Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Sarah's Diary pulls in cash for the Kidz

Helen Barrett

Whizz-Kidz is a charity that provides specialised mobility equipment, including customised wheelchairs and tricycles, to disabled children in the UK. It also aims to raise awareness about how such equipment transforms the lives of disabled children.


Sarah's Diary was created as a direct mail campaign and was part of a wider rebranding exercise for the charity in July 2005. It chose to rebrand in July so its message would not get lost in a slew of charity communications in the run-up to Christmas.

Sarah's Diary was created as part of an overall strategy to diversify income. Whizz-Kidz' own research found that many of its donors gave to the charity once only - for example, through running the London Marathon.

It wanted to convert these donors into regular givers, while making them feel good about their donations. In addition, Whizz-Kidz wanted to be able to send Sarah's Diary to other supporters to thank them for their loyalty.

How it worked

Sarah's Diary is the imaginary hand-written diary of a young girl whose life is transformed by a new wheelchair. Her entry is nearly empty the day before delivery, but the following day it becomes an upbeat account of the kind of active life any child might enjoy. Sarah goes shopping, visits friends, goes for walks and plays hide-and-seek.

The diary was sent as direct mail to 2,318 donors, with a reminder to 1,655. It was sent with a letter tailored to three different groups: committed givers; one-off donors; and the parents of those children who have received equipment through the charity.


The anticipated response rate was 3 per cent for the main mailing and 1.5 percent for the reminder. It achieved 9.69 per cent (5.16 per cent for the first mailing and 4.77 per cent for the remainder), with donations totalling £3,058.

"Sarah's Diary was the very first warm direct marketing test for us, and it was well received," says director of communications Jill Cochrane.

"Although the numbers were very small, we did gain some insight into our 'warm' donor potential and identified that parents in particular can be very generous. The reminder demonstrated that it could add value to the overall response rate."

EXPERT VIEW - Mark Davison, managing partner, DS-J

One of the first creative decisions to make in fundraising work is whether to take a positive or a negative route. There was a time when the vast majority took the latter. Tugging on the heartstrings with sad tales from the charity front line was, it seemed, the best and the quickest way to potential donors' pockets.

But as more and more charities joined those seeking donations, the relentless negativity began to lose its impact. Many recent high-profile campaigns reflect the creative lessons learned.

This direct mail campaign for Whizz-Kidz is a great example of the force a positive slant can have, and the response figures validate the upbeat approach. It's also an illustration of how a meagre budget doesn't necessarily mean drab and uninspiring creative.

The 'diary' of Sarah, whose days are empty before the arrival of her Whizz-Kidz wheelchair, and full to bursting after it, sums up the charity's work very effectively. The diary idea isn't staggeringly original, but the attention to detail in both the writing and art direction bring it to life with real charm. You can see the effort the creative team put in here. The overall effect is a nicely authentic-looking, arresting and responsive piece, with an uplifting tale to tell.

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