Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Environmentalists raise lobbying cash

Nathalie Thomas,

Summary: In March, Friends of the Earth sent a direct mail pack to existing and lapsed donors to gather support for a campaign to make UK corporations more accountable for their conduct abroad. The objective was to raise money for future Friends of the Earth lobbying activities. Designed by direct marketing agency Burnett Works, the mailing raised a total of £114,450.

Background: Friends of the Earth decided to combine a direct mail fundraising initiative with a campaigning opportunity to rouse public feeling about the need for greater corporate accountability.

The international environmental organisation claims that people in countries such as Brazil and Nigeria, who have suffered the effects of pollution from UK companies such as Shell, have no channel through which to hold them to account. Friends of the Earth hopes to change this with a campaign directed at the UK Government.

"Our goal was to raise the resources so we could lobby the Government to change the law and make UK businesses operating abroad accountable to UK law," explains Dylan Parkes, direct marketing manager at Friends of the Earth.

The organisation sought to raise £51,612 by asking existing supporters to upgrade their donations from £30 to £60. The pack also contained a cash appeal that it was hoped would raise at least £15,210. A final objective was to reactivate lapsed supporters.

How it worked: Almost 100,000 warm and lapsed donors were targeted with the pack, which carried the strapline "Meet your neighbour from hell". The final word, "hell" was lifted from Shell's well-known red and yellow logo.

The pack contained a letter from Tony Juniper, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, urging supporters to donate or upgrade their donations to support the campaign.

"The stark truth is that, in many countries, Shell and other UK companies don't have to protect fundamental human rights or the environment from which they reap profits," Juniper wrote. "That means millions of people affected by Shell's pollution have no way to hold this corporate giant to account."

A colour leaflet highlighting two case studies from the US and South Africa, where people claim to have suffered health problems as a result of pollution from oil refineries, was also included.

At the bottom of the donation form, Friends of the Earth urged supporters to lobby the Government themselves by signing a pre-prepared letter to environment minister Elliot Morley.

Results: Income from the appeal reached £114,450. About 40,400 existing supporters upgraded their donations to raise £80,412, and the cash appeal brought in £25,267, exceeding the target of £15,210 by 60 per cent.

However, the amount raised from lapsed supporters fell £2,236 short of the £11,007 target.


Ena-Maria Gee, business development manager, SOS Direct Mail

The pack immediately attracts your attention because the bold message on the envelope, "Meet your neighbour from hell", strikes a chord with people. It does the most important thing - it makes you want to open the envelope.

The mailing was aimed at a specific audience - past and present Friends of the Earth donors. These can be difficult to attract in that they might feel they have already given what they can afford, so the pack must tell a new story. It contains a hard-hitting leaflet about Shell, and the information in the letter makes the reader believe that giving can make our environment better.

The mailing must be seen to carry the right message, but the presentation is equally important - particularly to an informed and environmentally aware audience. The paper and envelopes used for the mailing are all recycled, and the contents were folded in such a way as to ensure that the enclosing and mailing costs were kept to a minimum.

All this would be wasted without a good response mechanism, but the personalised response piece and business reply envelope mean the donor can open the pack, read it and complete the return in one session.

It's no surprise that the pack produced good response rates. It has a clear, feel-good message for a defined audience - it is not too late to save the world by your positive action.

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