Orbis feels heat of competition

Orbis, the international charity known for its flying eye hospital, is stepping up its fundraising activity following increased competition from other sight-saving organisations.

The UK affiliate, which raised £1.5 million in the year ending February 2002, is looking to increase its year-on-year fundraising income by 20 per cent.

Siobhan Jordan, Orbis' fundraising manager, said: "We do have some serious competition in the sight saving field and we don't spend nearly as much as our competitors. But like many charities, we're facing increasing costs in direct marketing in terms of the way we're spending it. We need to get a higher average gift and try to improve our ratios."

The charity has appointed direct marketing specialist Whitewater to carry out the marketing programme due to begin at the end of September.

It will kick off with a "warm

direct mail appeal to its 21,000-strong donor base, asking them to either increase their level of giving or pledge a cash donation.

"We want to improve giving from our current donor base and bring in new recruits,

said Jordan. "We do a lot of face-to-face fundraising but do not use other techniques very much - we're broadening our fundraising activity rather than putting all our eggs in one basket."

To support the year-long direct mail programme, the charity plans to conduct a telephone marketing campaign to ask committed givers if they wish to increase their regular monthly donation or make a one-off gift.

It will also attempt to entice back lapsed donors, of which there have been around 4,000 in the past four years, and turn face-to-face enquiries into new donors.

Orbis UK has two distinct types of donor, according to Jordan. "Dorothy donors

are predominantly over 50 with strong religious associations, while the charity also attracts a younger audience of equal male and female ratio, whose commitment has been cultivated through face-to-face fundraising on the streets. "The challenge is to talk to them in such a way as to keep them on board,

said Jordan.

Orbis' UK fundraising team has increased from two to five staff members over the past three months, and the charity has just appointed its first fundraising and communications director Pamela Williams-Jones.

Orbis works with needlessly blind people, throughout the developing world, by educating local doctors to undertake sight-saving operations. The charity has a flying eye hospital - a DC10 airliner - converted into a teaching hospital. Over the next year it is scheduled to visit Bangladesh, India, China and Ethiopia.

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