Every year, Harvest Help sends a Harvest Festival resource pack to churches across the UK and Ireland to encourage churchgoers to donate money for its activities in rural Africa. This year's appeal has raised an estimated £60,000.
The objective of this year's Harvest Festival mailing - its third in succession - was to raise money for Harvest Help's 20:20 appeal. Launched to celebrate the charity's 20th anniversary, the campaign encourages supporters to donate the £20 required to train an African farmer to become self-sufficient.
The UK-based charity works exclusively in Zambia, Malawi, Ghana and Togo.
The mailing is managed in-house with the help of design company Wobble Design. Publicity starts as early as April, when the charity alerts church bodies about the pack and asks them to market the campaign through church newsletters and clergy mailings.
Harvest Help sends the pack out at the end of May, when churches usually decide on the format of the Harvest Festival for that year. The pack, which this year targeted 2,500 churches, is designed to appeal to all denominations.
Each year, the charity aims to boost the profile of the campaign by seeking endorsements from significant church leaders. In 2005, Harvest Help secured the support of the Rt Revd Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
"I think this had an effect on interest in the pack," says Kevin Lawrence, UK programme manager at Harvest Help.
How it worked
The resource pack provides a comprehensive order of service, including hymn and prayer recommendations, a play outline for children and a suggested sermon. In theory, clergy could deliver an entire service without further preparation, but Harvest Help realises each church is different and provides flexible materials and ideas that could be incorporated into individual services.
The formula for fundraising is flexible. The charity does supply Gift Aid envelopes and donation sheets, but churches fundraise in different ways - some do collections after the service, some hold fundraising lunches and others make a donation out of their general budgets. After the pack is sent out, churches can request more resources.
Harvest Help admits there is a "high initial investment" in producing all of the resources for free, but it feels the fundraising returns merit the investment.
This year's appeal is on target to raise £60,000 - £10,000 more than last year.
Although the charity is unsure of the precise reasons, Lawrence mentions the "heightened interest in Africa" after the G8 summit and Make Poverty History campaign, both of which might have played a role in this year's success.
Neil Davidson, independent marketing consultant
Putting yourself in the shoes of dedicated church-goers is not easy for many people. That's every fundraiser's challenge - understanding what makes other people tick and connecting with them - and simple definitions of your audience aren't enough. You also know that some people will respond as soon as they see the message, even if the creative work is poor. Direct communications need to touch the others, the waiverers.
I want to say good things about this resource pack. It's competent and I can feel the hard work that's gone into it, but those waiverers won't be grabbed by an order of service or mini plays. Using case studies is a useful technique, but the stories have to be well written. One of the case studies, Frank Kapopo's story, is not a well-crafted tale. His plight and the resolution don't grab me, although they should. Does a message from the boss, the Archbishop of Canterbury, get them moving? The cynical part of me says it does quite the opposite.
Vicars often use stories to get their messages across. Wouldn't they love well-written stories about people who have benefited from the programme and some of the people who have given before? Wouldn't that grab them?
Isn't it at least something that might show a real understanding of the target audience? Maybe that's not the right idea, but I know there's a more creative solution out there.