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Amnesty International USA

Finding success with a focused growth strategy and enhanced rapid response

The Challenge

In a year notable for incessant crises, how do you partner with an organization to steadily evolve the fundraising and advocacy program while continuing to meet each moment?

The Insight

Committing to an overarching strategy is essential to making foundational progress — especially when engaging in ongoing rapid response.

The Solution

Build a sophisticated program grounded in audience insights — gleaned from primary research and a sector-leading experimentation agenda — to maximize immediate results and deepen donor loyalty.

Our partnership has led to a 21% increase in revenue year over year (Jan-Aug), 12% increase in gift size, 22% increase in sustainer gifts, and 36 email tests run over 9 months. See how we did it!

After a competitive pitch, Amnesty International USA selected Blue State to be their digital partner, advising on one-time donations and sustainer growth strategy and helping to execute overall supporter engagement. Amnesty was interested in Blue State’s track record of helping large nonprofits raise millions through data-driven decisions and best-in-class creative.        

Together, we developed a strategic roadmap that guides our work, allowing us to incrementally grow the program through prioritized activities over the course of a year:

  • automated supporter journeys
  • robust performance reviews aided by a dashboard that provides real-time insights
  • quarterly content planning and creative ideation
  • rigorous testing across channels, and
  • more intentional experiences for Amnesty members, sustainers, and mid-level donors.

“Blue State has consistently delivered a truthful assessment of our program and a strategic, creative, and realistic approach to growth that can be seen in our numbers. Their expert team of strategists, account managers, writers, analysts, and designers have gone above and beyond as thought partners. We see them as a true extension of Amnesty’s team.”

AIUSA’s Senior Director, Billie Hirsch

Making space for major moments

Amnesty’s work spans a vast set of issue areas, and our first year together saw an explosion of major human rights crises, from the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan to the war in Ukraine, from the gutting of abortion rights to the horrors of gun violence. At the same time, Amnesty came under attack for its principled stands such as their report, “Israel’s Apartheid Against the Palestinians.”

It was a turbulent year, and the program risked being overwhelmed by rapid response. Instead, we stayed true to our strategic plan, steadily operationalizing our recommendations, while intentionally leaving more space and building capacity for rapid response moments. We created an approach that expects the unexpected, balances education with storytelling with urgent updates, and allows Amnesty to spring into action through the development of a customized rapid response checklist

Amnesty’s nimble response reinforces the organization’s position as a human rights thought leader and crisis responder, no matter where human rights are violated. It also has driven significant revenue growth, requiring a more ambitious re-projection.

Swift response to the Taliban takeover.
Sustaining generosity six months after the crisis began.
Hours after the Russian invasion, Amnesty responds.
Building support for Ukraine.

Taking an iterative approach to testing

Amnesty International USA demonstrated what a greater emphasis on an iterative testing approach can achieve. Several months before the organization’s new fiscal year, we collaboratively establish high-level goals, projections, and the direction we want the program to grow. Then each quarter, we identify two to three key objectives that will help reach these goals, and use those objectives to drive our strategies, tactics, and tests. With each test we are intentional about what audience the test is meant to serve, what success will look like, and what our next steps will be depending on whether we reach statistical significance or directional learnings.  

One example: We’ve been working on a “next suggested gift” test in which we employ a dynamic ask string on donation forms based on a donor’s past giving. Initially, the results we saw were mixed. But in taking a closer look at the data, we’ve uncovered where the customized ask amounts were driving down conversion rates in certain specific audience segments. We then revised formulas to locate a sweet spot before end-of-year giving. Customizing ask amounts for each audience segment represents a promising area for long-term growth and impact, and our methodical and nuanced approach kept us on track.

An example of our iterative testing approach in action for AIUSA.

We conducted roughly three dozen tests over the span of nine months, generating insights that are continuing to shape our program – including with which audiences to use supporter records and micro goals, and with which audiences NOT to. We also tested into a specific tone and type of content that is more resonant with mid-level donors. On the advocacy side of things, we tested into specific layouts and calls to action, and honed in on how to move inactive subscribers up the ladder of engagement.

AIUSA abortion protest from SCOTUS steps.
We tested a standard advocacy call to action (sign your name) against a Yes/No question, and found that inactive subscribers were more likely to respond to the simple question.

Expanding the brand landscape

The overarching Amnesty brand is most often recognized for its work on global issues, but Amnesty USA’s domestic work around issues such as the death penalty, abortion, and immigration are central to the organization’s mission. Part of our current and ongoing remit is to help Amnesty find their footing in an environment crowded with experts dedicated to each of these separate domestic issues. 

A survey of Amnesty supporters and members revealed the need for more education on the issues and Amnesty’s role, and we set about creating journeys for individuals who may have engaged with wider international issues to connect them with positive changes and outcomes we’re seeking in issues closer to home.  

AIUSA advocacy appeal on domestic issues. Text reads, "It's up to us to fight for human rights at home. What we need: universal background checks for guns, governors to protect abortion access."
AIUSA expanded their brand landscape by bringing awareness to domestic issues in this call-to-action to their supporters and members.

Leaning into why Amnesty engages on these topics and framing them as human rights issues — e.g. freedom from the fear of gun violence is a human right — is allowing the organization to raise the profile of these challenges with its audiences and increase its real-world impact.

Growing the sustainer file

Beginning in Q4 of 2021, Amnesty’s sustainer program saw unprecedented growth, thanks largely to donation form improvements and strategic conversion during crisis response. Before giving season, Amnesty implemented a nudge on the donation form pointing to a preselected monthly option. The monthly option also includes an animated candle (Amnesty’s logo), and an exclusive match offer for monthly giving. They also implemented a light box that appeared before processing a one-time gift, asking donors to make their gift monthly instead.

Donors are asked to upgrade their gift, driving unprecedented sustainer growth.
Emphasizing monthly gifts without decreasing overall gift conversion. Win-win!

Thanks to these improvements, as well as a more sustainer-forward approach overall, the monthly gift count nearly doubled during year-end fundraising. We’ve seen steady growth each month, with an extra meaningful push from sustainer drives.

Aside from applying insights from performance analytics, we crafted a sustainer survey and dove deep into this cohort’s motivations, demographics, and interests. We incorporated these findings into our sustainer value proposition as well as our ongoing sustainer strategy.

By acknowledging and appreciating these monthly donors year-round, we are strengthening the retention rate – through impactful conditional content as well as automated messages that more intentionally welcome new sustainers, steward existing sustainers, recruit one-time donors, and prevent lapse.


  • 21% increase in revenue year over year (Jan-Aug 2021-22)
  • 12% increase in YOY average one-time gift size
  • 22% annual increase in sustainer gifts
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