Focus: Fundraising - Case study: Refuge campaign focuses on the kids

Helen Barrett


Refuge marked its 35th birthday in 2005 with a press, poster and radio advertising campaign to highlight the effects domestic violence has on children. It included a text-to-donate facility, which raised £1,000. The agency worked for free and sponsors covered other costs.


Refuge is the UK's largest single specialist provider of emergency support to women and children escaping domestic violence. It opened the world's first women's refuge in 1971 and now provides safe refuges for thousands of women and children every year.

It runs a 24-hour national domestic violence helpline in partnership with Women's Aid. Research from last year showed that witnessing or experiencing domestic violence can have profound, long-term effects on children under five.

In December 2005, Refuge launched the Don't Ignore It campaign to highlight that 90 per cent of domestic violence incidents are seen by children.

How it worked

There were four sides to the press and poster campaign. One showed a diary note from a young child that read: "I hate dad when he hits my mum.

It is really scary when he gets angry. I close my eyes really tight when he hits her. I try to plug my ears so I can 't hear mum cry ... I wish I was bigger so I could stop him!"

The others featured similar accounts in a child's handwriting. The posters appeared on the London tube, on billboards, in taxis and in the national press. It also appeared in washrooms.

The radio campaign, launched in February, carried the same message on national and regional commercial radio stations. A message at the bottom of the press and poster advert invited potential donors to text REFUGE to 80175. Texts cost £1.50, of which the charity received 92.5p.


The text-to-donate facility raised more than £1,000. The campaign also featured in The Sun and on ITV's This Morning. A feature also appeared on BBC News 24 and there was coverage in local newspapers and on radio.

The launch of the radio advert was featured on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: "Don't Ignore It generated an increase in visits to the website, more calls to the helpline, visibility with key opinion formers and MPs and an increase in volunteers."

EXPERT VIEW - Karin Weatherup, creative director, Burnett Works

I really want to say nice things about these ads. Refuge does such important work, the creative team was obviously moved by it and the child's-eye view of domestic violence is a powerful idea.

But I'm afraid this fell short for me. The writing was clear, but it didn't sound genuine. Kids don't speak like that. They're more interesting and vivid - more stop, start and tied in knots, more memorable. It needed some small details, as a child would see them, that you can't shake off afterwards.

Ad space doesn't come easily to Refuge and it needs to work really hard.

Of course, watching your mum being beaten up has a big impact on children.

But then what? If it's happening to me, what do I do? If it's happening next door, or to my daughter? If I've just slapped my wife for the first time and don't want it to happen again? I need a big fat phone number, and to know what to expect if I call.

It builds awareness of the issue. But not of Refuge's unique solutions.

It could be an NSPCC or NCH logo in the corner. Maybe next time, the 'donate' option might explain what Refuge will use the money for - somewhere safe to run to, confidential advice or counselling.

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