The Impact of Making an Impact: How the American Cancer Society Uses Personalized Push Notifications to Drive Engagement

Emoji-filled, mission-aligned messages boost fundraising efforts by showing participants the impact of their contribution.

Imagine a world free of the pain and suffering of cancer. That’s an ambitious and life-affirming goal, to be sure. Yet it’s been the guiding mission of the American Cancer Society (ACS) ever since it was founded back in 1913. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, ACS has grown to become one of the world’s largest and most respected health organizations.

Through support for cancer research funding, access to healthcare, cancer prevention, and prescription drug affordability, ACS volunteers have helped save millions of lives and enabled numerous research breakthroughs in the fight against cancer. With teams in 400 communities across all 50 U.S. states, ACS turns volunteers’ passion into meaningful, impactful action.

Building on this passion to drive additional fundraising is an ongoing initiative for ACS. And it’s one reason the organization sought to tap into the power of targeted messaging.

ACS goal: Improve fundraising by strengthening educational and emotional connections

ACS raises funds in several ways, but its most successful fundraising event is its annual Relay for Life. Since 1985, this event has brought in over $5 billion to ACS. Proceeds go toward improving cancer survival, decreasing the incidence of cancer, and enhancing the quality of life for cancer patients and their caregivers.

ACS was looking for new and engaging ways to tie its mission and its impact into Relay for Life events. By educating participants and investors alike about Relay for Life and creating a deeper connection with them, ACS sought to boost awareness—and funding.

ACS strategy: Remind Relay for Life participants that their fundraising efforts make a difference

ACS used iOS and Android mobile app push notifications, powered by Braze, to share impactful content around Relay for Life events. These messages were filled with emojis to encourage engagement.

One of ACS’s strategies was to identify key moments and messages for their audience. One of those moments was National Cancer Survivors Day during which ACS sent messages thanking participants and showing them how the money they raised went directly to fighting cancer. Similarly, four days before Relay for Life events, participants received messages that explained how their contributions helped fund a 24-hour cancer helpline.

ACS’s targeted messaging took full advantage of audience segmentation and personalization. In one instance, when participants raised over $100, that action triggered a push notification showing how this money paid for one night in a Hope Lodge for a patient who needed care.

ACS also segmented the audience by OS platform, writing shorter messages that were optimized for display on Android and longer ones for iOS. Other messages dynamically displayed the amount of money each participant had raised and featured their first name to increase the number of messages opened and inspire additional donations.

ACS results: More donations for organizations and greater empowerment for participants

Switching to more mission-aligned, personalized, timely messages paid off big-time for ACS. Tens of thousands of additional dollars of in-app funds were raised—an estimated 34% increase. Overall, 50% of recipients started a session within three days, and new messages were opened at a rate of 30%.

What marketers can learn from ACS

Perhaps the biggest lesson learned from the ACS campaign is the power of personalization. ACS gained more and larger donations through targeted push notifications. When the messages explained how participants’ fundraising efforts were helping people with cancer everywhere and described exactly where this money was going to fight cancer, more funds flowed in.