Protecting fragile species through improved conservation funding

World Wildlife Fund uses analytics and data management from SAS to help maximize donations that build a future where people live in harmony with nature.

At first, it looks rather ordinary. A newborn dolphin swims with its mother in Cambodia’s Mekong River. But this was a huge moment for conservationists monitoring the area. This was a baby Irrawaddy dolphin located in a pool that is home to around 20 of the last 80 remaining Irrawaddy river dolphins in Cambodia. This birth is a sign of hope as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) works closely with local communities and the Cambodian government to protect these beloved icons of the Mekong. 

For World Wildlife Fund, this is what its more than 1 million members and millions of advocates fight for – to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on earth.

We can raise the same amount of money with much less expense. That means WWF and its members are more efficiently  helping to protect the planet.

Mac Mirabile
Director of Strategic and Financial Analysis

Optimizing contributions

WWF helps achieve its mission through the financial support of passionate members and supporters who want to make a difference. WWF continually seeks to find new donors – and retain existing ones – to help achieve conservation impact at an even greater scale. By using SAS® Analytics and SAS Data Management to maximize marketing efforts, the US office of WWF has significantly increased its revenue from donations while reducing acquisition costs. That means more funding to protect the planet.

“Donations are a key driver of WWF’s conservation efforts,” says Mac Mirabile, Director of Strategic and Financial Analysis for WWF. “Fundraising can be challenging, and that’s where SAS truly makes a difference.”

SAS Analytics allows the organization to pinpoint the contact method – such as a catalog mailer, phone call or email – that resonates with each donor. And it’s more than knowing the best channel; WWF also uses SAS to determine the ideal frequency, content and theme to use for each donor.

“SAS allows us to customize and communicate with all of our supporters in an individualized manner,” Mirabile says. “We are able to examine a supporter’s donation history, demographics and interests, and how they have responded to prior fundraising activities. Then, we put together a strategy for each person using an automated process that optimizes the support we anticipate in the long-term at an efficient cost.”

Previously, WWF relied on standard recency, frequency and monetary (RFM) methodologies implemented by an outside consulting firm to group supporters into segments. Marketers then directed campaigns to those donors based on the expected responses from those segments. Now, SAS allows WWF to thoroughly test each campaign.

For direct mail, WWF now knows that some donors like to be contacted monthly, while others like to be mailed quarterly or during a specific month of the year. Through more thoughtful, targeted mailings, created through advanced SAS modeling, WWF improved revenue for multiple campaigns by 25 percent.


Spending less to achieve more

Based on its analysis, WWF dramatically changed the way it communicates with its donors. Some people who were receiving multiple mailings in a given time period  now receive only one. Similarly, some previous members who had not been receiving any communications are now more engaged financial supporters.

“Now we have a better understanding of who responds well to a printed catalog and who prefers to receive a series of emails over a period of three months,” Mirabile says. “Using the revised models in 2015 alone increased WWF’s net income while mailing 500,000 fewer pieces of mail.”

WWF has also found some simple cost savings, using SAS Data Quality capabilities to reduce duplicate mailings and save on the printing and postage fees.  And as people connect with WWF across different channels – from the website to postal mail – SAS standardizes data against existing accounts to match supporters and optimize the overall database.

“Overall, we’ve found that by communicating with our members individually, understanding the cost structure and making sure we optimize all of our marketing efforts, we can raise the same amount of money for our conservation mission with much less expense,” Mirabile concludes. “That means WWF and its members are more efficiently helping to protect the planet.”

World Wildlife Federation Logo


  • Re-engage existing donors.
  • Attract and retain new donors.
  • Contact members with the right marketing to maximize contributions while minimizing costs.



  • Improved donations for individual mailings by 25 percent by optimizing individual campaigns.
  • Increased net income while mailing 500,000 fewer pieces of mail.
  • Reduced duplicate mailings for significant savings.
  • Saved significant annual fees by no longer needing the services of an external consulting firm.
The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.