Fundraising: Case study - Sue Ryder acts locally to raise funds

Francois Le Goff

Summary

In December, Sue Ryder Care sent out an appeal narrated by Diane Kendall, a patient at Manorlands Hospice, which has so far raised £6,000 in support of the establishment. It is the third of a new series of regional appeals by the charity.

Background

Last year, healthcare charity Sue Ryder Care switched the focus of its fundraising strategy from general appeals to regional ones. The charity wants to raise funds around its hospices, neurological care centres and shops, reflecting its strong regional footprint.

"It is about moving from a one-size-fits-all approach to looking closely at our donors' expectations at the local level," says Dan Beety, PR manager at Sue Ryder Care. He adds that this decision enabled the charity to keep fundraising and administration costs at 8.5 per cent of its income, which he says is low compared with other charities.

Sue Ryder Care's central fundraising and communications departments will remain in place to develop media-friendly campaigns such as the charity's association with the sale of Linda Barker's home accessories catalogue last year, when a percentage of all profits went to Sue Ryder Care.

Their new role also includes helping local hospices develop their direct mail appeals.

In December, Sue Ryder Care's West Yorkshire-based Manorlands Hospice delivered a direct mail pack to 12,000 people in the region to recruit new donors. It was the third regional appeal to be sent out since the charity changed its strategy.

How it worked

The hospice produced a very simple pack that included a letter by Kendall and a response envelope. In her letter, Kendall told how her future was suddenly compromised after she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, a progressive fatal condition that causes muscle wastage. She explained how her life was made more bearable thanks to the quality of care she received at the hospice. The letter finished as it began, with Kendall asking recipients to make a one-off donation in support of the hospice. In a postscript message, she stressed that it cost £1m a year to run the hospice and that more than 90p of every £1 donated goes directly to caring for people. A donation form with a suggested gift of £20, £25 or £30 was attached to the bottom of the letter.

Results

The appeal has so far raised £6,000 and achieved a response rate of 2 per cent, well above the industry average of 0.7 per cent, according to Sue Ryder Care.

Peter Flynn, direct response fundraising manager, says: "It shows how effective direct mail can be in areas where we provide services. But what really made it such a success is Diane's story. The real-life story of a local person using a local service really makes people want to help, particularly when the story is as touching as hers."

Flynn adds: "Because the mailing was written and designed in-house and was kept simple in order to minimise printing costs, we have maximised our return on investment."

EXPERT VIEW

Ben Furner, communications consultant, Furner Communications

Simple layout, simple message and a simple call to action. Yet there's something about this appeal that doesn't work for me (which is a shame, because the cause seems good), and this is primarily because it is too similar to many other pieces of direct mail.

Given the increasing mounds of stuff we get through the letterbox, I'm struck by the lack of good design to attract our attention, whatever sector we're talking about. There is some stunning design talent out there that can be used to further organisational objectives, but charities (and businesses) seem to struggle to acknowledge it.

It is usually very helpful for communications to talk about the real users of services provided by charities because it enables people to really understand the nature of the work the organisation does. The details showing the change in Kendall's quality of life clearly demonstrate that donors' money is spent to good effect.

As a communications professional, it was inevitable that I was going to highlight layout mistakes and raise the issue of spelling, with which many organisations seem to be obsessed. When it comes to medical conditions, for some reason they seem to think that the specific disease is worthy of capital letters, but cancer really does not begin with an upper case C. Perhaps I am just being churlish; maybe it is important to remember what the appeal itself is about. There is no denying that, in terms of return on investment, the appeal can only be described as a success.

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