Website: https://www.barrierreef.org/ and https://www.greatbarrierreefusa.org/

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is an Australian nonprofit organization established to help protect and preserve the Great Barrier Reef. The Foundation is solving the most complex problems facing the survival of the Reef’s living diversity by funding projects that pioneer new technologies to restore, rebuild and better understand the Reef.

The Opportunity

We worked closely with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation team over the course of an 8-month project to help inspire and motivate new supporters in the United States to build the foundation for a sustainable US fundraising strategy to help save the Reef. 

Services Provided:

  • Analytics & Insights
  • Email Marketing
  • Fundraising
  • Digital Advertising
  • Website Support
  • Campaign Strategy
  • Training & Capacity-Building


  • Captured over 11,600 leads with an average CPA of $1.79 USD ($2.44AUD)
  • Acquired 350+ new US donors with 40+ recurring givers
  • Decreased donor cost-per-acquisition (CPA) by 39% over 5 months 
  • Increased email conversion rates by 867% over 4 months

What We Did

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Whole Whale worked together from November 2020 – June 2021 to configure digital online fundraising mechanisms and test initial strategies for US audience growth and donor acquisition. Whole Whale crafted an omnichannel strategic fundraising plan to achieve GBRF’s goals that included paid advertising, email marketing, landing page optimization, and SEO/content recommendations. 

Reaching new online leads and donors through Facebook digital advertising

Whole Whale developed a campaign plan to build the foundation of digital supporters in the US and created a digital fundraising campaign 2021 roadmap for GBRF to continue to grow its US donor base. We looked to coordinate our US fundraising efforts alongside general GBRF marketing opportunities and project updates. Our strategy included a combination of lead generation and direct appeal paid advertising campaigns that deployed prospecting and remarketing tactics to grow and convert the GRBF donors in the US. We hit the ground running within the first month of our project to capitalize on an initial end of year giving test campaign in 2020, then focused direct fundraising campaigns around timely dates related to the mission of GBRF (e.g. World Turtle Day, etc.)  to capitalize on seasonal marketing opportunities and drive donations while building GBRF visibility in the US market. We ran a series of test campaigns experimenting with different types of audience targeting, such as interest-based vs. lookalike audiences, to breach the US market and establish CPA benchmarks by audience type for acquiring new supporters. 

Acknowledging the importance of upholding the scientific and impact-focused brand identity of GBRF AUS, we focused our creative strategy around the central idea that GBRF US is serious about the threats facing the Reef but hopeful for the Reef’s future because of scientific research and subsequent impact.

  • Captured over 11,600 leads with an average CPA of $1.79 USD ($2.44AUD)
  • Entered a brand new US market to acquire over 350 new donors with over 40 recurring givers
  • Decreased donor CPA by 39% over five months 
  • Established benchmarks for acquiring new US supporters to inform future online fundraising efforts, including average CTR, CPC, CPA, and ROAS 

Capturing and nurturing email subscribers with email marketing automation

Whole Whale worked with the GBRF team to adapt and optimize existing GBRF AUS email content for US audiences to introduce new subscribers to the organization and grow relationships. In addition to providing content optimizations for Welcome Series content, we developed content recommendations around project updates and timely world events intended to nurture supporters into donors. Using Zapier, we configured an integration between Facebook and Mailchimp to trigger automated communications during lead generation campaigns and created a system using tags to track lead quality by audience type over time. 

  • Increased email conversion rates 8X over 4 month period
  • Developed a donor segmentation system using groups and tags to identify leads, donors, and recurring donors by audience type and/or age cohort 
  • Established benchmarks for US supporter email performance including average open rate (OR) and click-through rate (CTR) 

Landing Page Optimization

Whole Whale worked with GBRF to test website creative and copy using Give Lively donation pages as the primary landing pages for US lead generation and fundraising campaigns. Our testing included timely copy variations to emphasize urgency, higher suggested dollar amounts, and different forms of media (videos, static images). 

  • Increased average gift amount by 75% over three months 
  • Established benchmarks for landing page conversion

Reporting on Success

At the start of the project, Whole Whale audited GBRF’s web analytics to identify critical areas for improvement and train the team on data best practices. We linked Google Analytics with donation data so the client could see exactly which traffic channels and marketing communications were responsible for online gifts. 

We also offered drumbeat technical advisory throughout the project as GBRF established its US-based digital fundraising infrastructure, including cost-effective resource-limited recommendations and feedback on systems, platforms, payment gateways, integrations, and tech solutions as required. 

To help the GBRF team monitor campaign performance, we also created two dashboards using Google Data Studio that aggregated data from Facebook and Google resulting in streamlined reporting and improved efficiency.  The GBRF team was able to visit one platform for results instead of multiple, as well as download these branded reports to communicate progress with key stakeholders. Both dashboards were designed to scale over time and automatically import data with the creation of new campaigns.

  • Built Data Studio dashboards that included campaign-specific data to improve analytics capacity and streamline reporting on success to key stakeholders

From the Team

‘Whole Whale is an incredible team that works in a professional, organized manner to ensure everyone’s contribution is meaningful to achieve our objectives. They bring an appetite for learning and success and are nimble in their approach to ensure momentum isn’t lost mid-campaign when optimizing. Our team has learned so much and can now apply their knowledge across our campaigns. We started with a very little framework to support and measure lead gen and one-off gifts and we are now in a position to confidently grow these channels with the right metrics and insights.”

–  Katrina Garvin
Direct Marketing Manager, Great Barrier Reef Foundation

Services Provided: