Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Christmas challenge nets record sum

Nathalie Thomas, nathalie.thomas@haynet.com

Summary: Crisis has been operating a corporate fundraising campaign at Christmas for the past 10 years. This year, a record £785,000 was raised. A total of 104 companies donated to the initiative.

Background: Every year, Crisis, the charity for the homeless, approaches companies to sign up to its Christmas Card Challenge. The initiative, which is the charity's principal corporate fundraising drive, is managed in-house with the assistance of design company Denison Design.

The Crisis fundraising team approaches large corporations, asking them to donate their annual Christmas card budget to the charity's work in helping the homeless. In return, the companies get a mention in the Financial Times newspaper - Crisis receives two double-page advertisements from the newspaper free of charge in which the companies' logos are printed as a thank-you for their donation. The logos similarly appear in advertising space on the newspaper's website.

In addition to the newspaper advertising, the companies receive an animated e-card from the charity, which they are able to send out in the place of traditional Christmas cards.

How it works: The Crisis fundraising team starts approaching companies as early as May - seven months before the Christmas Card Challenge is due to take place. The first approach is in the form of a breakfast meeting with its 10 longest-running supporters.

The next stage of donor recruitment commences at the beginning of the summer, when a series of viral emails are sent out. The email marketing drive, which targets various audiences within companies, continues until November. This year, the charity also held a fundraising event at the Globe Theatre in south London.

Crisis emphasises to companies the environmental advantages of sending e-cards, but also seeks to promote the corporate social responsibility credentials of donating to the Christmas Card Challenge. Companies donate varying amounts according to the size of their Christmas card budget, but more generous donors get larger logos in the newspaper and online advertisements. Crisis sets a donation deadline of 12 November after which the advertisements are printed in the Financial Times.

Results: This year, the Christmas Card Challenge has raised a record £785,000 for the charity - £185,000 more than in 2004. A total of 104 companies donated to the fundraiser - the highest number of contributors so far.

About 77 per cent of companies renewed their donation after participating last year. The charity estimates that the corporate fundraiser offers a cost-to-income ratio of 1:20.

EXPERT VIEW

Karin Weatherup, creative director, Burnett Works

I love this. It's so simple. For everyone - the Financial Times, the companies who have given to Crisis instead of sending out a paper storm of Christmas cards and the readers of the newspaper. You get it immediately.

The double-page spread copy gives a crystal clear explanation of what the fundraising idea is and what donor companies have done. It also invites FT readers to pick up the phone to get their company involved next year.

Excellent.

However, the visual concept could have done more for Crisis - if this was done in-house or pro bono, apologies. It's OK, but when a charity gets the biggest spread it's ever likely to have in a newspaper with readers of influence and affluence, it seems a shame not to have an image that really illuminates just what the charity can do - in this instance, help homeless people in very practical ways.

The dull, wooden, closed door with an angel fluttering seems to run counter to the headline about opening doors for homeless people. I wanted to see through the door to a homeless person relishing a moment of peace, safe and warm, sore toes resting next to worn out boots. Simplistic? Maybe, but an image specific to Crisis, with an authentic spark, which gives some sense of the outcomes money can buy.

The e-card is cute. People will call their colleagues to have a look.

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