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Rooms Revolution to donor evolution with 11 London Social Media Labs

We know how important it is for charities to make the most of their investments, whether competing for new supporters in an increasingly crowded market or developing digital engagement strategies to reach and grow new audiences. In an increasingly competitive world, more and more charities are using social media, to amplify their reach and find new donors. On social media, charity appeals need to be sharp enough to cut through the foray of cat videos and baby pictures, and engage their target audience emotively enough to stop them scrolling, click through, and donate to a cause. 

A revolution for donor recruitment

When 11 London started working with YMCA, the charity was trying to figure out how to use social media to recruit new donors. It had been years since they’d undertaken any donor recruitment activity, and although public awareness of the brand was good, few knew the breadth of youth services they provide – or why they were in need of support.

With so many unknowns, 11 London worked with YMCA and MI Media to create and test a suite of creative routes through our bespoke ‘Social Labs’ programme. Fast forward two years later and thousands of new supporters,the ‘Rooms Revolution’ continues to push on to bigger and better things. So how did we do it? 

Image: The winning creative from our testing, on the YMCA sponsorship landing page

Challenging natural bias

At the start of any campaign, it’s hard to know which creative route will resonate with a particular audience. For many agencies and clients, the creative process is a swift whittling down of concepts, to produce a finished ad that meets both creative and client approval and – with a bit of luck – gets response from the target audience. However, natural bias frequently has a hand in which route is put forward to the public, meaning that the work that moves forward isn’t necessarily always up to the job. 

At 11 London, our creative approach is more meritocratic. The 11 London ‘Social Lab’ is designed to AB test variants of creative, messaging, and brand call to action – live on social channels. By ignoring our natural bias and letting the data do the talking, ultimately mitigates the risk you face when you extend investment to new channels.

Putting our ideas on trial 

After testing a number of creative routes for YMCA donor acquisition, we had a clear leader in the Rooms Revolution creative, which continues to work today. Learning from this has informed a wealth of creative development in social and other channels, reducing risk and increasing volume. We also had a whole suite of learning from the creative that didn’t perform so well, and knowledge for how to improve on our designs. 

What if it hadn’t gone so well? 

As with any experiment, having a clear methodology means that if things were less successful, we could retrace our steps. We could check our strategy was the ‘right’ one, reflect on whether we’d ‘tested and learned’ enough, and evaluate if our ‘our big ideas’ were powerful enough.  Retrospectives are hugely valuable, time allowing, and there is much to be said for failing fast. However, it’s hard to pinpoint the reason for failure (or success) if you haven’t kept track of the whole process, or if all ideasweren’t tested equally. 

The transparency of the process is also a major benefit when trying out new channels. By tracking and sharing performance, from concept testing through to increasing multi-channel spend, the ROI is there for all to see, and reliably predictable.

The results speak for themselves. A highly successful campaign, and a happy client. Lucy Morrell, Head of Direct Marketing at YMCA, comments:

’11 London have helped revitalise our direct marketing campaigns, as we recently renewed our investment in this area. Applying a structured approach to developing and testing creative, by audience and online and offline channels, we’ve gathered valuable insights and positive year 1 ROIs. ’

Mark Cook, Director at 11 London, has said,

‘’We’re so proud to have helped YMCA reignite and rapidly grow their donor acquisition programme. Using our Social Labs approach was key to our success here, and really helped us stay outcomes focused and make decisions based on evidence.”

Is it time to revolt?

A full-scale evolution of your acquisition programme won’t happen overnight. But if you look hard enough, and are prepared to put your best ideas to the public sword, you might just find the spark to create that revolution after all.

To find out more about 11 London’s Social Labs and how our programme could work for your organisation, contact Mark Cook at


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