Its all in the genes
Jeans for Genes is a major fundraising organisation supporting the Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) – an independent organisation committed to unlocking the mysteries of disease. Jeans for Genes is best known for its annual ‘Jeans for Genes Day’, which commenced in 1994 and to date has raised over $41 million.
Additionally, the charity organises a series of annual events designed to raise money for the CMRI. With one in 20 children born with some form of genetic fault, the scientists at the CMRI work to try to prevent these diseases before they occur or, where that is not possible, to develop better treatments.
Jeans for Genes provides 50% of the total revenue for the CMRI, making it a vital part of the institute’s long-term investment into research.
In order to sustain and enhance fundraising activities it is important for Jeans for Genes to have a strong online presence that raises awareness of its events, increases its support base and engages with potential volunteers.
Campaign: Jeans for Genes
Client: Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI)
The initial Jeans for Genes website was very basic. The site was only updated once a week, meaning the information was often outdated – especially when it came to keeping the public informed about current events and fundraising efforts.
“Our visitors were finding it difficult to navigate the site. They often lost interest before they could volunteer or donate, meaning that we lost valuable support and funding,” says Melissa Nassif, Jeans for Genes’ campaign coordinator.
Another issue was the lack of appropriate branding. Jeans for Genes events are designed to have a young, fun vibe and the target market is internet savvy, making it important for the organisation to have an engaging online presence that reflects this brand ethos. The previous website did not reflect the brand image, however, looking stuffy and corporate, which proved a turn-off for its target audience.
While the website was managed in-house, the tools were not user friendly enough for non-technical staff to update content.
“The website was managed by the IT department, but it is a marketing tool not an IT tool. We needed an online platform that could be managed by the marketing team. Our objective was to develop a site that would engage our audience, enabling more interaction. We wanted an online presence that reflected our brand and enticed visitors to come back regularly,” says Nassif.
Jeans for Genes began looking for an online platform that would add increased functionality to its website as well as providing a cosmetic overhaul. It needed an online solution that would:
- reflect the organisation’s image
- engage visitors
- boost online search ratings through search engine optimisation (SEO)
- increase site traffic
- enable non-technical staff to edit web content
- incorporate a user friendly content management system (CMS), and
- provide a cost-effective yet top quality service.
The organisation implemented a tender process to select a web content management solution. After reviewing products from a range of organisations, the team chose Elcom to provide its website upgrade.
A factor in the organisation’s decision was the CommunityManager.NET platform that Elcom supplied, which would allow it to customise its solution, picking ‘out of the box’ elements including CMS, SEO and email marketing.
CommunityManager.NET also gave Jeans for Genes the option to further enhance its website on the same platform in the future.
The redesigned website looked fresh, modern and fun, providing an online representation of the Jeans for Genes brand. It enabled the organisation to interact with its web savvy audience via a contemporary interface. The site is now set up to enable two-way communication, allowing Jeans for Genes supporters to sign up for events, donate funds and share their photos and experiences online.
“The system is very user friendly, the more you play the more you learn. We have found that you can self-teach as you become more accustomed to the platform and if we have any questions the support team are just a phone call away,” says Nassif.
The marketing and fundraising teams have the flexibility to update content when they choose, rather than having to wait on the availability of the IT team.
“As the marketing team can manage online content, we are able to take on feedback from our supporters and make the adjustments we deem necessary,” continues Nassif.
An important part of the online solution was the inclusion of a mailing list module, which was purchased with the express aim of boosting the Jeans for Genes database and increasing web traffic.
This module allows the organisation to develop enewsletters to communicate with its supporters throughout the year, ensuring that it remains top of mind. Inbuilt functionality allows the team to contact supporters on a regular basis to thank or update them, as well as providing incentives to drive them back to the website.
Form Creator enabled Jeans for Genes to standardise processes across the website. The organisation can now develop forms to streamline the procedure for signing up volunteers.
These forms are developed using mandatory fields and dropdown menus to provide a time-effective process. This mass communication tool has delivered huge operational efficiencies for the organisation.
“In the past our process for signing up volunteers was labour intensive. Volunteer details were registered online and then had to be manually transferred to a separate customer relationship (CRM) system. We then had to go back and email our supporters to complete the sign off process,” says Nassif.
Transparency is an additional benefit that has resulted from this streamlined procedure. The forms clearly detail exactly what is expected of prospective volunteers, enabling them to make a more informed decision as to whether to commit their time. The simplified process has led to a significant increase in the number of volunteers.
The website has been a hit with the public, increasing traffic to over 30% more visitors for Jeans for Genes.
An important objective of the upgrade was to improve the search results for the Jeans for Genes website. The SEO features have improved the ‘Jeans for Genes’ search ranking to number one on the major search engines. This is a vast improvement on the previous website, which was difficult to find through internet search engines.
“Traditionally we had a peak in web traffic during Jeans for Genes day and lower numbers of visitors for the rest of the year. However, by using enewsletters to communicate with our supporters we are able to bring visitors back to the site more regularly. We have seen a sharp increase in web traffic throughout the year and our loyal supporters have increased by over 60%,” explains Nassif.
With the website overhaul proving so successful, Jeans for Genes is already looking at next steps. The organisation is planning to integrate its office database with its online content management system.
“We are excited about the next stage, as it will mean that data entered into our website will be stored directly into our CRM system, cutting down administrative costs and freeing up our time. It will also allow us to run reports on online and offline data, providing us with a 360-degree view of our support base,” says Nassif.
Jeans for Genes has also adopted a multi-site licence, which has enabled it to bring all of the CMRI websites onto the Elcom platform, allowing a seamless integration between online content across the group. From a financial perspective, it also allows the cost of additional modules to be shared across the group rather than replicating the cost for each website – an important consideration for a non-for-profit organisation.
An additional benefit is that all group staff are now trained on the same online platform, allowing them to work across other websites if necessary.