Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Save the Children's 'thank you' on film

Georgina Lock

Last year, with its unprecedented number of disasters, was a busy one for Save the Children, which fights for children around the world who suffer from poverty, disease, injustice and violence.


In order to thank supporters and show how their money is spent, Save the Children opted for a new approach and, for the first time, sent out a film.

Working with the direct marketing agency Proximity, the charity came up with A Short Film About Suba, Martha, Hassan and You and included it in its Children in Emergencies appeal, which it sent out before Christmas.


The pack was mailed to 280,000 active supporters, most of whom were regular givers, to make a direct connection between the money they had given and the children whose lives it had saved. It also asked for a one-off donation.

It included a letter from Toby Porter, emergencies director at Save the Children, which began "some of the children you are about to meet are only alive today because of you", and urged recipients to watch the DVD.

Also included was a Gift Aid form, a freepost envelope and a leaflet showing Suba, Martha and Hassan, who feature in the film.

The film depicts both recipients of aid and people working for the charity.

Suba, who lost family members in the Asian tsunami, and Martha, an ex-army recruit in Sudan, have both been helped by the charity. Hassan, a Save the Children nutritionist, is shown working at a food distribution centre in Niger.

The film is narrated by Porter and set to music created by a group of ex-child soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and recorded by a Save the Children employee. Bonus footage shows celebrities such as singer Katie Melua, actress Claire Sweeney and DJ Edith Bowman visiting projects, and the story behind the ex-child soldiers' song. Donors are thanked and encouraged, both on the DVD and its enclosed literature, to give more at Christmas.

Thanks to sympathetic suppliers and the use of free footage filmed and edited by the charity's staff, each DVD was produced for only 18p.


The aim was to raise £380,000 and so far the mailing has brought in more than £300,000, with responses from nearly 10,000 supporters.

Feedback from supporters showed the DVD had been passed on to friends.

The charity generated four times the usual cash response from a loyalty mailing sent out shortly afterwards.


Everything about this pack embraces the recipient as part of the picture.

The juxtaposition of names on the outer places you firmly in the company of three people you've never met and, as each element unfolds, you discover more about them and how your donations have influenced their lives. The level of inclusiveness combined with the face-to-face nature of the DVD footage helps the piece pack a powerful punch.

My initial scepticism that funds had been wasted on production was soon quashed by the accompanying letter, which made it clear that costs were minimal. In fact, the DVD is cleverly undersold by the copy - you're not prepared for the sheer intensity of the stories.

The film was an ideal format to communicate the continual energy of Save the Children, highlighting how donations have changed the lives of individuals while demonstrating the scale of the charity's operations. The delivery was emotive but also pragmatic in its continual reinforcement of tangible benefits.

Timing the campaign to land at Christmas was spot on, and the footage was a forceful reminder of the extreme demands placed on the charity through 2005. There was no need to request support at the end of the footage - I was reaching for the donation form already.

Creativity: 4

Delivery: 5


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