Formerly known as the American Field Service, AFS is a 501(c)(3) and a leader in intercultural learning. The organization offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world and celebrated its centennial in 1915.

The Challenge

AFS is always looking to increase the digital recruitment of students and families participating in exchange programs. Throughout its decades of operation, AFS is also continually exploring new approaches to marketing and came to Whole Whale to better leverage its web data in order to improve existing campaigns and strengthen an overall digital marketing strategy.

What we did

Since 2014, Whole Whale has closely worked with the AFS digital team towards amplifying AFS’s reach on multiple platforms and improving recruitment. With regular analytics reporting, training on best practices in digital advertising and social media, and SEO strategy, Whole Whale is helping AFS become a leader in the study abroad space.

Google Adwords Grant

By expanding on study abroad-related themes and rerouting landing pages, Whole Whale tripled the Adwords Grant spend within the first two months. Within six months, the account was optimized enough to qualify for GrantsPro, which means $40,000/month in free advertising.

AFS USA Adwords Growth

Google Analytics and Impact Mapping

With a national base of dedicated volunteers who are largely responsible for recruiting host families, AFS needed a strategy for maintaining consistent messaging across regions, monitoring performance, and creating feedback loops.

Whole Whale built out custom regional analytics dashboards that automate to the volunteer teams so they could see the impact of their social media work. A new monthly Drumbeat email also ensures that volunteers are promoting top priority content while also opening the lines of communication between the national office and regional volunteers.

Digital Marketing Strategy

Over the years we’ve been able to collect substantial data about how the AFS community uses their website. Whole Whale dove deep into Google Analytics for insights that inform marketing strategy — including the most effective landing pages and ways to promote certain sections of the website. We also looked back at the performance of past digital ads to craft a digital advertising strategy around recruiting more host families for the program. Whole Whale was also able to develop an SMS engagement strategy that allowed the AFS recruitment team to study the efficacy of text messaging as a means of student recruitment



“We couldn’t ask for a better partner than Whole Whale. Since we began working with them in the fall of the 2014, our SEO rankings have soared, user engagement and conversion have greatly improved, and we can now boast nearly half a million dollars annually in free Google AdWords. They are always one step ahead on projects ranging from regularly maintenance of our keyword strategy to deep dives into social media activity, website optimization, email marketing, and online contests. After working closely with them to pull off a successful overhaul of our website, it has become clear that they not only are experts in data and technology, but are also deeply committed to helping nonprofits like ours further our mission and create positive change in the world.”

– Eva Crawford, Director of Marketing, AFS USA (July 2015)

Services Provided: