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How Surfers against Sewage revolutionized community fundraising with their first ever Facebook Challenge

United Kingdom
Solutions used:
Facebook Challenges
Group Engagement

Surfers Against Sewage revolutionized their community fundraising with their first ever Facebook Challenge; Dip a Day in October. But how did they do it?

We spoke with Sophie Brandon, the nonprofit’s Community Fundraising Officer, to find out how they encouraged supporters to raise over £162,000 and why she commented, “we’re so delighted with how successful our first Facebook Fundraiser was.”

Set the scene

Who is Surfers Against Sewage?

Surfers Against Sewage is a national marine conservation and campaigning charity that inspires, unites, and empowers communities to take action to protect oceans, beaches, waves, and wildlife. As part of their work, they: 

  • Create volunteering opportunities for individuals and communities to be involved with activities to safeguard our seas, coastlines, and beaches.
  • Talk to the government on key issues affecting oceans, beaches, and recreational water users.
  • Educate communities on achievable, sustainable solutions, which can help protect our waves, oceans, and beaches.
  • Challenge industry to adopt better standards to protect our coastal environment.
  • Promote scientific, economic, and health evidence to support calls for a cleaner and safer marine environment.
  • Engage the general public on issues affecting UK waves, oceans, and beaches, and those that use them.

Prior to joining GivePanel, community fundraising was an area of Surfers Against Sewage’s portfolio that hadn’t yet been fully invested in despite numerous testing on various events. 

With a steady income from organic birthday fundraisers, the team researched the impact of Facebook fundraising and saw that Facebook Challenges was the natural next step in their testing. 

Following thorough planning, Surfers Against Sewage launched Dip a Day in October to help tackle the issue of water companies discharging raw sewage into rivers and seas.

What people are saying
I think the main thing for us was that it revolutionized community fundraising within the organization, where that hasn't been achieved so far, in terms of developing a proactive income stream. It's changed organizational perceptions around community fundraising, the value of it as a role, and the value of community fundraisers and what our programmes can bring to the organization.
- Sophie Brandon
The challenge

Dip a Day in October

A Facebook Challenge is a virtual event that runs solely on Facebook and leverages the power of social networking through ads, groups, and fundraisers. This means: 

  • Lower acquisition costs
  • More fundraisers
  • And a chance to meet supporters where they already are!

Dip a Day in October was Surfers Against Sewage’s first ever Facebook Challenge and due to careful planning and a focus on group engagement, the results were better than the team ever expected. 

Here are five things that made their Challenge stand out from the crowd:

  1. Brand – the team was keen to remain true to their brand identity throughout Dip a Day in October and so they used their own photography for promotion. 
  2. Incentive – Surfers Against Sewage offered a branded swim cap alongside a daily tracker which documented how the activity made the supporter feel each day. This not only made the incentive relevant to the Challenge, but it also spoke of the well-being benefits that cold water swimming offers.
  3. Team resource – internally, the Challenge was managed by a project director, project manager, and project support. Fulfillment was done in-house initially however when the Challenge grew in numbers, the team reassessed the support required. Their ability to adapt to the situation meant they were able to keep supporters engaged and ensure incentives were fulfilled.
  4. Fundraising asks – Surfers Against Sewage found naturally fitting cases for support to use to highlight the need for fundraising during the Challenge, such as their pollution alert app. This shows areas affected by sewage, so it was a great opportunity to align the impact of the problem on supporters’ personal lives whilst highlighting that the app is just one of the things their funds are supporting to combat the sewage pollution problem.
  5. Communication channels – the team incorporated both a robust organic social media comms plan and GivePanel’s email journeys to support the promotion of their Facebook Challenge and encourage supporters to create fundraisers and be active in the Facebook Group.
The GivePanel difference

Meeting supporters where they are

Surfers Against Sewage joined GivePanel with the sole purpose of growing their community fundraising and running a Facebook Challenge. Throughout Dip a Day in October, the team used the GivePanel app to help manage mass data and did daily checks of their Event dashboard to keep track of their progress. 

Surfers Against Sewage also chose to only fulfill Active Fundraisers which meant only sending an incentive when someone had received 1 or more donations on their Facebook fundraiser. This required the capacity to bulk upload labels in order to efficiently track who had been sent an incentive which the GivePanel Support team was able to assist with.

Contact with the GivePanel team was another benefit to Surfers Against Sewage in the management of their Facebook Challenge as Sophie said, “It’s really handy to have the contact with GivePanel as well, and the support team like product staff.” 

When asked if she would recommend GivePanel to other nonprofits, the answer was a resounding yes!

Photo of women standing in the sea. One woman is facing the camera, smiling. They are all wearing light blue swim caps which have Surfers Against Sewage's logo on the side. It is misty and the water is cloudy.
Photo of eight women in the sea with the water up to their shoulders. They all have their arms raised in the air and are smiling at the camera. They all wear light blue swim caps with Surfers Against Sewage's logo on the side. Above them is a text overlay of Dip a Day in October with a wave design running underneath.
Screenshot of a Facebook Group post by Sophie. The image is of a woman in the sea with her arms raised as a wave comes in behind her. There is a text overlay in front that reads 'You've raised £40,000 for the ocean'.
Screenshot of a Facebook Group post. The image contains multiple images of a man swimming in the sea wearing various hats and masks
Screenshot of a Facebook Group post. The image contains multiple photos of a man swimming in the sea
Screenshot of a Facebook Group post. The image is of the daily tracker incentive

The results

The Challenge in numbers

Cost per Lead
Group Members
Total Raised

Final thoughts

The benefits of a Facebook Challenge

Though Dip a Day in October resulted in a phenomenal amount raised for Surfers Against Sewage, it wasn’t the only benefit of running the Facebook Challenge. The team also found that the Challenge: 

  • Brought their community together in a way that hadn’t previously been achieved, united in the same activity and personal connection to the ocean.
  • Revolutionized their community fundraising efforts. 
  • Improved internal relationships and perceptions of community fundraising.
  • Developed their community fundraising database through opt-ins on GivePanel’s registration form.

With one successful Facebook Challenge under their belt, Surfers Against Sewage are now planning for the future with a second Dip a Day in October 2023 and an earlier Facebook Challenge test in the new year. 

Their advice to charities looking to expand their community fundraising? Do your research and test what works for your supporters!

Sophie Brandon
Sophie Brandon
Surfers Against Sewage

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