Case Studies

The Born Free Foundation – wildlife charity

Enhancing the supporters’ journey at the Born Free Foundation


The Born Free Foundation needed multiple email campaigns which would raise public awareness, build their followers and enhance their supporters’ journey. They started with a custom designed email template from

Born Free FoundationThe Born Free Foundation is one of the world’s most visible and highly respected animal welfare charities. Here’s their story.

Founded by the actors Bill Travers MBE and Virginia McKenna OBE in 1984 (actually from the rescue of an elephant) for many the Born Free name is synonymous with the iconic story of the lioness Elsa and the 1966 film in which the founders starred.

Today the Born Free Foundation is a dynamic international wildlife charity, devoted to compassionate conservation and animal welfare. It’s mission is to take action worldwide to protect threatened species and stop individual animal suffering, giving them lifetime care in a wild natural environment.

It now protects lions, elephants, tigers, gorillas, wolves, polar bears, dolphins, marine turtles and many more species in their natural habitat, working with local communities to help people and wildlife live together without conflict.

Developing their email capability

Funded by donations, memberships, adoptions and corporate sponsors the Born Free Foundation relies on public awareness and support for its existence and success.

As Senior Support Development Coordinator, Matt Smithers is part of the marketing team responsible for coordinating new member acquisition and the development of the supporter journey. This includes promoting the Born Free charity brand, generating new supporters, improving supporter processes and communications, and delivering new initiatives to retain existing supporters. From relatively humble beginnings but with big ambitions,’s email technology has now become a central component in the Foundation’s success.

Matt explains his journey.

“Before using, that is around four years ago, we used Pure 360 to produce a small scale monthly newsletter, but we had limited capability and no real data capture or strategy in place. Working with has allowed us to significantly grow our active subscriber database and to increase our communication output to multiple monthly campaigns.”

Matt’s busy annual e-communication schedule now typically includes 12 monthly newsletters, 6 kids-club newsletters, 3 general and 2 Christmas appeal campaigns and multiple other rescue, adoption and supporter event emails. Matt also uses to manage all of their renewal communications and news and magazines for those who have requested electronic versions.

“With our high levels of output, efficiency and consistency are both important. We started by asking to design a custom email template for our monthly newsletter. This allows us to quickly drag and drop content to build our campaign and with our own uniquely branded layout we are always ensured consistency of design and familiarity for our readers. With this start, our other email templates are now designed in-house using similar styling, and of course all of our campaigns are designed with mobile users in mind.”

A data driven marketing strategy

With a significant and growing subscriber following, data is another key driver for Matt.

“With a number of data capture initiatives in place our subscriber database has grown significantly. We now face new challenges in capturing and understanding our supporters’ journey from casual interest right through to active supporter/donor. We already have substantial databases of adopters, members and donors. Adding more engagement intelligence, for example who’s responded to our campaigns or who’s completed an online purchase, will allow us to utilise this data in our email campaigns and more accurately target our future communications.”

Matt is also in the process of implementing Raiser’s Edge from Blackbaud, a cloud-based fundraising and relationship management system, specifically designed for non-profit organisations. Once more profiling is complete the aim is to use the API to link the systems together.

Matt sums up the benefits that working with has brought to the Born Free Foundation.

“We’ve gone from a very limited capability to a high volume, data driven environment where email is now a central component in our marketing mix. It ideally complements our direct mail, telephone and other channels and has given us proven results. Our recent email pledge campaign to rescue (another) lioness called ‘Elsa’ from an Italian circus raised over £20,000 through direct online donations.“