NSPCC’s ‘Letter from Santa’: steering Santa’s sleigh through an ‘unprecedented’ Christmas

Monday, June 7th, 2021
illustration of santa on his sleigh being pulled by Rudolph. There are letters flying out of Santa's hands.

Alex Achkar, Senior Planner

Think back to last Christmas. No one could have imagined a festive season as strange as it was. With pantos, family parties and Santa’s grotto on hold, the year ended in a grandly disappointing and fitting finale to 2020 – lockdown Christmas.

Cue the ‘big man in red’ himself, Santa Claus, to save the day and keep the Christmas magic alive for the nation’s youngest, one letter at a time.

Last Christmas, Open worked with the NSPCC to take a fresh look at their long-established and very successful flagship Christmas offer, ‘Letter from Santa’.  In a socially distanced world, ‘Letter from Santa’ had the opportunity to help families create a safe and magical Christmas experience for children.

This value exchange product has been offering festive wonderment to children for decades. It’s an exceedingly simple idea. Parents (and grandparents, uncles, and aunts too) speak to the elves at the NSPCC who help Santa write an interactive and personalised letter, delivered directly to a child’s front door in exchange for a small, voluntary donation.

Though already successful, a significant opportunity for growth was identified. And we had two clear aims for campaign success – driving volume and driving value.

We focused on three simple but powerful principles to steer Santa’s sleigh through the ‘unprecedented’ Christmas.


First, go back to understand your audiences, frequently.

To keep a product relevant and engaging for both repeat and new supporters, we must step into the audiences’ world, uncovering their needs and motivations in real-time. Understanding your audiences should be like brushing your teeth – a frequent and routinely practised habit that requires concerted effort but is highly recommended.

Communicating is easier when you know who you are talking to well. And communicating effectively is especially important during tough times.

Don’t just think about who they are on the outside (age, location, job) – strive to understand your audiences from the inside out. What makes them feel great about themselves? What keeps them up at night? What do they want others to think about them?

With ‘Letter from Santa’, we honed in on the importance placed on family, on building positive family experiences and the desire to do their bit of good over the festive season. 

From there, we centred core messaging and positioning on driving relevance and spurring action:

  • Solve their problem: hero the product as a solution to an uncertain Christmas
  • Tap into their identity: make them feel fantastic as a parent/grandparent
  • Balance product value with donation impact: anchor the £5 donation impact before they reach the website to drive value

Keeping up the habit of understanding your audience is worth it because it’s always the best place to start planning a new campaign. Digging deeper here is a sure-fire way to create scroll-stopping creative with cut-through that is just right for them.

Second, test, learn and repeat (even if you think there’s nothing else to know).

With long-standing products, we tend to feel that we’ve already seen and done it all, and that there is nothing left to test. But people’s behaviours and drivers are constantly in flux and expectations are evolving at an incredible pace. That means what works for your most loyal supporters and potential new supporters is always on the move too.

When venturing into new creative territory with a product or a fundraising proposition, testing is the way to learn. And we know that learning is the best way to improve and grow.

Test and learn happens at different scales. As the complexity of the test increases, so does the value it can bring. Clarity on why you want to test something is as important as what you test:

  •       Fast & simple testing is tactical, quick and optimises performance in the short-term
  •       Long & complex testing is strategic, with involved set-up and allows for analysis of audience behaviours and performance over the long-term

Testing is about making sure you understand and validate what it is about your offer that audiences love and that you do everything you can to optimise towards that. And make sure to repeat the approach year after year.

Third, play to your product and brand’s strengths.

If your organisation is in a lucky position to already have a long-running heritage product or offer, something about it (and you!) is clearly resonating with people. Don’t be shy about sticking to what’s been proven to work best front and centre. But that doesn’t mean we should put out the exact same campaign year after year (re: Test, learn, repeat principle above).

Playing to your brand recognition helps people make a decision quickly. And that’s a very good thing. It means people lean into existing trust, bringing you a big step closer to them taking action.

The best way to build your product’s brand is to keep investing in your product’s identity, its strongest benefits, and its uniqueness in market. 


People are always changing, and it’s our job to keep up with them. When bringing out the calendar year after year for Christmas fundraising planning, it may seem like it’s always the same challenge ahead of us, but we know that simply can’t be true.

The world has changed. We’ve changed. And you can bet your audiences have changed too.

Whatever Christmas 2021 brings (and let’s face it, that could be a great many different things), we can adapt, shift, and even thrive in the most unlikely of circumstances. When planning in a pandemic feels overwhelming, let’s remember that we already have the tools that can steer us through it.

If you’re anything like me and already thinking about mince pies (and Christmas planning) and would like to talk about how Open can help, we’d love a chat, please drop us an email.

To watch our recent webinar about Christmas fundraising in 2021, download it for free here.

With thanks to our friends at NSPCC for allowing us to share these insights with you.

Not quite ready for the ‘roaring 20s’? – Mental Health Awareness Week

Monday, May 10th, 2021
Photo of Noah. He is smiling.

– Noah Lipschitz, Planner

It has been just over a year since I started at Open. I have been thrown in the deep end, inducted into a new team with new processes and personalities, and learned all about the not-for-profit sector/agency-life and their respective quirks.

These were all things I expected and looked forward to – what I did not expect, however, was that I would be undertaking this all from my home. 

The past year has emotionally pushed many in ways that they did not foresee. While locked down, homes have become the locale for working, educating, exercising and more. Romantic relationships and friendships have gone under the microscope, and longing for better days has become a daily ritual.

Fundraisers have faced the added stress of finding new ways to raise income. All whilst under the pressure of knowing that the need for charity services has increased. This is a lot to deal with, and I am yet to mention the worries people have had – and continue to have – about health, financial security and the world at large. 

As a Planner, I spend a lot of my time advising clients on what people are thinking and feeling. And this year, whilst dealing with the pandemic myself, I have produced reports on how COVID-19 is impacting our sector and the wider world.

So what’s the situation now?

In the UK at least, COVID-19 vaccination rates are high and deaths are low; lockdown is easing and the days are getting longer.  People and the media are beginning to talk about a ‘roaring 20s’, ‘hot girl/boy summer’ and spending sprees. Personally, I am imagining scenes reminiscent of the euphoria of Kieran Trippier scoring the freekick against Croatia in the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup. In reality I, and I am sure many will agree, will settle for being able to hug friends and family, to go eat inside a restaurant, and go into the office for the first time and finally meet my colleagues. 

However, even if the reality of post-lockdown life is more understated than what the media reports, it will be a pretty stark juxtaposition to the life many have led for the past year. Are we all able to mentally flick a switch and go from a state of pandemic and lockdown-induced anxiety to a care-free and active summer of fun? I’m not so sure, but I want to stress that that is okay. 

I am certain that for many people, the prospect of going back out into the world is a daunting one. Personally, there are things that I am really looking forward to, and things I am not; for example, catching up with people I haven’t spoken to in a long time and having the mental battle of ‘do I put on my performative best-self, or do I be more open and honest that this has been a hard year?’. 

Everyone is different, and I am hesitant to paint everyone with the same brush. But I think there is one thing we can all take away from this. During the pandemic, we were told to go easy on ourselves, to give ourselves a break; it has been a hard year and you should feel proud of yourself to come through the other side. When lockdown eases and eventually ends, I believe that it is important for our own mental wellbeing to keep this mindset going. Old stresses may reappear, and new anxieties will be on the horizon. So remind yourself that you do deserve to give yourself a break, and you are doing a great job.

And hopefully, we can extend this feeling and support to those around us as well.

PS: Here is a link to our friends at Mind’s tips for your mental wellbeing during COVID-19, including on how to manage feelings about lockdown easing.

To learn more about our team and what we do, join our community.

#OneMillionClaps, one year on

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021
Two children stand outside of their front door. They are clapping. On the path in front of them, 'Thank you NHS' is written in pink and blue chalk,

– Sam Hibbard-Daniels, Senior Account Director


The highs and lows of our Covid year are something we’ll look back on for a lifetime. We baked Sourdough and we won zoom quizzes. We fought furlough, and many of us lost loved ones.

For NHS Charities Together (NHS CT) the highs and lows of 2020 were no different.  While our NHS workers were on the front line saving lives, NHS Charities Together was fundraising at scale for their ongoing support. 

Back in spring 2020, as we stood on our doorsteps to clap and cheer in celebration of our brilliant NHS, in awe of their fight against Covid-19,  at Open, we were hatching plans to turn this community moment into a multi-million-pound campaign for NHS Charities Together. 

And we had to act fast.

Unlike many of our international charity clients, prepared for natural disasters, earthquakes and fires, and who have robust and tested emergency processes in place, NHS Charities Together were responding to something unlike anything any of us had experienced.

Our audience insight was right in front of us. We were being told to stay home and do nothing. But everyone wanted to do something. The public were already showing their support and solidarity every Thursday night. We knew that with the right opportunity to give, we could turn this into valuable financial support for NHS Charities Together. 

And so, the #OneMillionClaps campaign was launched.

Using the OMG Text Giving platform, we asked the public to text ‘CLAP’, plus a message of support, sending an immediate £5 donation to NHS CT. In order to ensure the message then got to their local trust, they received a reply asking them for their details at which point we also had the opportunity to Gift Aid and ask for further consent – which an amazing 42% of people opted to do!

At Open we believe in bringing the right people together to change the world… so that’s exactly what happened! At the heart of the campaign was our hero DRTV ad, shot in the lockdown restrictions by colleagues, team members and extended family. We also created digital content, social posts and print press, and collaborated with colleagues, celebrities, media partners, brands, and most importantly, the generous general public.

The campaign continued to grow, and the support from the public, brands and media alike was phenomenal. As well as the fabulous David Walliams recording our voiceover for the DRTV, brands who had pulled their own advertising during the pandemic were generous in stepping forward to show their support. North Face kindly donated unused TV broadcast space during the period, National press space, including ads in The Guardian and The Evening Standard was given to us at no cost.

With the support of gifted media space, high profile celebrities and promotion on social channels, we then partnered with ITV day time, to partner as their official charity to celebrate and support the NHS CT, with presenters promoting our donation number, and themselves sending messages of thanks and gratitude to our NHS staff.

While thousands of people gave nationally across other platforms, our CLAP text and response mechanic allows us to build future meaningful relationships with our donors. We were able to send them a great big thank you in the spring for their support. They were the first to be invited to our Big Tea event in the summer. And they’ll be the first to hear about our upcoming fundraising events this year.

As with all successful campaigns, being able to continue the conversation with your donors, making them feel important and showing what a difference they have made to your causes, is vital in securing future donations. 

In fact, we’re not done.  NHS Charities Together will be the people we reach out to with the new spring 2021 campaign, demonstrating the ongoing need for support for our fabulous NHS staff. The campaign, inviting donors to ‘Be There for Them’ will continue the conversation around the ongoing challenges the NHS staff are facing following the third spike, and how the public’s valuable donations can make a real difference.

It’s live now. If you see it, share and donate where you can.

At Open, we know that collaboration is key in creating successful campaigns. Whether that’s bringing together the power of technology, audience insight and tailor-made creative, or whether it’s the coming together of teams and skills with a united vision.

If you’d like to talk to us about your fundraising challenges, or to tell us about your Covid year, arrange a coffee (or tea) with us.