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Case Study

How Best Buddies International increased donations by 500%

Best Buddies logo with friends together


To connect with communities when and where it matters most, while raising money for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), Best Buddies was in need of a reliable, customizable, and low-cost channel to boost engagement, grow their community, and quickly hit fundraising goals.

Having previously relied on email and social media to communicate with community members and potential donors, Whispir SMS enabled Best Buddies to leverage multiple new opportunities for engagement, including rich messaging, dynamic distribution lists, real-time donation requests, segmented messaging with incentives, and more.

See how Whispir SMS helped Best Buddies exceed their goals and create a better experience for their audience.

Better communication is better for everyone

  • 000%

    increase in donations to Best Buddies with Whispir SMS

  • 00%

    text message open rates for potential donors

  • 00%

    increase in year-to-year revenue equaling $4.68M

The challenges

Best Buddies was in search of a better way to reach and incentivize potential donors and meet their aggressive fundraising goals, and keep their community engaged and informed.

  • Lack of channels

    Best Buddies had previously relied on email messaging, which saw very low open rates and did not create the sense of urgency and personalization that they needed.

  • Speed of engagement

    Best Buddies needed a quick method for reaching last-minute fundraising goals while also allowing them to personalize messages based on previous contact data.

  • One centralized platform

    Best Buddies leadership needed an efficient way to support regional charity walks from their headquarters – without being on-location for each event. 

  • No customization

    Best Buddies wasn’t able to send customized messaging (i.e., from the CEO, local celebrities, etc.) that would resonate with potential donors due to the limitations of email and CTRs.

The solutions

Best Buddies chose Whispir based on the platform’s ability to better communicate with their audience and confirm that recipients were receiving their messages.

  • Proven Click Through and Open Rates

    Proven click-through and open rates

    Before Whispir, Best Buddies was only able to see deliverability rates, with no way to track physical open rates and click-through rates (CTR). With Whispir’s SMS and smart reporting, Best Buddies is seeing a 6-10% CTR, as opposed to the 1.4- to 1.8% CTR found via traditional email sends. 

    When it comes to open rates, Best Buddies’ SMS is seeing above industry averages of 90- to 92%. Plus, when part of larger sends of 44,000 - 85,000+ recipients, Best Buddies is seeing CTR rates reach 10%

  • Personalized SMS

    Personalized SMS

    Best Buddies needed a way to keep SMS personalized while sending in bulk. With Whispir, they’re able to craft meaningful messaging en masse that speaks directly to each individual recipient and garners higher response rates. How? By automatically leveraging contact details such as name, locale, what Friendship Walk the recipient is attending, and much more.

    Plus, Best Buddies can send rich messages that are tailored to their recipient's needs. These SMS messages include a personalized link that takes community members to a unique microsite containing information on local Friendship Walks, event information, fundraising incentives, sign-up pages, on-demand access to the latest promotional videos, interactive event maps, and more. 

  • Group of friends taking a break while hiking

    Low-cost communications

    To date, Whispir SMS only accounts for .3% of Best Buddies’ fundraising total. This allows Best Buddies to send bulk text messaging and meet its goals quicker and easier than ever. This level of ROI has regional walk organizers requesting to throw their funds into text messaging rather than digital marketing.

  • Family posing for picture by the ocean

    High volume capabilities

    To overcome low open rates and the limitations of email outreach, over the course of four months Best Buddies as an organization was able to send 481,349 text messages via the Whispir platform. Averaging about 100,000 bulk SMS sends per month, this allows Best Buddies to send personalized communications en masse in order to hit aggressive fundraising goals.

  • Type message here notification

    Engagement opportunities

    Best Buddies’ fundraising teams love the immediacy of SMS, as it allows the organizers to hold last-minute fundraising pushes and leverage engaging sponsorship opportunities. This includes asking potential donors to reach a certain threshold that will be matched by a particular last-second sponsor – a message they can craft and send out instantly to their contact lists.

  • Text message of an event

    Omnichannel reach

    By adding SMS to their communication’s mix, Best Buddies found a working formula where they utilize social, email, and text just two weeks before the big fundraising event, and without a huge amount of effort, they’re able to hit their fundraising goal. Plus, as SMS reaches audiences quicker and has higher open rates, Best Buddies has also used Whispir to alert Friendship Walk participants of inclement weather so they’re able to reschedule on the fly.

The results

  1. Donations Icon

    Increase in donations

    After raising $3.6 million in 2021, Best Buddies raised $4.68 million by June of 2022, which is an increase of 30% year over year in revenue. In one instance, Best Buddies sent a text message on behalf of a local celebrity, and this helped them raise more than $2,400 in a 4-6 hour period as opposed to the typical $300-400 in the same amount of time. 

  2. Fundraising Icon

    Additional fundraising efforts

    To raise additional funds and boost attendance, Best Buddies was able to send messages to the parents of the children that had registered for one of their walks. The messaging could be customized for different events, asking parents to pledge on behalf of their child and join in on the Friendship Walk, including a link to the donation page within the texts themselves.

  3. Blue customer engagement group of people icon

    More employee engagement

    Thanks to the significant year-over-year ROI that Best Buddies is seeing with Whispir SMS, local walk organizers are requesting the use of more and more text message marketing – choosing to divert funds from traditional digital marketing to SMS. This means employees are seeing positive ROI for their efforts and more engagement from contacts.

  4. Omnichannel Icon

    Omnichannel reach

    Best Buddies knew their engagement rates on email and social media wouldn't change unless they adopted a more modern approach to communications. With the ability to engage potential donors via email, social, and SMS, they could reach more people and garner higher click-through rates by ensuring messages were being seen on more channels.

  5. Insights Icon

    Real-time insights

    Timely SMS sends often help Best Buddies reach a fundraising goal, but before Whispir, there was no way to see what types of engagement worked, including time of day, day of the week, or audience type. With Whispir, the team can see open rates, track emails, and see the true value of their efforts. 

Ready to amplify your impact? Get in touch.

With Whispir SMS, we’ve been able to raise 30% more donations in half the time with 95% engagement rates and 10% click-through rates. We’re able to craft personalized communications that truly connect with our community members and drive impact around the globe.”
- Stuart Kaul, Senior Director of National Friendship Walks, State Operations & Programs
Best Buddies Logo

About Best Buddies

Best Buddies is an international nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that hosts more than 65 walks across the US, including their premiere charity walk – the Best Buddies Friendship Walk. Best Buddies has raised millions of dollars for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Just a little bit of information to get the conversation started.