Case study: Appeal focuses on plight of families

How the The Army Benevolent Fund raised nearly £200,000

Organisation: The Army Benevolent Fund
Campaign: Christmas appeal
Agency: TW Cat


The Army Benevolent Fund provides financial and practical support to soldiers, former soldiers and their families. The charity sent direct mail packs to supporters during the second week of October last year, asking them to send donations by 1 November so that the funds could be used in time for Christmas. It raised £197,636 with the appeal.


This is the charity's second appeal with third sector direct marketing agency TW Cat; the first raised £125,000. Historically, supporters of the fund have been most responsive during the Christmas season.

How it worked

A direct mail pack was sent to 35,064 of the charity's supporters. The contents highlighted the need for money by focusing on two families.

A letter explained the fund's efforts to help the family of a soldier killed while on duty in Afghanistan, and who left behind a wife and two young sons. Using a grant from the charity, the family planned to build a specialised play area for the boys, who have autism, learning difficulties and epilepsy. The pack included catalogue pages illustrating the equipment needed.

In the pack's second letter, two sisters thanked the charity for helping their father, a Second World War veteran, after he was made redundant.

The pack gave specific examples of how different-sized donations could be used. Suggested gift amounts were calculated according to each recipient's previous contributions. Donors could agree to give one of three recommended sums or donate an amount they thought was appropriate.

Donation cards included a Gift Aid option and information about contributing over the phone or online. The cost of each pack, including production, postage and creative costs, was 79p. Altogether, the packs cost £27,700.


The campaign brought in £197,636, more than twice its target of £84,799. The response rate was 9 per cent, with an average gift of £63.

Sian Mexsom, director of central fundraising and communications at the charity, said: "The fund will now be able to help more soldiers and their families - men and women who serve their nation without question - through the very hardest of times."

Expert view

Jaz Nannar, deputy managing director, Burnett Works

The results speak volumes for this pack: it exceeded the income target by 133 per cent and generated an average gift of £63.

Its success probably comes down to a well-defined target audience and the pack's homespun creative approach - from the catalogue pages that showcase what your donation might buy in an immediate and memorable way, to the lovely letter from two sisters who discovered the fund had supported their father many years ago.

But I found the tone of the letter more tricksy. Although the formality befits its signatory, a major-general, the tone feels negative right from the off. It reads: "It's a sad reflection on the way our nation looks after its soldiers that I have to write to you once more to enlist your support."

It creates a definite sense of 'us and them', which may have some appeal to this audience. But could it have worked better still - and improved the 9 per cent response rate - if the opportunity to give was presented in a more positive light?

One final thought: it's a shame that the clear and genuine 'thank you' to supporters is buried on the back page of the letter. Some readers might not get that far.

Creativity: 2
Delivery: 3
Total: 5 out of 10.

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