Salvation Army Helps Tattered Detroit Via Loyalty Site

The Salvation Army’s chapter in Detroit tested the online loyalty site e-Miles during late spring and saw a spike in donations and volunteer numbers for the economy-ravaged city. The chapter plans to run a similar campaign with the site after Labor Day to kick-start its traditional “Red Kettle” push, giving the well-known holidays effort a new online twist.

“[The test] allowed us to showcase ourselves to a new donor base that we had not had access to before,” said Michelle St. Pierre, director of integrated marketing, The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division, Detroit. “These were people who were ready and willing to be engaged with our message.”

At, consumers can accrue frequent flyer points after registering their airline rewards accounts, watching video commercials from start to finish and then answering a group of survey questions about the ads. Once registered, e-Miles sends e-mail messages that alert them to new video advertisements (i.e., opportunities to increase their rewards points). The videos are stacked in sets of four or five, letting viewers choose what ads to watch.

The Salvation Army paid an undisclosed fee when a consumer completed the video and survey. All told, the nonprofit’s pilot entailed two messages delivered via e-mail and also available at the e-Miles URL: the first was a 15-second Flash ad on May 18, followed up by a 30-second video at the end of the month that went to the same list.

The Flash ad consisted of three panels and ended with The Salvation Army’s slogan, “Doing The Most Good.” The video used classic imagery of the uniformed female “Red Kettle” bell-ringer, standing among portrayals of homeless persons and catastrophe victims. The video was created by The Richards Group agency out of Dallas.

Since e-Miles segments its audience according to zip code, St. Pierre said, her organization was able to target 70,000 of the site’s registered members in the Motor City area. She said the test produced a donations conversion rate of 1.15 percent. All told, 9,729 people watched the video and completed the survey. “For all the people who opened and completed the survey, 4,316 said ‘yes,’ that they could help us [as volunteers],” she said.

The results were encouraging, St. Pierre said, especially considering Detroit’s unemployment is above 25 percent. “We are a crippled city right now,” she said. “Working with e-Miles, where people were [incentivized] to view our message, was invaluable to us. It also showed how generous the people of Detroit can be even in the toughest of times.”

Hal Brierley, CEO for the three-year-old e-Miles, said his site has one-and-a-half million registrants and has orchestrated about 1,500 campaigns in the last two years.

After Labor Day, St. Pierre said The Salvation Army will send a message via e-Miles that will not only aim to get potential volunteers/donors into action for the holidays in the Detroit area, but also encourage people to add a “Red Kettle” application to their Facebook pages.

Perhaps most importantly, e-Miles allows The Salvation Army in Detroit to accept donations without leaving the loyalty site, she said. While the organization has accepted donations online for years, St. Pierre said, the loyalty site gives the well-known Salvation Army logo and the “Red Kettle” image a fresh place to make their marks.

“And we don’t have to stand outside in the freezing cold,” she said.

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