Case study: Samaritans to hit target with calendar

Direct mail raises £4m each year, or more than £5m if legacy income is included, for Samaritans. The target for its recent Christmas campaign is £248,000, including Gift Aid.

Organisation: Samaritans
Campaign: Advent Calendar Christmas Appeal
Agency: Flourish Direct Marketing


Samaritans mails supporters four times annually and sends one raffle mailing a year. Its research shows that supporters overwhelmingly prefer to be contacted by direct mail and most donations are received by cheque. It is also testing email to its supporters recruited through face-to-face contact, who tend to come from a younger age group. An online response to mail-outs is also planned for the future.

How it worked

Last year's Christmas campaign contained an advent calendar. Seven door panels opened to reveal information about the kinds of case that Samaritans volunteers deal with and the message "can you help us keep our doors open?" For this 14-week campaign, there was an initial mailing on 7 November. A follow-up mailing on 10 December was sent to supporters who had made donations in the past three years and to all committed givers.

The charity has recently refined its mailing list and does not send mail to lapsed donors, because they tend not to be reactivated by direct mail. Nor does it send direct mail to supporters who were recruited face-to-face, because they generally prefer email.


The campaign achieved 66 per cent of its target after four weeks and is expected to exceed the £248,000 target. The target return on investment is £5.52 for every pound invested. The current return is £4.38.

Richard Hatchard, senior direct marketing officer at Samaritans, said: "We are delighted how well our Christmas campaign is performing. We have had several comments from supporters who found the case studies in the advent calendar very thought-provoking.

"It is hard to think that while most people are enjoying Christmas and the New Year, for many Christmas is a time of sadness and emotional distress. This is why it is the busiest week for our volunteers, a time our branches will receive an extra 55,000 calls."

Expert view: Shaun Moran, Creative Director, Lida

I have seen work for Samaritans before and generally I like it because it doesn't always take a familiar route. It's an emotionally rich subject and tugging on the heartstrings would be the obvious way to get people to part with their money.

That's why I like this pack. It has a strong and rational ask. Christmas is Samaritans' busiest time, so the charity needs extra volunteers to cope with the additional demand.

I can't argue with that. It really appeals to my rational side, which often takes over from my emotional side when people ask me for money.

The letter copy is simple and straightforward, and the case studies behind the doors have the right mix of emotion and believability.

The stories vary, from Elizabeth spending Christmas alone after losing her husband, to Ken, who borrowed money to pay for Christmas and can't see any way of being able to pay it back. The case studies make me feel guilty for moaning about having to spend Christmas at the girlfriend's mother's.

My only criticism is the actual advent calendar. It's an obvious idea and, dare I say, a bit of a cliche. But it's a simple way of making the point and showing the days, so I can't be too critical. After all, it is to do with Christmas.

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

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