How American Lung Association Grew Their Subscriber Base By 50%

grow the member base
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How We Helped American Lung Association Grow the Member Base by 50% with Welcome Stream and Winback

The American Lung Association had a subscriber base problem. Over time, more and more donors had disengaged with ALA, to the point that 75% of their donor file had not engaged with them for more than a year. In addition, new subscribers would enroll but never engage, adding to the lapsed subscriber file when they should be active. How could they reactivate 2.3 million lapsed donors?  How could they engage new donors so they would not lapse in the first place?

ALA had been hamstrung by outdated technology and made a significant investment in SalesForce Marketing Cloud, which gave them incredible new capabilities they had never used before. The challenge was how to use those new capabilities to turn their engagement around and start growing the active donor base again. 

ALA CEO Harold Wimmer made it a top strategic priority to reverse the decline. Led by a strong new CMO, Julia Fitzgerald, ALA committed to a long-term strategy to build engagement and member growth that would have an immediate impact on lapsed subscribers.

How We Grow the Member Base

The goal was aggressive growth of the donor file. The approach was to launch standing Welcome Stream and Winback Campaigns that would continuously reactivate lapsed donors, engage new donors early and recapture recently lapsed donors. ALA had a long way to go to achieve up-to-date, CRM-driven donor marketing. They needed a comprehensive roadmap.  


We took them step-by-step through a process to:


  • Set realistic goals based on nonprofit industry benchmarks
  • Integrate their multiple donor data sources into a single Salesforce instance
  • Design a dynamic dashboard that shows the results of every marketing campaign
  • Create an effective plan to harmonize national and local messaging
  • Define three highly productive segments of donors (down from the thirty they had tried to use before)

The outcome of these foundational steps was two campaigns carefully designed to reactivate lapsed donors and engage new donors immediately:


  • A multi-part Welcome Stream that asked for information offered opportunities to engage and made targeted asks for repeat donations.
  • A personalized, CRM-driven drip campaign to  lapsed donors to remind them of their past donations and invite them to give again

Game Changer: Fifty Percent Growth in Two Years

 In the words of CMO Julia Fitzgerald, “Winback campaign:  Game changer. Welcome Stream:  Game Changer.” 


ALA exceeded its campaign and growth goals, dramatically increasing the active donor file. Using an untouched file of inactive donors, some of whom had been lapsed for years, ALA was very quickly able to recover much of what they had lost and begin strong growth again. In addition, the welcome stream prevented future erosion of the file by engaging donors repeatedly during the first year, increasing the retention rate significantly. 


Among their successes were that:


  • The donor file grew by 50%, from 600K to nearly 900K, in two years
  • They reactivated over 7% of  lapsed donors the first year, some of whom had been lapsed for years
  • Email engagement has leaped by 50%
  • First-year and multi-year retention both are steadily increasing
  • ALA now adds 3-5K net new donors to their file every month

The long-term roadmap gives them a solid foundation to get as much as possible from their data and technology investment. The successful winback campaign and welcome stream are templates to target new segments of donors and drive even more growth. In addition, ALA now has the skills and processes in-house to evolve ever more successful campaigns themselves, building on the platform we helped them create. 

For another example of how we grow membership, see How Exec Club Doubled Membership With A New Value Proposition

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