Background: Barnardo's estimates that around 51,000 children are taking care of sick or disabled adult members of their family in the UK. Young carers take on a whole range of household tasks including shopping, cooking, laundry and paying bills, as well as providing emotional and physical support such as dressing or helping their relatives use the toilet.
The charity gives these children the opportunity to spend time with other children and provides after-school support and counselling.
Last year, Barnardo's developed a direct mail pack on the theme of young carers and decided to test whether an email version of the same message would generate additional revenue. Emails had been used by the charity before to send newsletters, but it was the first time that it used this medium to raise donations.
Aims: Barnardo's wanted to target committed givers aged between 25 and 50 through email, after it established that they were likely to be the most responsive to this medium. Email is also very cost-effective, allowing more money to go to young carers.
How it worked Barnardo's worked with Partners Andrews Aldridge, a marketing and design agency that had helped create one of the charity's DRTV campaigns.
They developed a creative theme featuring a 10-year-old boy called Robert.
His father has left the family and his mother suffers from a degenerative disease, so Robert has to look after her and his brothers and sisters.
The email started with a message referring to a normal situation, saying 'Robert will be up at 5am on Christmas morning', but then challenged the recipients by adding 'Helping his mother to the toilet again', which invited them to read the child's story.
"It would have been easy to position these kids as victims," said Steve Aldridge, creative partner at Partners Andrews Aldridge. "Instead we came up with the idea of positioning them as 'unsung heroes' - a worthy title which tugs heart strings and praises them for the astonishing work they do."
At the bottom of the email, recipients could click on a link to Barnardo's online donation form.
Altogether, 27,500 emails were sent. The first burst was sent on 27 November to ask donors to help children like Robert have the Christmas they deserve.
This was followed by a reminder on 11 December.
The sending of the email was managed by justgiving.com. Justgiving Mail, one of the company's main products, enabled Barnardo's to customise the delivery of the email by selecting target groups from its existing subscriber database. The product also provided Barnardo's with an online account that the charity could consult at any time to find out about the campaign's outcomes, including opening rates and click-through statistics.
Results Running a fundraising campaign via email enabled Barnardo's to raise donations at a fraction of the cost of direct mail.
Results provided by Justgiving Mail revealed that 4 per cent of the recipients clicked through and that 16 per cent of those made a donation.
"We were delighted with how the Christmas email campaign worked," said Barnardo's director of communications Diana Green. "It has given us some good foundations from which to build future e-campaigns. We will use email as a key part of our communications with donors in the future."