Case study: Dry July, an email strategy that’s far from dry

Case study: An email strategy that’s far from dry

Campaign: Dry July’s ongoing email strategy

Client: Dry July

Agency: Traction Digital

BACKGROUND:  Dry July is an Australian not-for-profit organisation aimed at raising money to directly benefit the lives of adults living with cancer across Australia and New Zealand. Dry July is an online social community where an individual or team can sign up to the challenge of a month- long sponsored abstinence from alcohol to help raise funds.

The concept for Dry July was devised by co-founders Phil Grove and Brett Macdonald after executive director Grove underwent surgery for a carcinoid lung tumour in 2007. During his time as an in-patient at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital, he noticed that patients did not have access to simple luxuries such as a television to help take their mind off their treatment, because the hospital did not have the resources to fund such items.

After his surgery, Grove devised a plan to raise funds to buy a television for the adult cancer ward at Prince of Wales Hospital by calling upon his friends to sponsor him to abstain from drinking alcohol for a month. The goal was to raise $3000. His idea was so well supported by his friends that many more joined in the fundraising and the alcohol-free month.

In its first effort, over 1000 people participated in the fundraiser raising $250,000, and Dry July was born.

After the unexpected success of the inaugural 2008 event, Grove and Macdonald decided to join forces to make Dry July an annual fundraiser to support public hospitals around Australia with adult cancer treatment wards.


Once established as an annual initiative, the Dry July team began to focus on finding a way to effectively and affordably communicate with their target audience of donors, and to create a community to drive support for the initiative. As part of Dry July’s strategic planning cycle, the team set goals for participation, subscribers, referrals, engagement and funds raised. Aligned with that, Dry July had to secure key partners to work with in order to achieve the desired outcome of increased interest, participation, and ultimately, raise more money.


The Dry July communications strategy was built around digital capabilities due to the speed of execution, affordability and interactivity. As a charity event where people are committing their time and money, it’s important to build a community where participants feel engaged and involved. Digital channels were deemed the best way to achieve this goal.

That meant Dry July needed a digital communications platform for email and mobile campaigns, surveys and competitions which would integrate seamlessly with its existing systems and be scalable enough to account for significant increases in new users annually. From a starting point of zero email subscribers and just 1049 participants raising $257,000 in 2008, Dry July set itself ambitious goals from that year on and started looking for the right partner to help them achieve their objectives.


Grove and Macdonald brought on Traction Digital as their pro bono partner. Traction Digital’s alignment with Dry July’s strategy and communications platform made it the perfect fit for the challenge. Implementing Traction (Traction Digital’s communications platform) made it easier to execute and manage multi-channel campaigns to build brand advocacy and drive fundraising – key objectives of their marketing strategy.

At each strategic marketing planning cycle, Dry July and Traction Digital meet to discuss Dry July’s annual objectives and challenges. Traction Digital and Dry July work in close collaboration to develop a strategy that maximises the platform’s features to drive targeted results. Traction Digital worked with the Dry July team on: strategy; best practice; segmentation and personalisation, to communicate relevantly based on audience members’ demographic, behaviour and fundraising status; triggered emails, to efficiently send the best call-to-action at the right time; competitions and promotions to incentivise donations and referrals from the community; dynamic content to deliver a personal fundraising status to individuals encouraging ongoing activity; and, surveys to gain a better understanding of the community and the influencers impacting the initiative.


Over the four years working together, Dry July’s team increased its digital communications acumen, developing and executing an increasingly sophisticated digital communications strategy, achieving their vision of becoming an innovator in digital communications. The Dry July team has ended up developing more competitions, creating tailored email marketing campaigns and developing more innovative and flexible campaigns to further engage users, build loyalty and continually increase participant numbers.

As of July 2012, Dry July’s digital communications strategy was instrumental in driving:

  • over 80,000 email subscribers to its database from just 1049 in 2008
  • a 33% year-on-year increase in participants for 2012 to 15,228, from 1000 donors in 2008
  • a 31% year-on-year increase in donations for 2012 raising over $3.7 million, from a $257,000 start point in its first year, and
  • the hospitals on Dry July’s beneficiary list in 2012 totalled 20, up from two in 2008. Dry July has exceeded expectations, encouraging more than 41,000 people to raise more than $10.5 million over five years to help adults living with cancer.