Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Breast Cancer Care wins SMS support

Nathalie Thomas,


Breast Cancer Care began trials of a new SMS fundraising campaign in March this year. The charity hoped to use the popularity of text messages to attract new supporters and donors.

The SMS campaign was designed predominantly in-house, but Breast Cancer Care also teamed up with Eurosport and fashion designer Julien MacDonald during the latter months of the trial.

During the most successful stages, the campaign generated about 1,000 texts a month, from which Breast Cancer Care received up to 92p a text.


Breast Cancer Care is well known for its iconic pink ribbon logo, which plays a major part in the charity's fundraising campaigns.

Previously, donors and supporters could purchase the ribbons in pin-badge form; this year, the charity decided to widen the net by taking the logo to mobile phones.

The charity thought the initiative would tie in well with the current fashion of accessorising mobiles through screensavers and ring tones.

Although the text message trials were not intended as a high-income campaign, Breast Cancer Care hoped they would help expand the demographic range of its supporters.

"It's about bringing people in," explained Marcus O'Shea, head of fundraising at Breast Cancer Care.

How it worked

For the first two months of the trial, Breast Cancer Care restricted advertising to its internet homepage. Mobile phone owners were encouraged to text 'pink' to 83338 to receive a mobile phone screensaver featuring the ribbon. Users were charged £1.50 per text in addition to their usual network charges.

During May and June, the charity ran a promotion with Eurosport to coincide with the Uefa Women's European Football Championship. The 'text pink' message was scrolled across the screen once during each half of the matches, reaching viewers in the UK only. In July, Julien MacDonald was asked to design a brooch in the run-up to Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, which was also adopted for the SMS campaign.


Between March and April, the trial campaign generated about 50 text messages a month. This rose to 500 and 600 texts in May and June respectively during the Eurosport promotion.

Approximately 60 text messages a month were received in July and August, increasing to 1,000 in September.

The charity received between 57p and 92p per text, depending on the mobile phone network.

However, O'Shea is keen for telecoms companies to increase the amount they pass on to charity. "Clearly, from £1.50, 92p is not really enough, and networks should restructure around charitable donations," he said.

EXPERT VIEW - Sarah Don-Bramah, account director, TDA

The pink ribbon is a tremendous asset, and Breast Cancer Care is to be congratulated for finding new ways to exploit it. It is even better to see it being brave enough to experiment with what is still a relatively new fundraising channel, and to reach out to a younger audience. This campaign highlights the opportunities and the challenges faced by a charity contemplating using SMS.

One opportunity is to turn awareness advertising into responsive advertising.

Many charities would have been happy enough to have simply generated awareness from the Uefa Women's European Football Championship, but Breast Cancer Care used SMS to generate responses too. There are now a couple of thousand people who felt strongly enough to put the pink ribbon on their phones, a small step that might lead them to become the committed givers and legacy pledgers of the future.

SMS is unlikely to make you rich, but it can help you interact with a new audience. And the best SMS idea in the world won't fly unless you can get it in front of your target audience without spending a fortune.

Finally, you need a convincing way to convert people who download a logo into more profitable support.

It's not clear how Breast Cancer Care plans to do this, so the true fundraising value of this exercise is not yet clear, but if it applies the same imagination and innovation it has displayed to date, it should do just fine.

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