Case study: A card campaign that broke records

Charity: Alzheimer's Society

Agency: Catalyst

Campaign: Putting Care Right

The Alzheimer's Society works to improve the quality of life of people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland living with dementia. It is a membership organisation with more than 25,000 members. The charity carries out research into the causes of dementia and works to find a cure.


The Alzheimer's Society designed a national Christmas direct mail campaign based on research that suggested donors would respond positively to more communication about its care, support and respite work.

The appeal was backed by the launch of a national report from the charity in November 2007 and an awareness- raising campaign fronted by comedian Jo Brand. The fundraising target was £99,750, with a 10 per cent response rate and a target average gift of £17.50.

How it worked

Direct mail packs were sent to 60,000 members, active and lapsed cash donors, existing regular givers and previous In Memoriam donors.

The envelopes each contained a Christmas card carrying an awareness-raising message about dementia for recipients to send to other people, a reply envelope and a letter with a donation form. The charity asked for a £20 donation and explained that this would pay for giving beneficiaries advice about making the decision to move a family member to residential care. Donors were given a variety of payment options.


The campaign raised £165,164 and achieved an 11 per cent response rate with an average gift of £48. It was the charity's most successful Christmas direct mail campaign to date. "The campaign was both emotive and compelling, and the pack had a strong fundraising proposition," says Deborah Jarrett, head of individual giving at the Alzheimer's Society.

"Jo Brand's affinity to the cause, because of her experience of looking after elderly people, also had a real impact. People with dementia and their carers are especially affected at Christmas - and issues around care have particular poignancy at that time of year."


John Grain is director of the fundraising agency John Grain Associates

This push was the Alzheimer's Society's most successful Christmas campaign, yet there is nothing about it that obviously tells you why.

This campaign could be accused of being predictable: it consists of a letter with a response form, a Christmas card and a business return envelope.

The letter is from Jo Brand and the copy is strong, but it's only on page two that it really comes alive, powerfully conveying what it is like to be suffering from dementia. It also describes clearly some of the services the charity offers, so all the obvious boxes are ticked: need, solution, what Alzheimer's does and how the donor can help.

Visually, there is little to excite. The card, though pleasant enough, does not connect the reader with the work of the society in any meaningful way.

Although the response was only 1 per cent above target, it's interesting that the average gift of £48 was almost three times that of the target of £17.50.

Did the audience respond because of the execution of the campaign, or was it simply enough that the letter was from the Alzheimer's Society?

Creativity: 2

Execution: 4

Total: 6 out of 10.

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