Fundraising: Case study - WWF tiger bone mailing has real bite

Francois Le Goff

Summary

In November, WWF-UK sent an appeal to save Sumatran tigers to 94,000 warm donors. The charity raised £168,000 and won the Institute of Direct Marketing award for the best creative of last month.

Background

In March 2004, WWF-UK and its campaigning partner Traffic released a report revealing that Indonesia was about to lose its last remaining tiger species - the Sumatran tiger - mainly because of the illegal trade in tiger parts in the country.

The report, Nowhere to Hide: the Trade in Sumatran Tigers, showed that at least 50 tigers of this species were poached each year between 1998 and 2002. Estimates made in 1999 showed that there were about 500 tigers left in the wild in Sumatra.

The appeal wanted to draw attention to the illegal trade in tiger parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicine and for souvenirs.

How it worked

A red and green mail pack that looked like a genuine sachet of powdered tiger bone was sent to 94,000 warm donors. Among them were 20,000 of WWF-UK's 220,000 direct debit donors, who were chosen either because they had recently signed up to the scheme or because they had made a cash donation in the past. Recipients also included occasional cash donors.

Written on the back of the pack's outer were directions to pour the powder into a bowl of hot water. Inside was an A2 leaflet folded in four, with the message "You would never buy tiger bone, but unfortunately some people do". When partially unfolded, it showed a picture of a Sumatran tiger, indicating which of the animal's body parts are used for different remedies.

The leaflet opened out completely to reveal information about the tigers and what can be done to protect them. Although recipients were free to make a donation of their choice, they were given guidance on what different sums of money would achieve. For example, £25 would cover the running and maintenance costs of a motorcycle for a wildlife protection ranger in Sumatra.

An insert was also placed in the charity's loyalty materials, including its magazine WWF News. But Steve Andrews, head of supporter management at WWF-UK, said inserts don't usually generate as many donations as direct mail.

Results

The appeal raised £168,000 against a target of £110,000, and had a response rate of 8 per cent. The appeal's average gift of £19 was higher than the charity's usual average of £13 to 15, which Andrews described as low.

"A lot of our direct debit supporters feel they are already doing their bit, and occasional cash givers tend to be less well-off." He said average donations were higher because the charity targeted its audience better this time: "We looked at how often people had given in the past and how much."

Andrews added that the pack's design and colours were really appealing to recipients. This led WWF-UK to win the Institute of Direct Marketing award for the best creative in May.

EXPERT VIEW

Nick Thomas, creative director, Target Direct

This pack demonstrates the importance of the outer envelope in contributing to the success of an appeal. I've always believed it's where most of the creative effort should go.

The envelope is the gateway to the whole appeal. If we fail to entice our potential donor through it, all hope is lost - as are the hours spent sweating over letters, leaflets and donation forms.

This envelope for the WWF's tiger bone appeal is a real beauty. Like all the great packs, it entices you in, in this case with the perverse notion of enjoying some powdered tiger bone to relieve your rheumatism or headache. It's a striking approach and designed to appear suitably exotic.

The idea is bound to have ruffled a few feathers and drawn some complaints.

In my experience, this is a good thing. When donors do phone up and let off steam - which is normally in the first couple of days - it's an early indicator that the appeal will do well.

The inside of the pack breaks with convention in that it has no letter, but consists only of a leaflet that folds out to A2 size and carries an integral personalised donation form. The large format allows for appropriately loud headlines - "For the Sumatran tiger things have reached crisis point" - and space for a particularly striking picture of the beautiful endangered beast itself.

The Sumatran tiger is in real trouble. Only 500 or so exist in the wild and poachers kill about one a week. This appeal enables donors to do the maths and makes a compelling case to support the WWF's great work.

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