Case study: Campaign snares legacies for RSPCA

The RSPCA boosts its legacy fundraising by talking about what would happen to people's pets if they were left behind.

Organisation: RSPCA
Campaign: Home For Life
Agency: Whitewater/MC&C


Legacies are the largest source of money for the RSPCA, bringing in 55 per cent of its income - a total of £58m in 2006. But legacy fundraising is difficult, because most people shy away from discussing their own deaths.

The RSPCA decided to approach the subject by talking about what would happen to people's pets if they were left behind. The Home for Life legacy campaign has brought in £4m in pledges and 9,700 enquiries to date.

How it worked

Previous appeals were sent only to existing supporters, of which there was a finite database. Asking people who did not already support the organisation was not cost-effective.

The charity wanted to get people to pledge legacies to the RSPCA and help it develop a prospect database for future legacy communications, rather than directly raise funds immediately.

A test campaign ran between March and June last year. The full roll-out of the campaign began last September. The initiative uses television commercials and advertising in the national press, pet magazines and publications targeting older audiences.

Donors can respond by coupons, by phone or online to ask the RSPCA to look after their pets should they die before their animals do. The request has to be mentioned in owners' wills, but the RSPCA makes no upfront request for owners to make a pledge to the charity in their wills.

The RSPCA sent respondents a wallet card, like an organ donor card, which tells friends and family to contact the charity in the event of the donor's death.


Some respondents chose to pledge legacies immediately, worth £4m in total. The projected response for 2007 from all media was 6,072 enquiries - to date, 9,700 have come in. The charity said the campaign response rate was 170 times greater than any of its previous cold legacy campaigns, and the cost of 'acquiring' each respondent fell by 87 per cent.

Sharon Gearing, marketing manager, legacy products at the charity, says: "The number of enquiries we've received has far exceeded our expectations. "We've identified a service pet owners want - one that provides peace of mind that their animals will be cared for when they're gone. It also raises much-needed funds for the RSPCA."

<h2>Expert view</h2>

Linda Allen, senior consultant, Think Consulting Solutions

We all feel 20 years old in our heads don't we? And let's face it, none of us wants to be told we should be getting our houses in order in case we pop our clogs.

Legacy marketing to a cold audience is therefore an unenviable task. The clever thing about this campaign is the free Home for Life product the RSPCA is using to get its audience to self-select.

Signing up gives the animal owner the peace of mind of knowing that the charity will ensure their beloved pet will be looked after once they are gone. The legacy request is introduced subtly in the follow-up material, and who wouldn't feel a bit obliged after being given such peace of mind for free?

The television advert feels a bit formulaic and follows all the 'response' rules, but thankfully it doesn't resort to using cheesy music as a backing track with the intention of tugging on the heartstrings.

The press and insert material leaves me a little cold, but it would definitely work for my dad - he's much more a part of the sort of audience that the RSPCA is trying to target. I've sent off for an information pack already.

Creativity: 3
Delivery: 4
Total: 7 out of 10

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