The best pudding ever

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

My mum has a recipe for Christmas pudding that was handed down to her from my gran. A Christmas in my family wouldn’t be the same without that pudding and for the purposes of this blog (and a slightly dodgy analogy) I’d like to say that Christmas wouldn’t be as good without it.

For most of the charities I work with Christmas is the biggest appeal of the year and the time when words like integration and amplification get banded around as donor acquisition, development, campaigns and brand look for common ground to create something bigger than the sum of its parts.

But before you worry about any of the big glamorous stuff it’s vital that you think about the most important bit – the pudding. Or, in this case, those donors who are already giving generously (or who used to give but haven’t in recent years).

The backbone/pudding of any Christmas fundraising has to be the warm appeal.

I like to think we know a bit about solid Christmas appeals as last year the work we did for UNICEF, Christian Aid, and Shelter were either the best appeal ever or target smashing.

They all made good use of the available data (in selections, personalisation and prompting) and all were based on thoroughly researched, heartbreaking stories.

Like my mum’s Christmas pudding, the most successful appeals all followed a tried and tested recipe which I’d like to share with you today.

The Main Appeal – this is the ‘base stock’ of the whole thing. Personalise it as much as you can. They should feel that making a gift to you has completed their Christmas. Use it to increase the last gift, reactivate lapsed donors and get cash gifts from the Direct Debit file.

The Mid Value Appeal – this is the ‘inside track’ approach to the main appeal. You’re asking for more, so it’s important to give a bit more – either in rationale for giving, trinkets from the field or special incentives for their generous giving over the years.

The Reminder – Dropping about 1 month after the main appeal this is your chance to take a slightly different tack to the main appeal (for those folk that respond to different triggers).

The Thank You Letter – Don’t let this be a bland ‘administrative device’. Make it special. Pour love on the donor for giving at such an important time of the year. They’ll remember it and give again.

The Follow Up – It’s likely you’ll acquire new donors in the run up to Christmas so it’s important to have a plan to get the all-important second gift. An appeal in January is a good idea. Remind the donor they gave and talk to them about how much more they could do by giving again.

Oh… and I’m dead keen to test a double reminder (just before Christmas), if it’s something you’ve tried, I’d love to hear about it.


Badgering the Great British Public

Monday, June 24th, 2013



Last week my colleague Rebecca blogged about online petitions. The rest of us, meanwhile, were busy working with the RSPCA to get this one in front of a mass audience.


The UK Government wants to shoot England’s badgers. The RSPCA refuses to give up the fight. So with the help of our friends at Mediacom, we got some free outdoor and some space in the Metro to have our say.


We asked people not only to give their voice but to also give £3 to help the RSPCA save our Badgers.


Lets hope they get heard.





It’s not shiny or new. But it works.

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013



It’s really easy to get excited about new ways of giving to charity – like Mobilise. And rightly so. I’m a big fan of mobile (in every sense).


But I cut my teeth on Direct Mail and it’ll always have a special place in my heart. I was taught by the best, and this week I was reminded why this sometimes overshadowed channel totally rocks – as do the amazing people who read what we write, get out their cheque books and make it all the way to the post box.


I’m talking about Concern Worldwide’s latest appeal – for families fleeing violence in DRC.


Within a week of the pack hitting doormats, supporters in the Republic of Ireland had raised a 6-figure sum and hit the appeal target.


No mean feat from a country that’s in deep recession.


I’m not psychic, but I had some inkling this was going to be good, because reading the letter for the umpteenth time was still giving me goose bumps.


But this wasn’t just about great copy.


Concern Worldwide excel at several things – making our job much easier and their fundraising really successful.


1. They put us in direct contact with people working in country, or staff who have visited and witnessed the specific thing we are appealing for. The people we speak to are passionate, experienced and great storytellers. They take you right there. And in this case, none of the devastating truths were glossed over.


2. They don’t just give us off the shelf background on the country or programme. They give us real documents and pictures of the actual thing that donors are being asked to buy (in this case a survival kit, costing just €35). For the DRC appeal we had full cost breakdowns for the kits and quantities needed of each item. We also enclosed an article that ran in the Sunday Herald newspaper, adding gravitas.


3. They don’t use appeals to satisfy an internal agenda to showcase all aspects of their work. So we get to keep the proposition single minded and all donors get the same reason to give. The people in DRC have nothing. It wasn’t about whether you would support or not, it was about how many kits you could provide and how many families you could help survive, today. Nothing else mattered.


But the real winners here are of course the Congolese people.


Thanks to the generosity of Concern’s donors – many thousands of families who have nothing, and have endured so much, will have the basics they need to survive another day with some dignity.