Fundraising: Case study - Stroke survey pinpoints new donors

SUMMARY

The Stroke Association last year began what it describes as the first national survey on strokes ever attempted. The point of the survey, still continuing, is to recruit new donors and decide which campaigns to run in the year to come. About £167,000 has been raised so far.

Background

A first batch of mails was sent out in January last year, followed by two others in September and February. About 700,000 people - both warm and prospective donors - have received the survey so far.

"We believe 300,000 people are affected by strokes in the UK," said Derek Wyeth, director of fundraising at The Stroke Association. "We wanted to reach them and tell those who don't know about us that we are the main stroke charity."

How it worked

A mail pack containing a two-page survey and a letter from Jon Barrick, the Stroke Association's chief executive, was sent to 214,000 prospective donors last year.

The letter urged recipients to complete the survey and to make a £20 donation within 14 days, describing the initiative as the most important the charity has ever launched. It included the story of Kathleen, a stroke sufferer whose rehabilitation was facilitated by the charity's family support team, and gave examples of what a £20 gift could do. The ask was repeated on several occasions in her letter, including in a postscript at the end.

The survey asked questions ranging from the age of the recipient to whether they were admitted to a specialist stroke unit when they had their stroke and how they would rate various Stroke Association services.

It was also placed in publications such as The Week and The Spectator, and sent out by mail to 10,500 regular donors and 12,000 warm recruits.

The association began door drops this year, and a further 280,000 mails went out this February.

Results

The cold mailing raised £46,230 and recruited 1,819 new donors. Donations raised through the press came to £14,100, and this method recruited 700 new donors.

With £92,130 from 5,300 replies, regular donors were by far the most responsive. A higher number of warm donors - 12,000 - raised £15,188.

Wyeth said: "We are just starting to receive feedback from people, and a lot of surveys still need to be sent, but we hope the findings will indicate gaps in services delivery that will help us with our campaigns for the year to come."

But he added that early results pointed to a need for more research and services because most respondents revealed that they were not admitted to a specialist stroke unit after their trauma. More than a third of respondents said they lacked information at that time.

EXPERT VIEW

Nick Silcocks, joint managing director, HS2

This is a good campaign, but would benefit from more self-confidence.

The campaign listens to people. It values people's opinions - not about the banal and inconsequential, but on a subject that is of genuine importance to them.

But still I get the feeling that this campaign is trying to avoid failure rather than achieve success. Why do I think this?

The survey is too short. It says "we are listening", but does not give adequate scope for people to express themselves. At best, this misses an opportunity for greater and more personal engagement; at worst, it frustrates people and is counterproductive to the campaign message.

The campaign struggles to run two propositions side by side. The survey engages people both mentally and emotionally. Once they are involved, it would be a smaller step to solicit the donation. Better, therefore, to lead strongly with the survey proposition alone and then to bring in the donation request when people have been engaged.

Where is the follow-up? This campaign engages people and generates momentum, which should be built upon. The follow-up to the survey response should therefore be planned and developed as an integral part of the campaign itself - not left until later.

However, I should say that the only objective measures of what really works are the results of controlled tests planned and built into the framework of the campaign.

The verdict? A good campaign, but a greater commitment to the strategy would provide opportunities for improvement.

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