Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Sponsors get sponsors for ActionAid

Nathalie Thomas,

SUMMARY: Every autumn, ActionAid runs its Sponsor Get Sponsor telephone fundraising campaign in a bid to boost its child sponsorship programme.

Although this is one of the charity's smaller campaigns, ActionAid estimates that the drive results in an average annual increase of 200 child sponsors.

In 2004, Sponsor Get Sponsor generated £65,174 for the charity. It was a finalist in the Best Use of the Telephone in Fundraising category at the 2005 Institute of Fundraising awards.

BACKGROUND: ActionAid is an international development agency established to fight poverty throughout the world. It works in 42 countries, assisting more than 13 million people.

The UK branch of ActionAid seeks to encourage Britons to contribute to its work alleviating poverty in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean through a child sponsorship scheme. The charity works with these children and their communities with the long-term goal of securing self-sufficiency.

Its commitment to the communities usually spans more than ten years in order to ensure a poverty-free future.

One method ActionAid uses to boost the number of child sponsors each year involves an annual telephone fundraising campaign - existing sponsors are asked to find a friend or family to take on another child sponsorship.

The principal objective of the campaign is to recruit at least 200 new sponsors.

Managed by NTT Fundraising, the Sponsor Get Sponsor campaign builds upon similar Member Get Member campaigns run by other charities. The additional aims of the campaign include encouraging existing sponsors to take on another sponsorship and thanking sponsors for their past donations.

HOW IT WORKED: About 2,600 warm donors who had already donated to ActionAid through the child sponsorship programme were contacted by phone to see if they would be willing to pledge to find a friend or relative to sign up as child sponsors.

ActionAid then sent out child sponsorship packs to those donors who agreed to find another sponsor, before following up the pledge with a second telephone call.

RESULTS: From the 2,600 warm donors contacted, almost 50 per cent pledged to find a friend or family to contribute to the programme. This resulted in nearly 250 new sponsors in 2004, and an increase in income of more than £65,000.

On average, the charity achieves its target of 200 new child sponsors through the annual campaign.

"One reason for the success is that it's a very easy way for supporters to help," says Jenny Farrell of ActionAid. "Child sponsorship is appealing for friends and relatives who might like to help, because it is tangible and easy to understand."



I reviewed this case study just as the earthquake hit Kashmir. What struck me about the Action Aid website was its clear, precise and co-ordinated response to the situation.

The case study on its 'Sponsor Get Sponsor' campaign demonstrates that the same principles are applied to its fundraising activities. Telemarketing is frequently used as a contact channel, but it needs to be properly managed.

Sponsoring a child can make a real difference. The success of this campaign lies in focusing on existing supporters and using them to recruit friends or family. Contact via telephone provides the ideal channel to engage with existing supporters and encourage them to persuade others to sign up. The opportunity to thank them and re-emphasise the importance of their continued support should also be taken.

I like the multi-channel strategy. Following up the initial contact with a child sponsorship pack provides the tangible materials to engage friends or family. Ongoing telemarketing will supply considerable data, which should be analysed to provide insights into those most likely to join up.

This campaign clearly demonstrates the benefits of charities partnering with experienced and proactive outsourced providers, who are able to use their knowledge and experiences to deliver measurable results, which I'm sure most charities would consider a success.

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