Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Quarriers improves its response rate

Helen Barrett

Summary

Quarriers doubled the response rates to its cold donor recruitment mailings and achieved its highest ever gift rates for regular giving with a mailer campaign.

Background

Quarriers is a social care charity in Scotland that has an annual income of £35m. It supports and cares for a diverse range of vulnerable people, including adults and children with disabilities, young people, homeless people and people with epilepsy. Most of its income is from local authorities and is tied strictly to delivering specific services. It believed there were lots of opportunities to develop new services, but needed funds to kick-start them. Managers decided to launch a three-year direct marketing strategy to encourage individual giving.

How it worked

The strategy was launched in April 2004, and the direct mail pack was sent out that autumn. The pack focused on Quarriers' respite care service and described the situation of a family with a severely disabled child.

The pack was shaped like a Maltese cross. It unfolded step by step to take the recipient through a typical day in the life of a family with a severely disabled child.

Each stage showed the impact Quarriers respite care can make. The life of parents Frances and Colin was described as one of "stomach-churning anxiety and exhaustion". Their daily stresses and strains were chronicled, showing their struggle to balance the care required by their severely disabled son with the demands of their two other children. Respite care for their son from Quarriers gave the family four hours to enjoy time together at weekends.

Donors were asked to give £4 a month to help pay for respite care for similar families. The mailer was part of a wider campaign that also included face-to-face fundraising, inserts and door drops.

Results

Quarriers saw its response rate improve from 0.42 per cent to 0.97 per cent - a rise of 124 per cent - and achieved its highest gift rates. Morag Fleming, head of individual giving at the charity, said: "To have more than doubled our response rates is fantastic. Direct mail is clearly a successful route for us." The charity will this autumn start a new campaign to build on the success of Frances and Colin.

EXPERT VIEW - Mark McArthur Christie, partner, Freeman Christie

The core of the mailing - the concept - is strong, particularly with a story like this to tell. The execution could be a bit more powerful, though.

It's hard to know what's been lost under the client's blue pencil - just as an example, however, the copy itself could have been more focused.

It could perhaps have used a tighter close on the rear of the leaflet because at the moment it's a bit of dumping ground for the bits that wouldn't fit elsewhere.

I would have liked to see a letter too. It's often the hardest-working part of the pack and gives the writer a real chance to sell to the reader.

The art direction shoehorns the body copy in without a break. You need to lead people through a trickily folded leaflet like this with a few more subheads, captions and callouts - otherwise they'll give up and put it aside.

But I'm being picky. I know exactly how tough good, heart-touching copy is to write. That's because I nearly got sacked in the 1990s for being rubbish at it. I also know it's a damn sight easier to sit and judge someone else's work than do it yourself to budget and deadline.

It's a fine mailer, and although I don't know what base Quarriers started from, a 124 per cent improvement in response is certainly a result.

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