In a difficult year for fundraising, which charities have forged ahead to bring us the best in innovation, responsiveness and authenticity? Five sector experts have their say
Richard Taylor, executive director for fundraising, marketing and communications, Macmillan Cancer Support:
The third sector is vibrant, interesting and full of inspirational and innovative people. I can think of many impactful and engaging fundraising campaigns this year. However for me, the standout campaign of 2016 was Amnesty International’s virtual reality project. It used an innovative and resourceful solution to tackle the challenge of showing what life is like in Syria’s war zones when it was simply too dangerous to send in journalists.
The charity worked with citizen journalists to gather footage from Aleppo. It then turned this footage into a unique and dramatic street fundraising tool, through virtual reality headsets that shared images with the public. It was an entirely new and innovative approach to making the most of face-to-face interactions on the street.
Over 100,000 people used these headsets, which converted through to a 9% increase in the number of direct debit sign-ups. In addition to the fundraising success, the footage proved invaluable material to further increase awareness for Amnesty’s influencing work, which in turn inspired further footage from Syria, securing further awareness still.
On a small budget, the Amnesty International UK team found an interactive solution using cutting-edge technology to successfully engage the public. Genius!
Holly Spiers, director of hospices & fundraising, Sue Ryder:
The world’s first canine fundraisers – tap dogs.
We are aware that cash donations for fundraising activities have declined by around 14% in the past five years. Animal charity Blue Cross is a great example of using new technology in campaigning and making it easy and fun to donate contactlessly.
Blue Cross has started to fundraise using dogs that wear coats that handle contactless donations from mobile phones. They regularly visit events and schools to raise awareness of many different aspects of pet welfare, but they have never before had the chance to play such a direct role in helping the charity raise funds.
It’s human nature, when you see a dog, to want to go over and pet it. Having the contactless device on the dog’s coat then makes it easy to tap to make a donation to the charity. It also frees up the fundraiser who doesn’t need to hold a bucket and can get on with the important role of engaging with the public about the charity.
This is a great example of using new technology in campaigning. We have also been looking to trial this technology, and are testing one portable and one static device at our Nettlebed Hospice in Henley-on-Thames. I would be interested to see how contactless payment develops to drive supporter and brand awareness, while raising funds.
Louise Arnold, director of fundraising, Acorns Children's Hospice:
Although an oldie, Book Aid’s World Book Day has inspired me this year when thinking about how charities can get engagement from a younger audience.
World Book Day has everything that I believe a successful fundraising appeal should have – a strong and clear link to the cause; relevant and fun for the audience, with a simple fundraising mechanic. World Book Day inspires children all over the UK and beyond, encouraging schools to hold awareness days, with fundraising thrown in as a natural element of the day.
Book Aid has created a number of comprehensive teaching tools and fundraising aids for schools that enable teachers to weave the day into the children’s learning. Kids love dressing up and talking about their favourite books. There is also a very clear outcome to the fundraising activity – last year 58,000 books were sent to schools that otherwise would have had empty shelves and the website has some wonderful films showing the impact.
Most importantly, through activities in schools of this kind – activities that are engaging, fun and have a demonstrable value – charities are developing an army of fundraisers and campaigners for the future.
Peter Gilheany, PR director at Forster Communications:
To say 2015 was a difficult year for fundraising and charities in general would be an understatement, so my favourite campaign highlights a trend that emerged as a result in 2016 – and it started with a single tweet. #firstfiver, which called on the public to donate their frst new £5 note to charity, illustrates both the desire for authenticity and the joy of a simple idea.
You know it’s a good campaign because it makes you wish you had thought of it first. Fundraisers have been tearing their hair out trying to come up with the next Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s pretty pointless, as it is so difficult to manufacture a viral campaign like that.
The lesson I take away from it is twofold: firstly, focus on simplicity and universality, even if it is at the expense of being cause-specific. Secondly, give everyone licence to come up with ideas for fundraising and engagement.
Hannah Cosh, head of fundraising, Fight for Sight:
The activity that has most inspired me in 2016 was how the RNLI has turned a negative into a positive by being both bold and brave.
In response to the wave of negative media and expected new regulations, RNLI was the first charity to announce that it would move to opt-in only communications. I felt the charity pitched this perfectly and received substantial PR from its claim that this would cost it £36m. Its campaign Communication Saves Lives used the message that "the biggest danger we face now is losing touch".
Through doing the right thing by their supporters and leading the way for all charities, RNLI restored public trust and positioned itself as a market leader that was both safe and innovative, and above all that respected its supporters.
I believe this fundraising and marketing campaign will have strengthened the loyalty of the charity’s current donor base and also recruited new supporters. To date, more than 42% of the 900,000 warm and engaged supporters have opted in. That is substantially more than the deliberatively conservative 25% the charity had predicted. Its first campaign to opted-in supporters has also produced strong results; with both the response rate and average donation more than triple what they achieved in 2015. Impressive.