Why working with Samaritans was paw-some AF

In September 2023 Social AF began working with the amazing team at Samaritans. We provided expert social media moderation on both their ads and their group for their “Walk 50 Miles with Your Dog in November 2023” Facebook challenge.


We have long admired the work of Samaritans, with many members of the team having friends or family who have benefitted from their incredible work. The team at Samaritans are a joy to work with! They exude enthusiasm, are extremely committed, super knowledgeable and are open to ideas.


Social AF is also a team of animal lovers, so being involved in challenges with lots of cute doggos is always a pleasure. But one thing we do know is that whilst dog walking challenges can be a joy to be part of it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful in terms of money raised…


Facebook challenges: dog walking vs generic distance-based


On average we see a distance-based walking challenge raise £34.40 per group member. Walking challenges perform well for several reasons. They’re accessible, they provide multiple opportunities to evidence participation (anyone who has been involved with manning a Facebook challenge walking group will have seen thousands of landscape shots!) and therefore promote their Facebook fundraiser, and they’re also easily adapted.


Historically, dog walking challenges haven’t always performed as well. We tend to see high group numbers but a significantly lower fundraiser value. Regarding pounds raised per group member, dog walks tend to average around £16 – significantly lower than walking challenges along with our benchmark of £28.84. Often the feedback we receive from participants is linked to a reluctance from friends and family to sponsor as a dog walk is seen as a necessary part of an everyday routine for a dog owner.


Samaritans Dog Walk

In 2021, Samaritans’ held their first dog walking challenge. The acquisition was incredible and achieved 225% of their target. In fact, ads needed to be stopped due to running out of stock (even after replenishing the stock) but a range of issues led to an unhappy group which had a huge impact on income.


One contributing factor was that there was an unexpected heatwave. Instead of the ads being filled with enthusiasm for the challenge and questions about taking part, there was an increase in negative comments about the decision to hold the event in the first place. The unexpected heat, challenges with securing sponsorship, and complaints about stock fed into the group. Some participants became despondent about not being able to walk or raise as much, others were unhappy at waiting for their bandana. The group wasn’t a particularly positive place and became challenging to moderate.

Having said this, Samaritans knew that a dog walk would work well for our cause due to such a successful acquisition period in 2021. They took learnings to move the month and knew they needed to ensure that stewardship was done well (both within Facebook and elsewhere) to keep supporters happy and fundraising.


Samaritans + Social AF

When Samaritans approached us they were honest about their experience and were explicit in their desire to work with an agency that would deliver expert moderation and reduce internal time pressures.


Samaritans’ procedures and signposting are robust, and so we needed to be extremely thorough with our onboarding and training process to ensure our moderation team were equipped to seamlessly manage the challenge ads and the Facebook group. The results of our partnership were paw-sitively brilliant!

Smashing benchmarks


We made sure to monitor performance every week, and therefore knew that performance was strong and the challenge was on track to smash records. Once the event had concluded, we were thrilled with the final results! Not only did the challenge raise over £260,000 but it also smashed most benchmarks.


Category Benchmark Results


We took a deep dive into why this year’s dog walking challenge was such a roaring success.


Cohesive working


Samaritans were extremely thorough in sharing their plans for communications and what was happening outside of the Facebook group. This meant that we were well informed, able to act quickly, adapt content accordingly and share ideas on how to maintain momentum.

Expert Moderation


Well-managed ads and a thriving online community are essential to the success of any Facebook challenge and we are so proud of how our team managed this.


Every suitable comment on the ads received a reply, questions were answered quickly and accurately to drive conversions and any inappropriate comments were rapidly hidden. The ads were all super positive threads, perfectly setting up the kind of environment we want to see in the groups.


We were able to look after the group with full trust and left no stone unturned. Our moderators were able to signpost swiftly and accurately, stop any potential problems before they began impacting the group, and maximised engagement through sharing consistent high-quality content and replying with heartfelt, meaningful comments.


“The team have been wonderful as has everyone in this group, it’s more like a community of
people who want a better world and it’s genuinely been such a pleasure to raise money for such
an wonderful cause with such incredible support from absolutely everyone.”

Group participant – Walk 50 miles with your dog in November


Investing time-saved


Samaritans utilised the time saved to focus on uplifting the average gift value and improving the overall experience.


They segmented data, made calls to thank fundraisers and offer support and inspiration, scheduled additional emails, updated copy, sent thank you cards, ran competitions and even hosted some live streams. All of which not only added to the excellence in supporter care but also led to an increase in income.


Injecting personality


Social AF are big advocates of being your authentic self. Supporters respond to human interaction and injections of personality help improve the community feel of the groups. Through the additions mentioned above Samaritans were able to inject their personality into the group too. The livestream in particular was extremely well received and delivered expertly by Ollie and Hannah.


Investing in engagement


In 2023 we launched our report ‘Facebook Challenges: Does Engagement Drive Income?’ which uses insight from 78 groups to prove how greater engagement drives income. We know that investing time in engaging content pays dividends, as groups with higher engagement raise more money. Samaritans saw their income increase in line with posts which received higher engagement.

The biggest spike came when Social AF posted the simple content “What breed is your dog?”. It received 636 comments and 50 reactions and led to a huge spike in revenue. The image below shows the correlation between revenue and engagement in the group.

Listening to your instincts – combining the challenge with the cause


When a challenge performs poorly it’s really easy to think that a new idea is the answer. But if your instincts tell you there’s a strong connection between the event and your cause, lots of the data was positive inspite of the final result, and you put the right plans in place, you can make it a success.

Key takeaways

  • Think strategically about where your time is best spent. It can be more cost-effective to
    outsource or delegate tasks in the long run.
  • Approach your next challenge with fresh eyes and add up what time you spend where to see if any changes can be made.
  • Don’t be afraid to test new things and get involved with the groups. Even if you’ve
    outsourced the moderation. Join the group and comment just for fun!
  • Identify who your teammates are and ensure that you’re regularly communicating about
    the different elements you own. Cohesive working can improve things for everyone.
  • Engagement matters. Ensure you’re doing what you can to make your group a fun
    place to be and a positive part of their experience.
  • Good fundraisers have good instincts! Listen to them.

If you’d like to chat about your upcoming challenge or any of our services please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. You can either click the Contact Us button in the top right or email the team at comms@socialaf.co.uk 🧡

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