Green­peace USA newslet­ter: the origa­mi whale

Exhibited by
Matthew Sherrington
February 26, 2010
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Awareness, regular gift, single gift.
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

Opportunities for donors to actively participate in something appropriate usually pay off. Once you’ve realised this, then the idea of asking donors to construct an origami whale is inspired, but really very simple. And as always, the simple ideas show that they work best with donors

Summary / objectives

We at Greenpeace USA wanted to use our newsletter to deepen supporter engagement. We wanted to make it more personal and to offer our traditional donors, who gave through direct mail, the opportunity to participate in our campaigns. We also wanted to do better at raising spontaneous donations.

Influence / impact

This was part of our desire to reach out to supporters, engage with them, and help them feel they were part of the campaigning mission – make being part of the Greenpeace movement real.


To re-develop the newsletter, we tested the changes. Firstly, by enclosing the cover letter and reply envelope we increased spontaneous donations. Secondly, by adding a campaign action we engaged even more people and further increased spontaneous donations.


  1. Response rates were three to four times higher than special appeals, confirming supporters’ interest in getting involved. Feedback included ‘thank you for getting the petition to me and not asking for money!’
  2. We took the time to record all the off-line non-financial actions supporters did. Over a 12-month period, 20 per cent of our direct mail supporters also responded to a non-financial request to take part in a campaign action (not counting any on-line activity).
  3. As a result of our emphasis on supporter engagement, we increased e-mail penetration from four per cent to 30 per cent of donors and member renewal rates for some supporter segments increased by up to 40 per cent.


It’s an example of transforming the humble newsletter, with new energy and purpose, to deliver a real involving experience to supporters. Not just petitions in appeals commonly used to lift response – but asking supporters specifically, and only, to participate in a campaign action.

It was highly supporter focused. The format and content reflected the level of information supporters said they wanted. The covering letter introduced a more personal contact with a named staff member. And because there was never a direct financial ask, it was obvious to supporters that the campaign action was authentic and not a trick to prompt donations.

Mal Warwick highlighted the newsletter in his Jan 2007 e-newsletter as an example of innovative practice. Have a look at it, here.