Case study: Red Cross finds it's very good to talk

The British Red Cross expects to raise £635,000 over four years, through telemarketing to screened lists of donors to the charity.

Organisation: British Red Cross
Campaign: Telephone recruitment
Agency: GoGen and Response One


The British Red Cross expects to raise £635,000 over four years, through telemarketing to screened lists of donors to the charity. It first tested telephone fundraising from similar lists of potential donors in 2005.


The charity found telemarketing to be the most cost-effective way - alongside direct marketing - to get new donors on board. The technique has also allowed it to keep donors informed about its work. The Red Cross hoped to establish the telephone as a viable way of recruiting regular givers and reducing reliance on other regular giving activity.

How it worked

The Red Cross ran a telephone recruitment campaign from April 2006 to February 2007. It bought data lists from data solution provider Response One and checked prospects against the Telephone Preference Service register. The lists were made up of people who had previously given to charity via the internet, direct response television marketing or the telephone.

These donors were chosen because they were younger, more affluent and committed and more likely to Gift Aid donations and make bigger donations than traditional donors. The fundraising target was £411,000 in gross income over a four-year period. There was no target donation amount for individual supporters. How much was asked for depended on donors' circumstances.

The campaign went out nationally. The charity built up profiles of TV and online donors, and a similar group was targeted via the telephone.

The Red Cross worked in partnership with calling agency GoGen to develop the script. Marketers went through an induction process to learn about the Red Cross's work in the UK and overseas and its principles.


The charity estimates that its income will reach £635,000 over four years - far higher than previously expected - from more than 2,200 new donors. As a result, the Red Cross plans to recruit 12,000 more regular givers through outbound telephone marketing next year.

Liz Williams, senior campaigns manager at the British Red Cross, said: "Telephone fundraising is the most effective channel for recruiting and communicating with new donors. It will be increasingly important to us as a way to get more supporters on board."

<h2>Expert view</h2>

Gordon Michie, director of development, Relationship Marketing

Transferring effective cold acquisition to direct monthly giving is the one area that telephone fundraising has yet to fully accomplish. Some organisations have tried and failed to achieve this. Others, such as Online Telephone Fundraising, use techniques - such as home money-box placement programmes, followed by conversion - that give fantastic returns, but only over a period of time.

This campaign has targeted people who were likely to be responsive to a direct ask by telephone and those who were comfortable with direct debits.

The partnership with the telephone agency that allowed the fundraisers the freedom to have conversations with potential donors was a good move away from the totally scripted types of calls we have all heard and cringed about in the past. I think that this is a major factor in the success of the campaign.

The campaign acknowledged that supporters are beginning to understand the way we work and that we need to respect them by having proper conversations with them.

The results are impressive and rightly won fundraising awards. In many ways, however, this is what we all should be doing as normal practice.

Creativity: 3
Delivery: 4
Overall: 7 out of 10

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