the lead story in their News Alert may be dog related.
Also included in each News Alert is a soft ask for a donation, which brings in just under $10,000 a year.
Tailored content keeps the ASPCA supporters engaged. "We find the open rates on those News Alerts for people that tell us they share their lives with a cat or dog are a little higher," indicates Sullivan. Whether recipients choose to give a gift, read an article or take legislative action, ASPCA News Alerts, Advocacy Alerts and general fundraising appeals collectively average a 20 percent click-through rate.