Fundraising News: Case study - Older pets appeal exceeds its targets

Francois Le Goff

SUMMARY

The Blue Cross's Christmas appeal raised £334,000 and generated the highest response rate in seven years. The animal charity attributes this success to the inclusion in the mail pack of an original poem paying tribute to old animals.

BACKGROUND

Although rehoming old pets is one of the Blue Cross's hardest tasks, its Old Age Pets appeal has had strong success for several years. "It takes longer to rehome older dogs because they are not considered as pretty as puppies or younger dogs," says Julie Jesses, the charity's head of direct marketing. "But our supporters tend to be old people, and they are more concerned about the situation of old animals that are left alone. I think they identify with them."

One in a series of seven appeals sent out each year, this Christmas appeal was aimed at 116,346 active donors on the charity's database, including regular givers, cash givers, high-value donors and reactivated lapsed supporters resulting from 2004 telemarketing activity.

The Blue Cross tested cold mailing as part of its Christmas appeal in 2003, but the charity decided not to repeat the experiment last year because the outcome was inconclusive. The Christmas appeal is its biggest appeal, followed by its summer appeal, which is usually a capital appeal that raises money to invest in a specific project.

HOW IT WORKED

The mail pack's outer featured a photo of a black crossbreed dog set alongside the headline "I'm 10 years old. Should that stop me from being loved this Christmas?" Content included a letter outlining the plight of Sadie, a dog whose owner had gone into a nursing home and could no longer take care of her. It also included a calendar and an eight-page booklet combining photos of dogs with verses from Ode from the Oldies, a poem by the deputy manager of the charity's Southampton centre.

Jesses said she found the poem very special and asked WWAV Rapp Collins to include it in the pack. It contained the lines "We're loyal and devoted/And wouldn't ask for much back/Just a lap to chill out on/and a chair in the sun/We just want a home/Please give us one".

A direct debit mandate was included on a donation form offering prospects a choice of donations: £15, £30, £50 or other amounts.

RESULTS

The appeal raised a total of £334,000, compared with £266,000 in 2003. "The poem was what made the difference," said Jesses. "We have even been approached by another animal charity about whether it could use it." The appeal generated a response rate of 19.56 per cent, exceeding the target by 5 per cent. This was one of the highest in seven years for the charity, with the average gift amounting to £14.71.

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