Focus: Fundraising - Case study - The 'last chance' to mention the war

Nathalie Thomas, nathalie.thomas@haynet.com

Summary

The ex-services charity Combat Stress launched a direct mail campaign in June to raise £250,000 ahead of the last official commemoration of the Second World War on 10 July. The mailing, which targeted both warm and cold donors, has so far raised more than £150,000.

Background

Combat Stress teamed up with the direct marketing agency TW Cat to produce the mail campaign, which was sent out five weeks before the official 60th anniversary of the end of Second World War.

The charity hoped the campaign, which was timed to appeal to donors ahead of the Government's last official commemoration of the war, would raise money for its services assisting army and navy veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Combat Stress is the only charity in the UK to offer treatment centres and home visits to former armed forces and merchant navy servicemen and women suffering from the psychological effects of combat.

How it worked

TW Cat designed two packs - one for warm donors and another to recruit new supporters. They both included a letter, with case studies from beneficiaries, asking for contributions of £10, £20 or £30.

In the letter, Toby Elliott, chief executive of Combat Stress, emphasised the urgency of the appeal because 2005 marked the last official commemoration of the Second World War.

"This could be our best and last chance to raise such a sum, before the spotlight moves on to more recent events," he wrote.

Two colour letters from a war veteran - one from the front line in 1945 and a second from a Combat Stress care home in 2005 - were also included.

The warm donors received an extra certificate of thanks from the charity, and the cold prospects could refer to a colour leaflet to find out more about Combat Stress's work and objectives.

On 1 June, the packs were sent out to 14,200 warm donors and 50,360 cold donors. On the payment form, where donors could fill out their credit card information and Gift Aid declarations, the charity urged supporters to increase their donations to £25, £60 or £100 by illustrating what the money could pay for.

Results

Income from the campaign so far totals £154,608 - £95,392 short of the £250,000 target. The response rate for warm donors was 26.7 per cent; 0.6 per cent of cold donors responded to the new donor-recruitment pack.

"We are delighted that this campaign has helped us continue to provide the support needed by the many heroic veterans of the Second World War and subsequent conflicts," said Sue Eddington, donor development manager at Combat Stress.

EXPERT VIEW

STEVE STRETTON, creative partner, Archibald Ingall Stretton

It can't be easy working for a forces charity at the moment. In one of the most catastrophe-ridden years in living memory, many fundraisers have struggled to attract donations. Public goodwill towards our military will scarcely have increased during the Iraq debacle.

The uncomplicated affection for veterans of the less morally ambiguous Second World War is fading with time. The 60th anniversary of the war's end probably represented the last major opportunity to raise serious funds for needy ex-servicemen.

Combat Stress, the ex-services mental welfare charity, used the commemoration as a hook for this campaign - to raise £250,000 by 10 July.

Perhaps fittingly, its approach to the task is about as old school as direct mail gets. It includes one of the longest letters I've ever seen, leaflets, a personalised certificate of thanks, a reply form and testimonials.

Any white space that might have inadvertently sneaked into the layout has been filled.

The copy is actually well written. One particular element - two letters from the same serviceman, one from 1945, the other from 2005 - is genuinely moving. The trouble is, there's just so much of it.

Thankfully, some had the time to wade through it - the campaign has raised £154,608. It's a good return, but maybe a more single-minded pack would have pulled even harder.

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