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How FIRST® Crafted a Global Digital Strategy that Drives Impact

Since 1989, FIRST® has reached more than 2.5 million young people in schools and communities around the world through its impact-proven STEM and robotics programs. In 2015, FIRST’s leadership knew that the power of their digital tools would need to match the scale of their global impact. That’s where HubSpot came in.

  • 265% growth in database

  • 50% growth in lead conversions YOY

  • 38% average email open rate


FIRST® is an inclusive robotics community that prepares young people for the future. FIRST® inspires young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build STEM skills, thereby inspiring innovation, and fostering well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.


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    An Enterprise Level Tool, Implemented with Responsive Support. 

    For an organization that has a glowing reputation for preparing the next generation of STEM leaders, we’re anything but surprised that the team has been using and expanding use of HubSpot's tools since 2016. Of course, assessing an enterprise level marketing tool like HubSpot makes sense for an organization like FIRST®: Each year, its team works with partners, educators, parents, coaches, volunteers, alumni, and sponsors to create and deliver innovative themed PreK-12 robotics challenges to students across the world. We count no fewer than 7 priority audiences for a global organization that’s executing on-the-ground competitions every year. Sound impressive to you? Us too. And potentially very complicated.

    That’s where HubSpot’s Marketing and Sales Hubs came in. FIRST needed to support its marketing team and other internal departments to expand communication efforts, deepen their understanding of the INBOUND Methodology, and scale awareness for their programs to generate meaningful leads for the organization. Key to their success early on? Ease of use of HubSpot’s platform, and platform customization. Toss in a healthy handful of HubSpot’s knowledge base and the availability of our support team, and FIRST was up and running in no time. 

    Lead Growth, Segmentation, and Automation

    With Marketing Hub Enterprise and Sales Hub Pro in the mix, FIRST was truly firing on all cylinders. (Sorry for the internal combustion engine reference, but this is a success story about a nonprofit focused on STEM. We couldn’t help ourselves.) Right away, implementing strategies that leverage list segmentation, custom properties, lead scoring, landing pages, forms, email sequences and workflows, calls-to-action, and social media and ad capabilities meant that FIRST could engage the right audiences with the right messages at the right time.

    "In the past year alone, we sent 5 million emails to prospective leads, volunteers, and sponsors with average open rates above 38%, helping us drive traffic to our season landing page, where the average time on page was 4 minutes." 

    Through HubSpot’s workflow feature, for example, FIRST has been able to develop and execute a lead handoff campaign that delivers qualified leads to their field partners for direct follow-up and support. This delivers positive impact for the organization’s recruitment efforts and increased collaboration between lead generation activations and local FIRST program implementation.

    Together, this detailed cultivation strategy—paired with strategic form placement and creation of campaign-driven HubSpot pages resulted in 50% growth in new leads year-over-year—drove 265% growth in FIRST®s marketing database. In the past year alone, the organization has sent nearly 5 million emails to prospective leads, volunteers, sponsors, and other supporters and maintained an average open rate above 38%—that’s extraordinarily impressive, given the scale, depth, and reach of FIRST's global audience. 


    Digital That’s Built for On-the-Ground Impact


    Just checking out FIRST's growth and engagement rates is exciting enough. But there's even more to learn from when it comes to scale: FIRST operates on-the-ground competitions in schools around the globe. That means that all communications need to not only be segmented by audience type, but by region, school, program, and more. Then, layer on internal communications, just for FIRST®' staff and Program Delivery Partners and external communications, for students, sponsors, volunteers, donors, and other supporters. 

    FIRST Growth Marketing Lead Aly Lambert often spends her time in Marketing Hub ensuring that the organization is able to communicate key information at all times, which has been critical to expand access to FIRST's programs and furthering their impact. Over recent years, Aly has undertaken an effort to customize and segment their database through the creation of custom contact properties, which has helped FIRST assign multiple personas and stakeholder types to one contact. The FIRST School Engagement Team gets the most out of Sales Hub by building sequences and combing over result analysis to identify areas for improvement and optimization. These two careful processes ensure that high-quality leads are identified and handed off the right teams for one-to-one follow-up.

    There’s no question that the FIRST community and impact is prolific. But don’t take our word for it—HubSpot is just a chapter in FIRST's unbelievably important story. Head over to firstinspires.org or, if you want to take things from zero to 60, check out More Than Robots on Disney+. 


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