Green­peace India: SMS lead generation

Exhibited by
Janice Steele, The Resource Alliance
September 11, 2009
Medium of Communication
Face to face, telephone.
Target Audience
Individuals, regular gift.
Type of Charity
Environmental/ animals.
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

Face-to-face fundraising everywhere faces the same problems of high cancellation rates and low retention. This innovative, adventurous approach to pre-qualifying leads for F2F is particularly interesting in that it was first developed and tested in India.

Creator / originator

Summary / objectives

The SMS lead generation campaign is a filter mechanism designed to source ‘warm prospects’. An SMS text message was sent to 56,137 people, all qualified as potential warm prospects with an interest in environmental issues. It said “Hi, don’t you wish your city was cleaner ‘n’ greener? Begin by planting a free sapling offered by Greenpeace.

Reply GREEN to 6363 to get your free sapling. Sender Greenpeace’.
The text message was sent to the mobile phones of prospects in and around the region of Bangalore and Pune. The offer to receive a free sapling fitted well with Greenpeace’s objective to improve the environment and it allowed recipients to feel they are actively involved in combating the problem. Take up was much higher than expected.


The objective of the campaign was to increase productivity from Greenpeace’s recruiters (paid fundraisers) and thus increase financial support to the organisation. Before the SMS lead generation campaign, GPI used a simple direct dialogue (face to face) method of fundraising that involved stopping people in the street and requesting their time to present the aims of the organisation with the goal of recruiting them as a financial supporter. Using this method only 17% of people approached agreed to listen to the presentation, and of these people only 10% would then go on to sign up as financial supporters. The average productivity of each recruiter was 0.45 sign ups per day. Those requesting saplings were personally visited by a recruiter and asked to make a donation. So far it has been possible to make three such visits per day, with a conversion rate above 25 per cent.

Special characteristics

Using the offer of a sapling to generate “warm leads” fitted well with Greenpeace’s personality and status of being environmentally friendly. It was Greenpeace’s first use of SMS to offer an incentive to meet (ie, the sapling)

Influence / impact

Will be tested in other Greenpeace markets outside India.


Many responders turned into donors at a cost that compares very favourably to other recruitment methods. Greenpeace will continue to test different methods of finding prospects for face-to-face fundraising.


INR 1,200 per supporter (approx US$30). Initial income generated is double this.


This approach significantly increased the return on investment and introduced new donors at a high (25 per cent) conversion rate. It exceeded all expectations in terms of responses to the SMS, doubled the productivity of recruiters and increased the number of financial supporters recruited. Though Greenpeace is still seeking a more effective system to reduce travel time so that recruiters can approach more people each day. Greenpeace also found from this test that it is vital to respond quickly to interest – within two days or interest will be lost.


This is a very innovative approach, particularly in India. It is a good use of technology too.

Other relevant information

Constantly seeking diversification and innovation Greenpeace India will now go on to refine its methods in the belief that it can significantly increase the number of prospect visits per day.

Final notes

Editor’s note:
In response to the development of the ‘prospecting’ process, which is, effectively, a new fundraising technique, the UK’s Institute of Fundraising is looking to revise its face-to-face fundraising code of fundraising practice to incorporate the evolving practice of ‘prospecting’.
‘Prospecting’ as they define it is where fundraisers’ initial contact with a prospective donor is not in the form of a ‘direct ask’, and a request for a donation by telephone or email is made with the member of the public at a later stage.

As a new and evolving fundraising technique, ’prospecting’ is not presently covered within the scope of the the Institute’s face-to-face fundraising code which sets out best practice for both on the street and house-to-house fundraising (
The Institute considers that practitioners of the ‘two-step’ fundraising technique of ‘prospecting’ need to adhere to the same standards of practice as those making a direct ask of a member of the public on the street. So IoF is looking to set up a new working party to ensure regulation of this new fundraising technique.

India's other known use of SMS texting isn't quite ready to go on SOFII yet, but it soon will be.