May 31 · 4 min read

It’s a well-known fact that cats invented the internet. You knew that, right? That’s why earlier this year at the FIA (Fundraising Institute of Australia) Annual Conference in Melbourne, Australia, Kristy Blake (RSPCA NSW) and I explored the phenomenon of cats on the web and posed the question: What can we learn from this internet sensation to apply to our own digital strategies and fundraising programmes?

Images and videos of domestic cats make up some of the most viewed digital content today. Cat Videos, Famous multimillionaire Cats and LolCat Memes are viewed millions of time every day. Cats are the “unofficial mascot of the Internet”.

Some individual cats, such as Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub, have achieved celebrity popularity and bank accounts to match, Grumpy Cat is thought to be worth over US$100million alone. And at this point we have to pause to say RIP Grumpy Cat, who passed away recently. ☹

So, what can fundraisers learn from cats? As a starting point, unsurprisingly, we took a cause that works with cats and showcased 2 projects from RSPCA NSW: Top Cat and Cat Behaviour. Both campaigns, proudly produced by DTV, utilise the power of film and best practice digital storytelling to tap into the hearts of the target audience, cat lovers.

RSPCA NSW Australia — Top Cat — Digital
RSPCA NSW Australia — Value Exchange — Guide to cat behaviour

Both campaigns get into the headspace of their target audience by using fun and emotive cat stories. And that’s clearly a golden rule not just of digital but of all great fundraising: start where your audience is, not where you want them to be.

The messaging is kept simple, and it can take real discipline to do this. The campaigns are highly targeted and do not make the mistake of trying to please everyone: we are talking directly to the heart of cat lovers only here. And by doing so, the RSPCA NSW connected with its tribe.

The Cat Behaviour campaign not only spoke directly to Cat Lovers, but provided them with a valuable Guide to better understand their ‘best friend’ behaviours. A lesson here is ‘ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for them!’

Testing enabled us to find the sweet spot of creative and audiences to drive a highly efficient campaign which has been a great conversion success and has delivered over 1,000 new Regular Givers in just 12 short weeks and continues to deliver outstanding results month on month.

Here are our top Cat Tips

#1 Keep it simple — who is your cause’s hero, make it about them and the audience; think individual stories not huge statistics and groups

#2 Use the power of film — social is driven by video: by 2020 it’s estimated that 82% of consumer internet traffic will be composed of video content.

#3 Apply best practice digital storytelling principals — attention spans are mercilessly short; offer no opportunity for your viewers to click away.

#4 Illicit an emotional response — get the oxytocin flowing; you need to distilled essence of great fundraising — the transactions you want are emotional not just financial.

#5 Find your tribe — targeting is key; messaging that merely ticks boxes is not enough; it must be irresistible.

#6 Test test test — continuously try and beat your best performing digital appeals. Don’t forget direct marketing best practice just because you are in a new environment.

#7 Get the conversion journey in place and ready to go — ensure no warm lead is left on the table.

#8 Find good partners — DTV and RSPCA NSW have worked together for many years and share a huge passion for great direct response film campaigns and of course Cats (and Dogs).

And, of course the main take out from the session, is you don’t need cats to ensure great digital film fundraising success., By applying the same best practice principals and finding your own hero, you can utilise film to drive success.

Finally, if you want a little more catspiration take a look at this :-):


Nicola Long is a seasoned direct response and digital fundraiser. Nicola heads up DTV in Australia and New Zealand, working with many great causes to grow regular giving through innovative DRTV and digital film campaigns. She spends her spare time searching the web for the ultimate funniest cat videos.


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We use DRTV and Film to inspire people to take action for wonderful causes throughout the world.

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