How Cure Cancer is reaching streamers and gamers using personalised communications

Not-for-profit shares its growing fundraising activities in the gaming and streaming community and its personalised digital marketing efforts


Among the many sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, fundraising has been hit especially hard. Whereas before the pandemic it was common for people and organisations to host events or take on challenges to raise money, social distancing and travel bans quickly put paid to large gatherings or walking the Kokoda Track.

According to Fundraising Institute Australia’s Fundraising Futures Report September 2020, fundraising experienced an overall decline of 72 per cent in events income in the months following the start of the pandemic, with a prediction of a 15 per cent decline for the year following.

But one charitable organisation found a way to keep funds flowing through the depths of the pandemic and beyond, by working with a community that is generally considered hard to reach by marketers – online gamers and streamers.

For more than 50 years, Cure Cancer Australia has been dedicated to raising funds for cancer researchers who are in the early stages of their careers. Chief executive officer, Nikki Kinloch, said her organisation began working with gamers and streamers two years ago, based on the realisation that it was a not a community that had been tapped into for fundraising.

“And they hadn’t really been spoken to in a way that was relevant to them,” Kinloch told CMO. “That community is incredibly focused, very driven and incredibly generous as well. And it is a market that is very important for us, because it is not a traditional fundraising market, but they are still touched by cancer.”

Cure Cancer Australia has established a relationship with the organisers of the PAX AUS gaming expo and holds an annual event called STREAMtember, as well as encouraging gamers and streamers to host fundraising activities throughout the year.

“We had a streamer in Perth do a stream for us in early July - he was online for four hours between 6.00pm and 10.00pm and he raised $33,000, which is really phenomenal,” Kinloch said. “That streamer had cancer himself, and wanted to give back.”

It is also a market whose audiences skews to technologically-savvy 25 – 34-year olds, who have proven to be notoriously difficult to reach using traditional marketing channels.

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“We were not the first charity for gaming and streaming, but we are definitely one of the bigger ones now, and the gaming industry is bigger than the movie industry,” Kinloch said. “We have seen a big impact from Covid, and a huge change in traditional fundraising through physical events. The beautiful thing about gaming and streaming is people are in their rooms, so they are safe, and it is an activity that is borderless, so people from all around the world can take part.”

Kinloch said one of the keys to Cure Cancer Australia’s success in working with this community has come through its use of personalised communications, managed through the Salesforce Pardot marketing automation platform. Cure Cancer Australia began using Pardot four years ago to bring together different platforms and streamline communications with greater personalisation.

“One of our values is to show gratitude,” Kinloch said. “No one needs to donate to any charity – it is discretionary income - so we always want to be able to thank people and do it in a personalised way.

“The other part of it is to make sure we can track and monitor every communication touch point with donors, so we can personalise their customer journey and give them a unique experience based on the type of activity they are interested in, their location, and also if they have a cancer type that they might be interested in as well.”

According to Kinloch, use of Pardot has contributed to Cure Cancer Australia’s conversion rates rising by 18 per cent year-on-year, with transactions made through email notifications rising by 125 per cent over the same period. Most importantly however, revenue has also risen by 10 per cent.

“It is about understanding the best way to communicate to people in different circumstances, and then analysing the results and tweaking when necessary,” Kinloch said. “So looking at the success rates, and more importantly, what people haven’t opened or clicked on to, and learning from those experiences.”

This has included learning that EDMs sent to gamers during the day will probably never be read, with greater open rates achieved in the evening, and that video messages are a more effective channel for this audience. Cure Cancer Australia has also created a specific Twitter account for gamers and streamers and has set up its own Discord server to manage group discussion and communications.

“So it is about using Salesforce and adapting it in a relevant way for those different types of people and what they are interested in,” she said.

Reaching out to the gaming and streaming community has been a natural consequence of Kinloch’s own desire to be a first mover within her sector, which has saw Cure Cancer Australia become the first charity in Australia to offer the ability to pay via Google Pay on its website. She said she will continue to explore new ways to boost Cure Cancer Australia’s reach into different communities.

“You should never have one form of communication - you should have a consistent brand message, but you need to adapt and tweak everything to be relevant to the right community,” Kinloch said. “The world has moved on, and you have to adapt your approach and your style as well, or you will lose your positioning.

“For us it is important to reach new donors in all different markets to show them that it doesn’t matter where you are from or who you are, cancer does affect you and your family, and we are making a difference.”

Check out more of CMO's coverage of how not-for-profits have harnessed digital in the crisis:

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