case studies, fundraising

Groupon Case Study: Jolkona’s Groupon Experiment

3 Comments 13 September 2011

In early July, I read a blog post about the Northeast Animal Shelter’s successful Groupon G-Team deal, so I was intrigued when I came across a Jolkona tweet later that month promoting its current Groupon deal.

Jolkona ran a Groupon deal as an experiment to try to raise money for a specific campaign using Groupon. Jolkona partnered with the Seattle International Foundation (SIF), which pledged to match every donation, dollar for dollar, up to $25,000. Starting July 26th, Groupon Seattle’s G-Team allowed subscribers to join Jolkona and SIF in making an investment in women’s leadership by pledging support in increments of $10. For each $500 collected, Jolkona would fund one week of training for a woman leader to come to Seattle and participate in a 10-week fellowship program, run by iLEAP: The Center for Critical Service.

“After reading about both Jolkona’s and the Northeast Animal Shelter’s Groupon campaigns, it’s clear that THE critical factor to Groupon success is how well the nonprofit promotes its deal.”

I contacted Laura Kimball, Director of Communications and Social Media at Jolkona, for an interview while the deal was still live. The interview is published below. I also followed-up with Laura after deal expired to find out how successful the experiment was for Jolkona.

1. Why did you decide to run a campaign through Groupon?

For us, the reason to go with this campaign was 1) To try out the G-Team platform; 2) It was relatively “low risk,” meaning that it costs us, the nonprofit, $0 to run the campaign as opposed to business deals (I love the list in Maddie’s blog post; we did a ton of research to look at the risks before signing the contract); and 3) We’re using it to launch a much larger campaign that has a higher price-point and will be promoted from the SIF Women Leaders page on Jolkona’s website.

This campaign with Groupon is not a stand-alone campaign.

2. Did you apply to run your daily deal through Groupon’s G-team application?

I first heard about Groupon’s G-Team campaign at SXSW during a panel that Patty Huber, Groupon’s G-Team Director, was on. They launched the G-Team in Seattle in May and I had been talking with their Seattle G-Team coordinator since April to try to find the ideal campaign that would work with Jolkona and the Groupon platform. They have an application process on their website:

Editor’s background note about the G-Team: The G-Team, serving 39 markets, features campaigns from local non-profit organizations, and all proceeds go directly to the featured cause. Since July 2010, Groupon has run nearly 250 campaigns on the G-Team platform, which has raised more than $300,000 for local organizations nationwide.

3. What are your goals for the campaign? How many deals are you hoping to sell?

Our goal is to sell 500 deals so that with the Seattle International Foundation’s match, we’ll fund one complete 10-week fellowship. As of day 2, we’re holding steady at 245 Groupons sold, so I’m not sure how close we’ll get by the end of the three-day deal.

4. Who do you anticipate buying the deals: returning donors or new donors?

Our original goal was to tap into Groupon Seattle’s list of 700,000 subscribers. But after watching the results of the campaign and how the G-Team campaigns do not receive the same exposure on their site and in the emails as regular deals, I believe it’s going to be people who are already engaged with our organization or our matching partner’s organization.

If you go to the Seattle Groupon site, and scroll all the way down the screen…you’ll see “Today’s Featured Cause” in the very last box at the bottom of the screen. The box is called “More from Groupon.” This placement is bad for the nonprofit, though I understand it may have to do with limitations of Groupon’s technology and platform. When I brought this up with our G-Team coordinator, he said that they’re working on changing this. I also provided feedback to Groupon regarding how disappointed I was that the G-Team campaigns don’t receive better exposure on Groupon’s site, post-campaign.

5. How are you marketing the deal?

Like crazy since Tuesday! We’ve activated our networks and communities by sending out email newsletters, Tweets (which is how you caught wind of it), and Facebook. We’re also working very closely with our matching partners, the Seattle International Foundation and iLEAP, to have a coordinated effort and they’re absolutely incredible with getting the word out about the campaign! (See the Facebook update below, tagging Jolkona’s and iLEAP’s Facebook pages.)

“If we didn’t have relationships with this community already set up, this campaign would not be as successful as it is.”

We also have a very strong community of volunteers at Jolkona and advocates in the community who are very connected in social media and are helping us get the word out via these channels.

6. What is the most effective marketing channel that you’ve found of getting people to purchase a deal? Why do you think that is?

What’s working the best is leveraging the personal connections that our team of volunteers have, our board, advisors, etc. and asking them to help us with this campaign. It’s been incredible to watch all of the excitement for this campaign grow. People want to support you if they care about you first and they see you doing something amazing. Having a matching partner is key — every $10 will be matched, which is a very “easy buy” for people — and our partner is doing an incredible job helping us promote it.

After the campaign: Data and post-campaign analysis

After the Groupon deal expired, Laura kindly sent me all kinds of fabulous statistics about the campaign, including clickthrough rates, demographics, and deal totals.

Groupon clickthrough rates
• 300,000+ Groupon subscribers saw the Jolkona campaign in their daily deals email
• 250 people clicked on the link from the Groupon email
• .08 click-thru (Groupon’s G-team average is .05)

Self-promoting the deal: clickthrough rates driven by Jolkona/SeaIF/iLEAP
• Campaign page was shared over 277 times on Facebook using (short URL)
• Interest and shares: 344 clicks; 66 Tweets; 109 Shares on Facebook, 177 Likes, 29 Comments

Deal success: $5,220 raised
• 269 Groupons purchased, 261 processed (average raised is $1,000)
• $2,610 raised from Groupon + SeaIF match = $5,220 raised in 3 days!

• 99 different people purchased our deal
• Majority purchased on Day 1, between 12pm-11pm PT
• Top cities: San Francisco, Seattle
• Majority of purchasers came from Jolkona, SeaIF, or iLEAP’s existing networks

Note: only four out of the 99 purchasers were not from one of Jolkona’s existing networks

Laura notes: “This Groupon campaign was the kick off to a larger campaign that we’re still fundraising for — and the Seattle International Foundation is still matching any donation made. Even though only four names on the list are unknown to us and our campaign partners, I would say that purchasing the Groupon deal may have been the first time some of the 95 people became a donor.”

“They may have already been our Facebook fans, Twitter followers, or community BFFs, but this was the first time that they made a transaction.”

Laura Kimball is the Director of Communications and Social Media at Jolkona.

Laura is a nonprofit marketer, social media community manager, writer, and all-around content girl. As the Director of Communications & Social Media, she leads the marketing and outreach efforts for Jolkona. When not changing the world, Laura blogs at, lifts heavy things at CrossFit, competes in autocross races around the state, and can always be found on Twitter (@lamiki).

Jolkona means “drop of water” in Bengali, and represents the idea that when it comes to charitable giving, “every drop counts.” Jolkona Foundation makes it easy for individuals to give directly to low-cost, high-impact philanthropic opportunities around the world. They work with carefully chosen partner organizations to create affordable donation options with a measurable impact, and provide proof of impact for every donation.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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