Ronald McDonald House Charities wanted to create a truly inspirational fundraising pack. Here’s how they moved away from a one-size-fits-all model, and what they learned along the way
Even if you haven’t heard of Ronald McDonald House Charities, you’ll almost certainly have seen our collection boxes on counters in McDonald’s restaurants across the UK. Our charity gives a free place to stay to families who have children in hospital. We started small, with one Ronald McDonald House in London more than 25 years ago, and have grown rapidly since then to meet demand for our support. There are now 14 Ronald McDonald Houses looking after more than 7,000 families a year, none of whom have to pay a penny to stay with us.
Let’s address the elephant in the room from the get-go. Yes, we are called Ronald McDonald House Charities and, yes, we receive significant, generous support from McDonald’s restaurants and crew members across the UK. However, we also rely on the support of ordinary members of the public, many of whom have stayed at our houses or who know someone who has, as well as businesses and community groups.
With an ambitious programme of expansion in the pipeline (we hope to open a further three Ronald McDonald Houses by the end of the decade) – not to mention the significant expense of running our existing facilities – inspiring these supporters and motivating them to run, jump or swim to raise money for our charity has never been more important.
This is where our new fundraising packs for supporters come in.
A more tailored approach
For a number of years, we had used a single fundraising pack that was designed to give supporters a helpful push in the right direction by, say, suggesting events that they could hold, or by include template materials such as posters and press releases.
The pack had served our supporters reasonably well, but had reached the end of its natural lifespan. There were two principal issues: firstly, the charity’s branding had evolved in the years since the pack was first produced, and many of the visual elements were out of date. Secondly, and arguably more significantly in terms of its utility, it was a single, one-size-fits-all pack. Fine for ordinary members of the public, perhaps, but not nearly so well suited for schools or corporate supporters.
Several months later, and after considerable liaison with designers, printers and colleagues, we have our new fundraising packs. Here are some tips and lessons we learned along the way:
Where to start?
When looking to create a fundraising pack or similar documents, there were a few questions we had to ask ourselves:
- Who is our audience? Establishing who you are speaking to can form the flow of the content. We decided to opt for three main audiences: individuals, schools and corporates. These are our main supporters and we believed that many people would fit into each category in one way or another.
- What materials will this audience benefit most from? Once the audience has been established you can consider what materials will be most beneficial to them. What will encourage them to set up an abseil, or even payroll giving? If you have previous materials, review these and see what worked well and what you’d like to improve on.
- Who should lead this project? Decide within your teams who should lead on the project. We decided a collaboration between the fundraising team and marketing team would be the best way forward for us combining our messaging with fundraising ideas, and ensuring that these were packaged up with a look and feel that represented our brand.
- What about timings? Are you wanting to tie the launch of the new pack into part of a bigger campaign or project? Ensure you have set yourself a long enough time period to produce the final materials.
- What platforms will this suit? If you intend to incorporate the pack to your website, do you have a section for it already, or will it need to be newly built?
- How will you tell your audience about these new materials? Consider where your audiences communicate with and find information about you. Communicating through newsletters to supporters or on social media is a good way to get the message about.
Answering some of these questions will inform the direction of your creative ideas, whether you decide to produce one pack or a few packs with supporting materials that your audience will find useful.
You’ll need to consider the format of your pack carefully. Different audiences will have different needs. A corporate audience, for example, may benefit from a hard copy that can be picked up from charity stands or circulated internally by their staff. On the other hand, an online version of the pack means it is much more widely accessible to a wider audience – and far less expensive than offering printed copies as standard.
Our challenges included:
- Working with multiple teams: As we operate 11 houses, asking for feedback to ensure we created the most effective materials meant that we had to provide clear deadlines so we could stick to timings. Naturally pinning people down will always be tricky.
- Consistent branding: Brand consistency in itself is a challenge, however ensuring each pack had the look and feel of the brand, while also making them different, posed some issues. However, having subtle differences in wording and in the way graphics were used allowed us to produce three equally bright and eye-catching packs.
- Condensing information: Getting people excited about fundraising, while ensuring all the key messaging and information is included, is hard to fit in a few pages. Picking out the essential information and utilising other spaces on the website saves some of the space. Don’t duplicate all the information that sits (or can sit) on your website; use the packs as key snippets of information, tailored appropriately for each audience.
So what worked well?
While we can’t measure the success of the new materials yet, as they’ve only just been launched, we can reflect on what worked well within the teams and the process.
- Collaborating teams: Cross-team collaboration across fundraising and marketing proved very valuable, as it brought two perspectives together to create one product. The fundraising side provided the key elements of what potential supporters need to assist their fundraising journey, whereas the marketing perspective provided guidance on what works well in terms of usability and audience appeal, as well as knowing how to launch materials and what looks good.
- Targeting various audiences: Having the opportunity to create multiple packs worked for us as it meant that we could tailor content to distinct audiences.
What we learned
Every project provides the opportunity to learn and grow, and this was no exception.
- Timings: Putting together a project plan with timings is one thing, sticking to them while juggling a number of agencies and multiple teams is another. Take into consideration how many people you need feedback from and what deadlines you will give them. Plan out the key milestones you need to reach as much as is possible.
- The more eyes, the more opinions: Be cautious of how many people you share the drafts with; you may end up with more opinions than you know what to do with. Decide at the outset who needs to be involved and in what capacity, to ensure that you are consulting appropriately while ending up with manageable levels of feedback.
- Write a reflection: To conclude any project, take note of the key learnings and what you’d do differently if you were to do it again. This can be taken forward and provides a starting point for future campaigns.
So here they are! Our 2017 fundraising packs, which we hope will equip many potential fundraisers on their journey to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Emma Orgill is marketing officer and Natasha Morris is fundraising supporter care coordinator at Ronald McDonald House Charities