Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Genes drive celebrates 10th birthday

Georgina Lock

Jeans for Genes was launched in 1996 as a national fundraising appeal.

In the annual one-day event, people are encouraged to donate at least £1 to wear jeans to work or school. The money raised goes towards research into genetic disorders and a range of advice and family support services.


Over the years, the charity has raised more than £23m, with the proceeds distributed to the four partner charities: Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, the Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases, the Primary Immunodeficiency Association and the Chronic Granulomatous Research Disorder Trust.

Since 2002 another 11 charities have benefited, including the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, The Haemophilia Society, children's charity Sparks and Starlight Children's Foundation.


Jeans for Genes is aimed at two key markets - schools and the workplace.

Fundraising packs were prepared for each market and distributed to 45,000 companies and 19,500 nurseries and schools in the summer. The pack contains charity information, sponsorship forms and ideas for additional fundraising - selling wristbands, bring-and-buy denim sales and dyeing hair blue.

The appeal was backed by a PR campaign featuring stories about families suffering from genetic disorders placed in a range of publications, including The Sun, consumer magazines and local papers. The charity's lead sponsor, Matalan, sold wristbands and encouraged support in its outlets.

A radio advertising campaign was launched, supported by posters on the London Underground, flyers distributed outside tube stations in London and in UK city centres, online banner adverts and poster advertising.

Celebrities such as model Sophie Anderton, presenter Kate Lawler and popstar Kenzie modelled a birthday T-shirt for the campaign. Coleen McLoughlin, who has a sister with a genetic disorder, was pictured cutting the 10th birthday cake at Great Ormond Street Hospital.


More than 6,000 schools and nurseries took part and people in 16,000 companies wore jeans for a day. The average donation from secondary schools was £479 and from companies £102, with the total reaching £3.1m - its best year yet.


There is a lesson for all of us in this campaign, but not the obvious one. Yes, it is hard to fault the original Jeans for Genes technique.

Taking a social trend, turning it to fundraising advantage for a set of charities, many of whom would not rank anywhere near someone's top 10, is very impressive. Cap that with a 10th anniversary campaign that brought in £3m and counting, and you can't help applauding. Leading the list with Great Ormond Street gives donors confidence.

This whole campaign could easily have slid into obscurity, however, as dressing down Friday moved from 1990s phenomenon to social embarrassment.

Nevertheless, the campaign has skilfully used new fundraising concepts.

Jeans for Genes has conquered its core markets of schools and companies (not the easiest trick in the book) by its heavy re-investment in marketing and design of appropriate attractive materials. The staff, Lippa Pearce, Crossing O'Sullivan and Web Epics must all be congratulated on a well-designed campaign that hasn't lost sight of the basics in appropriate creativity.

The emotional engine room still drives the donations, but do look at the website.

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