In September, Barnardo's sent out a cash appeal for children of drug addicts. The charity raised £72,000, nearly twice as much money as it earned from its June mailing. It does not intend to run an appeal this year.
Barnardo's claims that there are between 200,000 and 300,000 children of drug or alcohol abusers, which represents about 3 per cent of children under 16 in England and Wales.
Each time the charity makes an appeal, it draws attention to a different aspect of its work to give donors a broad view of what it does. Barnardo's sends out five such appeals every year. The donations raised are never restricted to a specific project but added to the charity's general income.
The September appeal was aimed at 42,000 cash and lapsed donors. This is a more challenging audience because they are people who only wish to give on an occasional basis and often support several other charities.
How it worked
The mail pack contained a letter written by Barnardo's principal policy officer, a donation form, a leaflet and a response letter.
The policy letter started by thanking donors for previous support and pointed out the necessity of the appeal, arguing that it would not have contacted them otherwise.
It told the story of Lizzie, a seven year-old girl whose parents are long-term heroin users. She is failing at school as she often has to take care of herself. The letter asked recipients to give £5 to help Lizzie and detailed ways in which Barnardo's could support the girl, such as through its befriending service.
The leaflet was folded in three and presented a photo of a girl. Inside, recipients could read Lizzie's story and general facts about children of drug users. Information in the leaflet was similar to that of the letter.
The appeal raised £72,000, compared with a target of £67,000, providing a net income of £50,235 and a response rate of 10.4 per cent. The total claimed through Gift Aid was £11,395.
Sarah Temerlies, direct marketing manager at Barnardo's, said: "We are obviously thrilled about the results, but it is not unusual for us to exceed our targets. What is particularly good about this appeal is that September is never an obvious time to raise donations in comparison with Christmas."
The previous cash appeal was sent in June and was sent to a similar number of donors, but raised only £39,000, which prompted the charity's decision to drop its June cash appeal this year.
Barnardo's is launching a bigger cash appeal this month as part of the centenary of the death of the founder of the charity. The appeal will target 80,000 donors and highlight the fact that the prominent issues of his time have much in common with today's.
Barney Cockerell, creative director, WWAV Rapp Collins London
This mail pack is an unfortunate symptom of a challenging fundraising environment in which tried and tested techniques have led to a proliferation of me-too communications. This mail pack may have hit target financially, but for me it missed the mark creatively.
Both imagery and copy are obvious and cliched. You wouldn't need to change the words and pictures too much to make this into a communication about animal cruelty or third world poverty.
And a huge opportunity was missed with the letter, which was signed by the principal policy officer. Here the author had a chance to inject power, passion and personality, but instead opted to repeat the leaflet copy.
I also find the whole concept slightly hard to swallow. As a father of young children, I know a seven year-old would never say they want something as abstract as 'a childhood'. Lizzie might say she wants a hug from her dad or for someone to cook her dinner, but I don't buy the 'childhood' thing. It's so obvious that this mailer has been created by grown-ups who have never met this girl.
I can't help wondering whether the target for this pack was lowered following previous under-performance. Still, I don't think we should allow tough times to make us retreat into conservatism in our communications.
To reverse the slow downward spiral towards worse results and increasingly formulaic creative work, we need to be brave and work harder, rather than play it safe and take the easy option.