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National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Nonprofit National Multiple Sclerosis Society uses automation and personalization to create success at scale. Learn more.
Learn More About National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Automation and Personalization Create Success at Scale

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s fundraising event, Bike MS®, is the largest fundraising cycling series in the world. More than 75 rides are held every year, with almost 80,000 participants raising more than $1.3 billion to date to fund research, drive change through advocacy, facilitate professional education and provide programs and services to help people with MS move their lives forward.

Changing their approach to marketing and recognizing the need to improve participant experience and drive revenue, the Society partnered with Salesforce to radically change the way it communicated around its roughly 700 annual events, including Bike MS. In doing so, it created a consistent brand across its programs, but with a personalized constituent experience, enhanced its ability to measure marketing campaign success and benefited from efficiencies at scale.


Automation can still mean personalization

In 2016, the Society marketed events one-by-one with several different marketing plans. At the local level, each team was undertaking its own marketing. Todd Culter, Associate Vice President of Digital Marketing, recalls that this resulted in “40 different ways of doing things.” Branding was non-standardized, marketing plans were inconsistent, and manual processes meant that staff spent excessive amounts of time on campaigns. Culter estimates that the teams might collectively have been spending 20,000 hours creating emails for each of their programs. And while they had anecdotes about how well their campaigns were doing, they were unable to accurately measure campaign success because they didn’t have consistent measuring sticks.

In 2017, the Society put a premium on finding ways to do things more efficiently, ensuring constituents had a consistently higher-quality but personalized engagement experience, and accuracy in measuring campaign success. That’s when they turned to Salesforce, and started exploring how Marketing Cloud, as part of Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud, could help address their needs.

The Society marketing team initially focused on Bike MS because of ample opportunities to automate the email process and improve constituent experience. Using the Data Extension in MC to pull in user data, and Dynamic Content Builder, the now-centralized team of 5 marketing staff was able to segment their audiences and create personalized messages for different groups. Each Bike MS event had a variety of participants: team captains; team members; individual riders; volunteers; and donors. Once these participants had been segmented, the marketing team was able to use automation to quickly send personalized messages that included specific calls to action. Fundraisers who had already crossed a dollar threshold received a different message than those who hadn’t. Volunteers got different emails than supporters. Those who still needed to register were prompted to do so.

The campaign was a huge success. For the 40 Bike MS events on which it ran, the Society saw a 50% increase in efficiency by volume of emails sent, saved around 160 hours in staff time, drove thousands of paid registrations and was able to set a baseline measurement of success for future campaigns, by recording open and click-through rates.

The Society has now rolled out Marketing Cloud to the 700 events it supports around the country. “That’s been a huge win,” says Culter. “We’re able to target specific people because of who they are and create better plans with far fewer hours of production.”

Indeed, the team can now create emails for all programs in under 5,000 hours of time, one-fourth of the time it used to take. As Culter emphasizes, “This is significant when you consider how many resources that is. Not only is it more efficient, but it’s better. We’ve implemented this across all events, in an equal way, that’s engaging for people, so that every event has a consistent experience.”

Becoming a connected nonprofit

On the next step on their Nonprofit Cloud journey, the Society plans to bring on the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). Culter is excited for what is to come. “We know we have the efficiency,” he says, “now we have to pump up our engagement levels… through more dynamic content and greater relevancy.”

The power of Nonprofit Cloud will allow the Society to connect NPSP, CRM and MC together to create triggered sends, increase engagement and better report out on the impact of this. Culter also wants to be able to use predictive intelligence, connecting the Society’s website activities to the data his team has, to better learn about their constituents.

The future is full of opportunity for the National MS Society as it becomes a more connected nonprofit.

More engaged and active constituents enhance the organization’s impact on the lives of people living with MS. And that’s worth getting on your bike for.