Sponsoring Manta Rays with the World's Leading Manta Conservation Organization

The Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) is dedicated to Scientific Research, Public Education, and Conservation for marine megafauna. They work with the most iconic species of megafauna including whale sharks and manta rays. Their researchers are expanding our knowledge of the oceans most charismatic animals, their conservation team is working in Mozambique to help locals protect their heritage, and their education team is teaching the next generation how to care for and love the ocean. Their founders, Simon J Pierce, and Andrea Marshall do work that helped me personally get excited about swimming with ocean giants. When they asked me to create a fundraising campaign for via manta sponsorship I was beyond excited.

Being a organization that aims to protect the world's oceans isn’t easy and it isn’t cheap. NGO’s are always in need of fundraising. The MMF had tried fundraising via manta adoption before, however, the process they had in place was laborious and didn’t scale. Being an organization that depends on the work of volunteers, managing the adoption process had become too burdensome and as a result, they were missing opportunities. The CEO, Joshua Axford, asked me to make a manta sponsorship that would require less effort on the teams part to manage. Something that could scale to a global audience.

Doing the Research

I did an assessment of the team's current assets. Their website was running on Wordpress, they had a couple of T-shirts that were selling well locally, and they had full access to the worlds first database of manta ray sightings. We decided to make a plan that leveraged these existing assets, would scale globally, and was, most importantly, fully automated.

During my research of the sponsorship/adoption programs that many of the world's conservation organizations had in place, I discovered several key insights that I applied to MMFs sponsorship program. One, the presentation of the offer varies significantly and in some cases was compelling and in others only confusing. I wanted to ensure we had a design that clearly communicated the offer and was something a manta lover would want for themselves or as a gift for a loved one. Working internally we iterated the design until we had an offer people couldn’t resist. Two, I wanted to be honest with people about the benefits of the program to the manta rays. Luckily with an organization like MMF, it’s easy to show people their money is helping to protect and understand these wonderful creatures. Three, I wanted people to connect personally with the mantas.

Four Amazing Rays

Eeyore, Palata, Ninja, and Ginger are each real manta rays coming from different oceans in the world. I wanted them to understand that individual mantas had personalities they could connect to. Working with the research team we picked four charismatic mantas that each had something unique to share. They represent three different species of mantas and each has been sighted multiple times. Palata is sociable, Ginger was hooked by a fishing lure, Ninja is melanistic, and Eeyore lost his cephalic fins, likely due to entanglement.

Building the Sponsorship

It was important to have several sponsorship tiers and offer people digital as well as physical products. I created a sponsorship certificate that ships with the sponsees name and included some of the best available manta photography of our four heroes as a digital package. I also created a poster about manta rays and a sponsorship exclusive t-shirt that shipped in the mail.

Tying all of these offers together, shipping them around the world, and doing it all with a no-touch automated system on a shoe-string budget meant choosing my platforms carefully. I knew we needed to use a drop shipper as we couldn’t afford to manage an inventory and the offer page was going to be served via Wordpress. After investigating almost 30 different platforms, technologies, and partners I settled on Woocommerce, Printful, and Wordpress for seamless integration and a fully automated offer to doorstep chain.