Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Fundraising Partnership Delivers Transformative Results

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Since 2018, Beaconfire RED has been working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to strategically grow its digital fundraising program in support of its mission to Save the Bay®.

We helped advance CBF’s digital fundraising and engagement program into a more reliable and significant source of revenue to support their mission-critical programs, which include clean water and habitat restoration, advocating for Bay-friendly policies and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels across the Chesapeake Bay region, and providing life-changing environmental education experiences for students who will become the next generation of Bay stewards.

Strategic multi-channel marketing campaigns and optimization strategies drove transformational growth for CBF from mid-2018 to 2020.


Below are just a few examples of how BF RED worked with CBF to develop their program, create a stronger fundraising infrastructure, and then build on top of that to scale up and create real change for the organization.


Paid Advertising to Drive New Donor Acquisition

One of the first initiatives that BF RED undertook with CBF was to launch and optimize an ongoing & evergreen search engine marketing campaign to ensure that all prospective donors who were searching for CBF-related terms would be presented with an optimized donation journey. Next, we developed a paid social advertising strategy that accomplishes two goals: (1) provide multi-channel support to campaigns being delivered by direct mail and email and help drive gifts from existing supporters, and (2) find new audiences of supporters who are good donor prospects for the organization, and present them with compelling calls-to-action to help drive consistent new donor growth.


Search Engine Marketing

Since its founding in 1967, Chesapeake Bay Foundation has developed a very strong core of committed supporters – from donors to advocates to volunteers and more. With such a well-established brand, BF RED put in place an evergreen search engine marketing strategy to drive qualified traffic directly into the fundraising funnel by owning 100% of search volume, reducing friction and increasing conversion rates.

Since FY18, the organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, with a return on investment of 737% from paid search advertising.



BF RED & CBF leveraged Facebook advertising to promote donor retention and engagement while also increasing new donor acquisition.


Engaging Existing Supporters

BF RED leveraged Facebook’s Custom Audiences to provide a multi-channel communications experience for existing CBF donors, advocates, and subscribers. For example, during tentpole fundraising campaigns like year-end, while supporters are receiving email and direct mail pieces promoting a matching gift offer, we also place ads in their Facebook newsfeed promoting the same offer and call-to-action. The use of multi-channel touchpoints has helped drive significant overall fundraising growth and greater levels of donor engagement for CBF.



Beaconfire RED and CBF also used Facebook Custom Audiences to reactivate inactive email subscribers to improve email deliverability rates and ensure that CBF’s messages are getting through to their audiences’ inboxes.

We implemented reactivation campaigns on Facebook designed to drive inactive users back to CBF’s website to take action and, thereby, reactivate their subscriber record.


This Oyster Quiz reactivation campaign has helped to reactivate thousands of existing email subscribers whose records had gone inactive.


New Donor Acquisition

CBF has also leveraged Facebook advertising to target new potential donors and drive them to make a gift. Custom Audiences has allowed BF RED to create lookalike models of the highest value segments of CBF’s donor file and run ads in qualified prospect’s newsfeeds. We used these prospecting campaigns as a testing ground to identify the messaging, imagery, and other creative elements that CBF donors respond to the most.



Website Optimization for Sustained Fundraising Growth:

Visitors arriving at the CBF site via direct, organic search, or referral traffic are typically more likely to convert and to give larger donations than visitors from email or paid advertising sources. Therefore, optimizing the website to provide a satisfying experience for donors and potential donors is critical for the long-term health of a fundraising program. BF RED worked with CBF on several website optimization projects designed to improve conversion rates and increase donor satisfaction.

The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and CBF has been blessed with beautiful photography highlighting the many different ways humans and wildlife experience the Bay. BF RED developed a new donation form template for CBF that better leverages this photography and helps tell the story of the Bay. Additional updates were made to the page template to improve the giving experience for donors on a mobile device.



BF RED also worked with CBF to prioritize certain key calls-to-action on priority landing pages to guide visitors to the areas of the site where they are most likely to convert and provide the greatest value to the organization.

For example, the Join Us page contains many different possible ways for a visitor to get involved –from donating to volunteering, to signing up for the organization’s email list. Without a clear prioritization, visitors to the page may have been unclear of what CBF wanted them to do. BF RED designed an updated template for the Join Us page that makes a clear and compelling case to all visitors that one of the most important things they can do to help save the Bay is to make a donation to CBF. The resulting page now contains an extremely strong call-to-action above the fold, while still providing users an opportunity to navigate easily to secondary asks like “renew your membership” or “update your information.”

During the most critical period of year-end fundraising, we were able to drive 22% more of the visitors to the Join Us landing page to CBF’s main donation form.