Q&ALS: A Conversation With Karen Barr

Recently we spoke with Karen Barr, Director of Supporter Experience and Retention at Save the Children, about incorporating their COVID-19 response into existing content series, rapid-response strategy and the technological steps they’re excited to take next. Check out her insights below, and let us know who you’d like to hear from next!

What has been your biggest success?

Our biggest success this year has been finding ways to emphasize our impact, no matter what’s happening around us. When the COVID crisis began, for example, we were able to show concrete examples of the work our teams on the ground are doing to help those in need who are suffering during this crisis. Anne Lewis Strategies helped us highlight the ways our donors make that work possible, and we’ve seen a big response to those impact reports and stories from our community health workers. 

What has been your biggest challenge?

Previously, our biggest challenge had been maximizing our impact over email with just a small internal team. But partnering with Anne Lewis Strategies means having enough people power and expertise to expand our program, reach new fundraising goals and grow our list. 

What is a challenge you’re confronting or anticipating now as you look ahead to the rest of 2020?

2020 has certainly been a unique year. One challenge we’ve already faced, and that we anticipate only getting more challenging as we approach the election, is balancing so much constant breaking news while still communicating the core of our work and mission. We’ve been able to weave the two together in some key moments: talking about the ways coronavirus has impacted the children we serve, for example. But we know our supporters are overwhelmed by all the information swirling, so we want to make sure our messages are always a value add, even more than usual. 

All the big moments of the year have also come much earlier than usual, so we’re thinking a lot about avoiding audience fatigue. We can’t predict the future, but we have to make smart projections and educated guesses as to what we can expect from our supporters, especially with an unstable economy. 

And finally, we’re very focused on growing our email list, especially ahead of end-of-year. We want to be adding qualified names and creating a reliable pipeline for giving. This is definitely a place where our partnership with Anne Lewis Strategies is helpful. 

What is something you’ve learned in a recent rapid response moment?

In times of crisis, our audience really does look to us for ways to learn and take action. We were able to begin messaging on the coronavirus crisis very early, focusing on the direct work Save the Children is doing on the ground and the impact of our audience’s support. Realizing how important this was to our list has reminded us to keep a nod to COVID work in all our messaging – and we can apply that to future crises as well, so the audience knows we haven’t just moved on, and that they can trust us to keep caring when the spotlight leaves.

One thing we’d like to do more of in rapid response moments is customization. We see a lot of potential in serving people content they’ve already expressed interest in, then introducing them to other related areas of our work to deepen our connection with them. 

What’s something new you’re leveraging to further your email program in 2020?

We’ve seen really incredible results through the three reactivation models we’ve run over the last six months – by modeling our inactive file, we’ve been able to reactivate lapsed donors and reach a 384% ROI. We’re excited to take this to the next level by joining the Advantage AI data co-op, sharing data and learnings with the other incredible organizations that partner with Anne Lewis Strategies.

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