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APEN: Engaging and retaining new donors

The Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) is an environmental justice organization deeply rooted in California’s Asian immigrant and refugee communities. During the surge in anti-Asian racism in 2021, APEN was one of the first organizations to organize a response, increasing its presence in the news and social media. As a result, they experienced a large influx of donors demonstrating their support for the Asian American community. While these donors did not necessarily have a strong tie to APEN’s work in environmental justice, pollution, or housing, the team wanted to retain some of the names they acquired.

With a grant from Progressive Multiplier, APEN launched a project to form a relationship with the “surge” donors by increasing engagement through email, SMS, social media, and one-on-one touches. They also used this opportunity to test different messages that could be used both for this new donor cohort and their base — making progress toward a long-term goal of growth in individual fundraising. 

Their engagement plan worked: increased volume and variety in communications yielded a strong response. While messaging around issues that were core to their mission, such as fossil fuels and refineries, were appealing to lapsed or long-term donors, messages around breaking news resonated more with the group of “surge” donors. 


Eleven percent of the 2,100 surge donors gave to APEN a second time. Of that group, half made three or more gifts. With these efforts, APEN nearly doubled its donor list, which will have a transformative impact on its revenue for years. 

When they employed the same high-touch tactics with lapsed donors, they had even better results: They brought back more than 60 individuals, and even more significantly, their average gift was over $300 – nine times the size of the average gift of surge donors. 

For over two decades, APEN has been building the power of Asian immigrant and refugee communities on the frontlines of fighting big polluters. With that belief that all people have a right to a clean and healthy environment in which their communities can live, work, learn, play, and thrive, APEN brings together a collective voice to develop an alternative agenda for environmental, social and economic justice.