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Raising Funds During a Pandemic | UNHCR Case Study | Singapore

UNHCR Fundraising Case Study: 

Raising Funds During a Pandemic

UNHCR has been running the Ramadan campaign for the past six years, for Asia, ADA managed to drive significant growth across the region. ADA also provided us with smart audience targeting strategies, locally relevant multi-channel media plans, support on content creation including video, and an influencer campaign that was pivotal to the success of increasing awareness of UNHCR during Ramadan.❞


The Scope

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organisation dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees.

One of their most important fundraising campaigns in Asia is in the month of Ramadan, the most sacred month of the year in Islamic culture. Ramadan is a month when Muslims all over the world fast, abstain from pleasures, pray and do charity. The brand’s fundraising campaign aims to give back and share blessings with the Muslim community during this holy month.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Asia in early 2020. By March, almost all government bodies announced country-wide lockdowns which led to an immediate halt of all activity. This was also the time UNHCR had to start their Ramadan fund raising for donations to arrive in time for fasting month and Hari Raya celebrations.

The Challenge

The challenges were 2-fold:
  • Inability to reach Muslim donors due to lockdowns, which prevented geo-targeting those visiting mosques and halal eateries
  • Surge of other NGO fundraising efforts, especially local charities

The ADA Approach

Consumer behaviour had shifted drastically, and we needed to be effective and precise in pivoting our strategy to go with the new normal. Combining multiple data sources from social listening, Google, research and XACT, our proprietary Data Management Platform, we devised 

An ‘old-meets-new’ targeting strategy, based off our propriety data management platform, XACT. This allowed us to reach a Muslim audience who would otherwise have been almost impossible to identify 

Infused local flavour into the global fundraising campaign to tug at the communities’ heart strings and purses.  

The challenges we faced were direct results of the drastic change in consumer behaviour brought by COVID-19. So we dove deep into these shifts and looked at past Ramadan insights to formulate our strategy.    


1. Reaching Muslims 

We tapped into XACT (our proprietary Data Management Platform) which contains 375 million unique consumer profiles across the region; enabling us to understand past and current online consumption behaviours, daily behaviours and movements. We saw the increase in religious app usage and online search correlating to the dip in Mosque footfall as consumers sourced for alternative prayer channels. 

Chart 1: XACT data of traffic visiting mosques during the pandemic

Chart 2: XACT data of religious app usage

Chart 3: Google search trends during the lockdowns

We saw the increase in religious app usage and online search correlating to the dip in Mosque footfall as consumers sourced for alternative prayer channels. 

Chart 4: XACT data of Crisis Personas and their app usage change during lockdown

On top of religious channels, consumers were turning to social, news content to stay updated on latest developments. With restricted movement, they relied on online shopping to prep for fasting and Hari Raya celebrations. Entertainment was also a source of relief to them during this highly stressful period. It was imperative to tap onto all high affinity and intent outlets to reach them. 

To overcome challenge #1 of limited Muslim audience outreach, we devised a targeting strategy utilising both past and current data


  • Past data 
    • Muslims’ past footfall data is rich in terms of quality and quantity. With Xact, we extracted a combination of pre-COVID 19 audience seen at mosques, Muslim eateries, and schools coupled with top Muslim and Ramadan app usage. This unique approach lent us a rich, quality base of audiences who would have been impossible to identify any other way. We were able to tap onto previously offline Muslims who are now online. 
    • Tapping onto the brand’s owned data, we created lookalike audiences of past donors and past Ramadan donors.
  • Current data 
    • We created broader audience segments based on their trending interest in social, entertainment, shopping such as “cooking, recipes, shopping, baking“. We knew families tend to cook and bake during Ramadan, and COVID-19 exacerbated this behaviour.
    • To minimise wastage, we deployed affinity audiences e.g. interested in Zakat, Hari Raya, Muslims, Ramadan related keywords and behaviour.

These targeting strategies were deployed onto digital platforms like Facebook and Google to optimise our reach to Muslims.  While we could now reach our audience, we still had another challenge of manoeuvring our way through the surge of NGO noise online. 

2. Getting share of wallet  

UNHCR was going up against global as well as local charity organisations this Ramadan. Local NGOs had the upper hand as their community ties were strong We tapped onto social listening. And saw a vast increase in influencers conversing on Ramadan in the current climate.    

Chart 5: ADA’s Social Media Listening Tool data on influencers during Ramadan

We saw an opportunity to leverage on the social prowess of influencers. We coupled this with glocalisedcampaign – leveraging local channels and personalities, with local messaging that would bring the refugees’ plight closer to home through storytelling.  


1. Storytelling  

Our central creative theme was “Imagine”. We wanted to showcase the daily realities of refugees through powerful messages: “Imagine a country without people, imagine a mosque without prayers, imagine an Iftar without gatherings”.  

The strong relevance to Ramadan hit home for Muslims, triggering them to imagine and feel what refuges have been subjected to most of their lives.  


2. Local channels  

Working with partners like HHWT (Have Halal Will Travel) and MIN (Muslim Influencers Agency), we harvested their strong influence and understanding of Muslim culture. Riding on the same storytelling angle, HHWT crafted content pieces based off the refugees’ plights for their readers and amplified through their social channels.  


3. Local personalities   

With MIN, we handpicked Muslim influencers that were known for their strong local community ties and philanthropy efforts to drive our cause. Their brief was similar, appeal to their followers through “Imagine” storytelling. Instagram stories and videos of the influencers sharing what Ramadan looks like without their generosity tugged at heart strings and wallets.  


Our local initiatives were an impetus for donors to open up their wallets to the refugees.  

The Campaign

Ramadan fund raising is time sensitive campaign . There’s a short 6-week window of opportunity thus scheduling optimisation is pivotal to driving optimal results. We relied heavily on consumer insights for budget, content and objective deployment.


Our scheduling was based on Ramadan consumer behaviours and past Ramadan learnings.

Chart 6: Imagine Ramadan Campaign Timeline


  • Pre-Ramadan, 2 weeks: launched with the hero video “Imagine” for awareness, prospecting and ensure momentum by the time Ramadan came.
  • Start of Ramadan, 2 weeks: conversion content and acquisition objectives kicked in.
  • End of Ramadan, 2 weeks: this is when gifting and ‘zakat’ (form of alms-giving) pick up momentum. We scaled up acquisition with strong re-targeting efforts & budget. For local personalities specifically, we orchestrated their posts to appear in conjunction with Laylatul-Qadr or ‘Night of Destiny’, the best day of the year in the Muslim calendar according to the Quran and the best time for us to amplify our conversion efforts.


Paired with bespoke creatives and calls-to-action at each stage, every day was fully optimised for donations.

The Outcome


Overall donations exceeded target by 37%


An overall whopping 68% uplift in ROI

*2.5 times above target


Overall Cost Per Acquisition reduced by 273%



87% positive sentiments from influencers’ community

*Calculated based on number of comments in relation to negative comments