Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Crisis DM drive brings home the bacon

Nathalie Thomas, nathalie.thomas@haynet.com

Summary

Crisis began a direct mail fundraising campaign in May to raise £85,000 for the Crisis Skylight Cafe. In line with the charity's usual fundraising policy - it tries to recruit new donors only at Christmas - the pack was aimed at 34,000 warm donors. Produced in-house by freelance designers and copywriters, the campaign has so far raised £62,000.

Background

The Skylight Cafe opened in August 2004 in a former meeting room at Crisis's London headquarters. The charity is well known for its Open Christmas shelters, which provide services such as hot meals for single, homeless people over the festive season. The cafe marked a departure from previous projects by providing training opportunities for homeless and once-homeless people.

Under the guidance of a specialist training manager, trainees can work towards formal catering qualifications, which can lead eventually to permanent jobs in the sector.

Although the charity hopes the cafe will be able to finance itself in the long term, it recruited freelance copywriters and designers to put together a fundraising pack in-house.

Crisis has used agencies for fundraising campaigns in the past, but it has developed a policy of self-management where possible.

Ruth Ruderham, direct marketing manager at Crisis, explained: "We felt we could manage with freelance copywriters and freelance designers, and this was the most cost-effective way."

How it worked

The pack was designed to mimic a sandwich in a takeaway bag, with information about the cafe 'sandwiched' between a front and back cover, both bearing black and white images of a piece of bread.

The front of the pack carried the strapline "We've turned our meeting room into job opportunities for homeless people". The sandwich theme ran throughout, with slogans such as "innovation is our bread and butter" and "please provide the filling".

In addition to a personal account of the Skylight Cafe from manager Louise Stoker, a case study from trainee Ben Davy showed how the cafe has helped to open doors for homeless and ex-homeless people.

Crisis added a fun element to the pack by asking donors for potential sandwich ideas - a winning filling was selected.

Results

The Skylight pack has so far raised £62,000 for the cafe, with an overall response rate of 6.5 per cent. By producing the pack in-house, the charity believes it saved about £10,000.

The decision to include recipe requests was also well received, according to the charity, with the winning filling - chicken, peaches and rocket - selling well at the cafe throughout the summer.

EXPERT VIEW

Oliver Daniels, copywriter, TDA

To attract donors, Crisis has to be fairly hard hitting. But to keep them, it needs to sound more optimistic.

That's exactly what it does with this pack. You come away with the impression that here is a practical, effective charity that achieves positive, lasting change. Training homeless people so they can acquire marketable skills and get a job? Giving them a hand up instead of a handout? I'll buy that.

Full marks for tone.

The distinctive 'sandwich bag' is a great idea and has genuine doormat impact. The copy is engaging, but I wonder if there is too much crammed into this format. Call me picky, but the copy on the front of the leaflet could have linked more clearly with the line on the outer. And it looks like a shopping list item is repeated in error. A good external agency would have picked up on these glitches.

Having come up with the idea of mailing people a sandwich, why oh why did Crisis print it in black and white? The monotone colours make the communication feel downbeat and depressing, and are at odds with the upbeat and hopeful message. Nor is readability helped by some cramped and dense typography.

I'm delighted that £62,500 was raised for Crisis, but a 6.5 per cent response on a warm mailing isn't exactly barnstorming. A good effort then, but this pack could have been even more appetising.

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