Fundraising: Case study - Letter plea generates gifts for In Kind

Summary

In Kind Direct is due to move its logistics operation this year and needed to raise funds for the transitional costs. The charity wrote to 40 supporters in October 2004, raising £24,000 in cash as well as receiving donations of goods in kind.

Background

Since 1997, In Kind Direct has secured donations of goods worth £38m for distribution to the voluntary sector, and helped more than 3,300 charities stretch their budgets. It estimates that it has saved 76,000 cubic metres of goods from going to landfill.

Over the next few years, In Kind Direct wants to double the value of goods distributed each year to help many more charities. However, it learned in October last year that it would lose the £100,000 subsidy from its logistics partner in January 2005.

How it worked

The charity wrote to existing funders, goods donors who also give funds and other supporters, and sent each a copy of its annual review.

The letter, which was signed by chief executive Robin Boles, explained that In Kind Direct would lose its £100,000 income stream. It went on to set out various options that were available to the charity. These were: increasing the proportion of the costs passed on to other charities; sourcing a new logistics partner that would agree a subsidy; adopting an additional distribution model; and asking funders to make up the difference.

It was explained in the letter that In Kind Direct hoped to push ahead with the expansion of its services despite the setback. This included testing a new local community distribution model for its Scottish partner organisations with social enterprise Kibble, which provides training opportunities for disadvantaged youths, in January 2005.

The letter also described how In Kind Direct believed that moving to a larger warehouse would help it to give its partners a better service, generate economies of scale and enable it to either create a new income stream in the form of youth training or reduce the costs incurred by the use of volunteers.

The letter ended by saying that, although the charity had submitted an application for funding for a new warehouse to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, a shortfall still remained. It concluded by asking for a donation of £10,000 to cover it.

The charity followed up with another letter after Christmas, updating recipients on recent developments. This included news of the charity's response to the Asian tsunami.

Results

Seven supporters responded to the letter, and £24,000 has been raised so far. Boles was delighted with the response. "As well as cash, the campaign has also triggered donations of goods in kind," she says. "This has proved to be a time- and cost-effective way of generating money."

EXPERT VIEW

JOHN BAGULEY, director, International Fundraising Consultancy

This appeal has a fresh, straight-from-the-director approach, which contrasts favourably with agency-produced material that often, out of necessity, looks like a general appeal.

It has also received a very good response in terms of percentage and income. Seven out of 40 is a stunning rate of return, even for a very warm list, and £24,000 from seven people is also very impressive - particularly to meet a shortfall rather than new needs.

Some clarity in the target might have helped. If the recipients knew how much of the £100,000 shortfall was needed in the first year, or if this was more likely to be an ongoing appeal, they might have been able to judge their donation level with more comfort, and so might have given more.

Phoning all 40 people before and after the letter might also have greatly increased the take by highlighting the dire situation and the one-off nature of the appeal (if it is a one-off). Similarly, asking to meet them would have provided the possibility of asking, face-to-face, for a large gift.

The follow-up letter appears to lack a clear reference to the previous appeal.

How much was raised? How much is still needed? The recipients will want to know the result to date. I would have made this a much stronger follow-up ask to complete the appeal.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and without split testing we can only guess at the effectiveness of further suggestions. But the campaign worked for In Kind Direct.

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