WORKSHOP: CASE STUDY - Cat charity in drive to finance homes

DAVID WOODWARD

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Background: Cats Protection is a cat welfare charity that rescues and re-homes around 75,000 animals a year. It runs 29 purpose-built shelters and 240 voluntary branches in the UK. The charity is also active in promoting cat welfare to the public and distributed more than 500,000 leaflets last year. Unpaid volunteers carry out 90 per cent of its rescue work, but it desperately needs to establish a regular fundraising stream.

Aims of the appeal: Cats Protection wanted to create a new fundraising product. The obvious route was cat sponsorship, but because the charity seeks to re-home the cats in its shelters, the idea of sponsorship of a cat pen within a particular shelter was proposed. That way, one supporter could sponsor a facility that cared for several cats.

Because there are two main cat charities in the UK, the RSPCA and Cats Protection, the charity wanted to create a distinct personality for itself, raising its profile as the number one cat welfare organisation in the UK.

How it worked: Cats Protection is known for dealing with serious issues in a slightly humorous way. The campaign to "Sponsor a Cat Cabin

continued that theme. The cat cabin was presented to potential donors via a spoof estate agent Jones, Thomas %26 Tiddles.

The cabins were sold as exclusive apartments, promoting their unique features such as scratch posts, ramp access and an on-site cook, and "All for only £4 a month".

The benefits of sponsorship were detailed in the direct mailing. Donors receive a certificate of thanks and a bi-annual newsletter. The charity asked for a regular direct debit contribution. New donors are being asked to visit their nearest shelter to see the cabins for themselves. As a result, many have chosen to make additional cash donations.

The target audience naturally consisted of cat lovers, mainly female and mostly aged over 55.

In the past, the charity has opted for the tongue-in-cheek approach, hoping to attract the attention of the three quarters of potential donors that don't immediately respond with a cash gift. Part of the campaign explained the benefits of neutering (a key aspect of its work) and the headline "It's a snip!

was used. In another mail pack, a graphic of a cat scratching-post was used as a fundraising, Blue Peter-style totaliser.

Results: TDA forecast a 3 per cent response and ended up achieving a healthy 6.48 per cent. This meant that the initial return on investment was around £8 per £1 invested. The long-term value of these regular donations is even higher: over four years they are forecast to deliver £22 for every £1 spent.

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