Case study: A lucrative foray into the art world

How St Joseph's Hospice in Hackney raised £51,300 with an exhibition called Life Is Only Half the Story

Life is Only Half the Story exhibition
Life is Only Half the Story exhibition

Organisation: St Joseph's Hospice
Campaign: Life Is Only Half the Story art exhibition and auction
Agency: Purple Frog

St Joseph's Hospice in Hackney, east London, provides palliative end-of-life care to people in east and north-east London who are suffering from terminal illnesses.


The hospice hosted the Life Is Only Half the Story art exhibition in February. Some of the charity's volunteers had contacts in the art world and were able to suggest potential donors. Previously, St Joseph's had held only jumble sales or summer fetes, the most successful of which raised £17,000. A target of £20,000 was set for the event.

How it worked

Christ Church in London's Spitalfields was chosen as a venue, and east London gallery owner Victoria Miro agreed to be patron of the event. She helped to secure high-profile donations from artists including Jake and Dinos Chapman, Peter Doig and Turner Prize winners Chris Ofili, Grayson Perry and Wolfgang Tillmans. A total of 128 works were donated. KPMG, Investec and Ballymore provided corporate sponsorship, covering the cost of the venue, and Carlsberg donated drinks for an evening reception and private view to launch the exhibition.

Promotional material was produced by communications agency Purple Frog, and art buyers agreed to send email flyers to their clients. The event was advertised on the hospice website, in the Canary Wharf edition of monthly listings magazine City Life and in an edition of The Times.

A guest list of 1,000 potential corporate and private donors was compiled by contacting art galleries and local financial companies. Staff and volunteers from St Joseph's Hospice served refreshments at the private view and helped to take bidders' details and payments.


The target was revised to £30,000 after the charity secured donations of significant pieces of work from a number of high-profile artists. More than 300 people turned up to the private view, with a steady flow attending over the following two days.

The event cost £9,630 to organise and raised a total of £51,300, including sponsorship to the value of £8,700. The hospice profile also received a significant boost: most of the people who attended had never heard of St Joseph's before.

EXPERT VIEW - Caroline Gibbs, planner, Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw

I'm pleased this event exceeded expectations and generated more than previous fundraising efforts.

However, I wonder how the Life Is Only Half the Story theme was communicated to potential donors. It's not obvious how it ties in with the art, and the religious overtones of the phrase may have proved somewhat depressing for non-believers - particularly hospice residents. The phrase also fails to convey a fundraising need - if it's all about the afterlife, then why do you need money now?

The charity was right to go local and target the financial sector and art gallery patrons, but it was optimistic to hope that a single ad in The Times would be enough to capitalise on potential national interest in the exhibition, especially given the calibre of the artists involved.

An online element to the auction and the campaign would have increased the number of potential bidders. I hope existing donors were also invited and that e-invitations contained a 'member-get-member' element to boost awareness and attendance. At more than 5:1, though, it's a decent return on investment and probably did much to boost awareness of the charity and its work in the area.

Creativity: 3
Delivery: 3
Total: 6 out of 10

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