At Work: Fundraising - Case study - Ambitious ask pays off for cat charity

Organisation: Cats Protection, Campaign 80th anniversary appeal, Agency: TDA.

Summary: Cats Protection, the UK's leading cat welfare charity, has a successful direct marketing programme through which supporters are typically asked for donations of between £15 and £25.

In 2007, analysis revealed a group of warm donors who might give at a higher level, so the charity looked for a reason to justify a higher donation. A capital or building appeal would have been ideal, but there were no projects at an appropriate stage for a public appeal. However, 2007 also marked the charity's 80th anniversary. Cats Protection began work on an appeal asking selected donors to give £80.

Background

Cats Protection had never asked for such a high amount before and had no idea how supporters would respond, especially as this was a contrived appeal theme rather than a genuine emergency or tangible building appeal.

Assuming that the size of the gift being asked for would significantly reduce response rates, a 9 per cent response rate was forecast - slightly below the typical rate achieved from previous appeals to the kind of donors being targeted.

It was expected that a large number of small gifts would drag down the average value of donations. The forecast, therefore, was for an average donation of £60. This would have generated a 2:1 return on investment from the small group being targeted, and would also have identified donors with the capacity to give more than average.

Results

The charity achieved an 18.6 per cent response rate - more than double the level it had expected. The average donation was £70, not £60. Instead of getting a 2:1 return on investment, it achieved a 4.4:1 return: for every 1,000 donors it mailed, more than £15,000 was generated.

Jane Bond, donor development manager at Cats Protection, said: "The response was fantastic, given that we were typically asking these donors to increase their gift amounts by 60 per cent. Many supporters actually made donations far in excess of the amount requested. We also identified a new group of mid-level supporters."

EXPERT VIEW

Mike Colling, managing director, MC&C direct-response media company

At the centre of all the most successful campaigns is a juicy slice of real insight. This campaign is no exception.

Whereas many animal charity campaigns tug at the heart-strings with time-sensitive emergency appeals, this is an altogether subtler affair - albeit with a rather daring flourish. The decision to go for an £80 donation for the organisation's 80th anniversary looks to have been a masterstroke. Asking anyone, even loyal supporters, to part with £80 should set you up for a fall, but the results are impressive.

Creatively, however, the campaign is less easy to assess. There is a marked absence of cutesy cats and the 'ah' factor. The mail pack, with 'then and now' shots of various Cats Protection activities, feels more like a calendar than a potent call to action.

Return on investment might be on the low side (probably due to a small file of targets), but the response rate, the average gift and the net income per thousand donors all show an organisation that knows its audience. In all, it's evidence that the right appeal to the right audience can offer real rewards.

Creativity: 3
Delivery: 5
Total: 8 out of 10

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