How We Raised $60,000 for the Penguin Foundation

By Josh Mackow

Every year we run a Christmas sale, bringing great new deals straight to your inbox. This year was no different, and there were Learnable memberships, course and book bundles, print book discounts, and a social, meme-based competition.

But we kicked off the sale in a big way, offering a two-year Learnable membership for the price of one. But we decided this deal would be different, and that we would try to make a difference for a cause we cared about. We decided to donate $75 out of every $144 membership to the Penguin Foundation after we found an instant connection with their unique use of technology to help feathered creatures. Our goal was simple, raise $10,000 and help out a great cause. Little did we know what would happen next…

We broke the 10,000 mark almost immediately after we sent out our first email campaign. The support from the community, and interest in the promotion caught us off guard. We realised we had not been as ambitious as we could have been. We needed bigger targets. We set our sights on $30,000, thinking this might actually take us a whole month to get, but within seven days, we’d smashed this goal again. The Penguins were taking flight!

So we upped the target: $50,000 was our next aim. This one was a bit slower to get to but we quickly shot past $40,000, and let it slowly reach the final target. Just after Christmas, we had the full amount! We let it run until the new year and reached a goal that was six times our initial hope! Thank you to everyone here at SitePoint, on Learnable and around the net for helping us go above and beyond.

The funds will be used to support technological innovations that benefit sea life. For example, the Penguin Foundation has an incredible solution to save penguins and other wildlife through the use of magnets for removing hazardous oils from the sea-birds’ feathers.

How we did it

Email is a sometimes under-appreciated form of marketing, probably because open rates and click rates are much lower these days than in days past when email marketing was new and rates hovered around 80%. But don’t think that you can neglect it! Your most important customers will be willing to subscribe to your list to get new offers, new products and to keep in touch with your business within their inbox.

For us, email is critical. SitePoint visitors have signed up just to get our Christmas Sale offers and Newsletters for years. Here are some methods you could use to collect email addresses to run a sale or to connect to new customers:

Hello Bar with email signup options

Hello Bar is a free WordPress plugin that allows webmasters to quickly install a colored strip on the top of their website with a varying set of messages. You can put email signups, calls to action and even just sitewide messages within. The ability to run A/B split tests within the software gives you the opportunity to understand which options have the greatest effect on your visitors.

Email signup to your newsletter in the footer of the site

The convention has been to allow email signups in the footer of a website, so visitors who are used to this will seek out your signup form here. This will not lead to a high volume of email signups, but you do not want to miss out on any potential lead.


A popup can be extremely helpful for earning email signups, often being the best way to get a high volume of subscribers. Visitors will see your form straight away and get an instant recognition of the benefits of signing up. Often, giving away an ebook, a set of book chapters, or other information or secrets can be the best way to use a popup to full effect.

Beware, however, that not all users love the popup and this can, at times, cause friction between your brand and some users of your website. There is still no disputing though, that this is the number one way to grow your subscriber list.

Social media gave us a boost

Giving your campaigns a social voice is a necessity. Your customers can enjoy every moment of sharing a great deal. We provided tweet and share buttons on each campaign, giving each deal a voice and allowing it to move its way through social circles.

This simple addition of features meant that we were able to reach a number new customers that may not have been aware we even ran a sale!


It was a blast to able to offer support to such a worthy charity in such a fun way. Our focus on email, helped along with our design and layout tweaks and a social boost, meant we could quickly reach out to hundreds of people who were keen to help the Penguin Foundation and score a great deal on learning at the same time. But these techniques aren’t rocket science, so keep them in mind the next time you want to run a campaign to drive sales or support a charity of your own.

As for us, we’re now back at work trying to come up with a way to top that campaign next year. Got any ideas?



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