Writing To Further Animal Welfare

Posts tagged ‘fundraising’

Direct Mail

Direct mail was one of the major tools in my box when I worked for The Donkey Sanctuary many years before the recession. (if anyone can remember that far back!) Charities were returning in excess of 5% on a regular basis and one campaign we ran returned just under 12%, which seems amazing now, but at the time I can still remember our trustees not being happy!

Now it’s a very different story and even the big players are struggling to make any more than 3% on DM campaigns. But as a fundraising tool for small charities, DM should not be ruled out.

Although I always advocate complete research into any DM campaign through profiling and mail testing, experience leads me to believe that older people who have not embraced digital technology still like to send and receive letters, and are more likely to respond to a DM campaign. Although the trend is changing, as the  number of “Silver Surfers” is increasing very quickly.

I think the main attraction of DM for a small organisation, is that you can test the market for a relatively small investment to see how well your campaign is going to do and fine tune your mail out for most effect.

I guess the other point to mention before I go into the mechanics of DM, is to remember that not only is DM a fundraising tool, it’s also a great way of getting your core welfare message out to more people and because it is printed rather than on a computer screen, will end up on coffee tables and other places where more people are likely to see and read the material.

The last point is that DM is not a quick fix, its purpose is to build your donor database and works on the premise that the lifetime support of the donors it attracts, will ultimately make its use cost effective.

Ok here are the steps to take

  • Profile your Database
    • Before you go out and rent an expensive list of names to mail, you want to do all you can to find out about your current supporters. By understanding why they support your cause, you have more chance of finding more potential supporters like them.
    • You can profile your database in several ways depending on its size.
      • Through a List Broker
        • If it’s over 5000, then one of the large list broker companies should profile your database for free.
        • To do this you will have to let them have your data (you need to sign an agreement with them preventing the use of the data for any purpose other than profiling)
        • They will match the names on their database with those of millions across the country and provide you with a report identifying your donors characteristics, from their income to the papers they read.
        • They will also let you know how many people they have on their database who match the profile of your supporters and offer you those contacts for a price.
        • Remember you normally do not buy the contact; you rent the list and are only allowed to mail them all once. Any who respond to the mailing and become a supporter, you are allowed to keep.
        • To prevent the re-mailing of the list, the brokers seed the original list with special contacts, if those contact receive more than one mailing, the list broker knows you have mailed the rented list twice!
        • You can expect to pay between £0.20 and £0.50 per name rented, so it is important to get the research stage right.
        • You can find plenty of list brokers willing to rent you lists on the internet, here is an example http://www.charitybase.co.uk/
    • By sponsoring a survey question
      • The best DM campaign I ever ran, was from the result of sponsoring the question, “WOULD YOU DONATE TO A DONKEY SANCTUARY” in a national consumer survey.
      •  Over 50000 people said they would, DS rented the list and we achieved a fantastic result which paid for itself many times over, recruited thousands of new supportersand raised millions in donations.
      • As I have already said, in this current climate this is not likely to happen to the same extent, but if you have the resources this can be a very effective way of finding new prospective supporters.
    • By conducting your own survey
      • Another way of getting the information you need, is to include your own survey in one of your regular mail outs; As long as it is done anonymously most people do not mind sharing information with you, if they believe it will help your cause.
      • Knowing more about your supporter is crucial, not only for DM, but for all types of marketing For instance, if you know that 40% of your supporters read The Daily Mail, you know where to advertise, or if they like gardening etc. Having that information makes where you spend your marketing budget more effective.
  •  Design Contents and Testing
    • The golden rule is, that you are not the person you are marketing for! So don’t make assumptions about what will and won’t work.
    • Having said that there are some lessons I have learnt over the years which are:
      • Keep it Simple
        • Give a clear message and let your reader know what you want
      • Keep it focused
        • People like to be able to identify with the cause they are supporting; appealing for £10’000 to help with your global objectives, will not be as effective as appealing for £3.00 to help with a specific objective. As long as the appeal is worded correctly, a specific appeal does not have to restrict funding to only that use.
      • Perception is more influential then fact
        • In the graphics industry it is just as cost effective to produce large runs of high definition colour material, as it is to run black and white. But the perception of your supporter may be that they don’t want their donations wasted on perceived, expensive colour mail-outs.
        • Do you try and persuade them that it’s just as cost effective to run colour, or just mail what they perceive to be something  that saves you money?
      • Amateur/home-made can be good
        • Today people receive many highly professional mail outs every year, many go straight in the bin before they are opened, but if you received a letter with a handwritten address and a proper stamp, would you ignore it?
        • The great thing about DM is that you can test your  different campaigns to see how they work before completely committing to them, the one thing that should not change is the core content so keep the main story through all the samples
  • Content
    • Gifts
      • Many people hate the idea of a free gift seeing it as a waste of money, but all the campaigns I tested worked better with the gift then without. The gift should be something associated with your cause, some really nice postcards or another low cost item.
    • Stamps
      • The use of real stamps catches the attention of the prospective donor, if you provide a return envelope with a stamp, based on the results of my campaigns more people will respond.
      • The downside is that some of those people will only respond because they don’t want to waste the stamp and they will probably not, become a lifetime supporter.
      • These factors are hard to fit into your campaign plan, but I believe if you can get a prospective supporter to come back to you, at least you have a chance to persuade them to become a lifetime supporter.
    • Testing
      • The following table suggests a possible DM test campaign, with two main approaches, both with the same content.
      • Remember I suggested earlier that you stick with the one core approach, which by the way should be featured through all your PR and Fundraising mediums throughout the campaign period.
      • You will need to code the return envelopes so that you know which campaign is being responded to.
      • Many of the big companies will tell you that you need to mail at least 8000 to get an 80% indicator of returns. This is true but I think what we are looking for here is a good indicator of the best option for you. I mailed 300 of each approach and the results were good enough to hone down the rest of the campaign.
      • What actually happened was that there were a couple that performed as well as each other so I re-tested just those two with larger numbers.
      • Remember that although this is a test, it is not a wasted campaign, you will be recruiting new supporters from every response.
Body Stamp or franked return Gift Number
Modern design high quality colour with printed envelope and return envelope Yes Yes  300
As above No Yes 300
As above No No 300
Traditional Home Spun possibly hand written, black and white or low quality colour inserts with return envelope Yes Yes 300
As above No Yes 300
As above No No 300
  • Once you have completed your test mails, you will know which of the approaches worked the best and you will have a good idea of what percentage returns you can expect from a larger mailing.
  • Just as an indicator, the test mail I suggest above will cost in the region of £3500. You could mail less, but then the validity of the results would be compromised.

If you would like a spreadsheet to help you work out your DM campaign,  leave me a reply with your contact info and I will mail you one with instructions for use.

I hope you found this post useful and as always please ask if you would like any clarification, or you do not agree with this post. None of us learn unless we talk to each other!

“Lose one of many small supporters and you will survive, lose one of few large supporters and you won’t!”

Paul Svendsen

Keep on Fundraising

These are exceptionally hard times for many charities and very often the first place we seek to save money is on the fundraising and PR. Although in the short-term this can seem like the correct decision at can lead to a longer term erosion of support that is hard to stem.

There are several articles published in WTFAW providing information on effective fundraising and PR and I am always happy to offer free advice on raising funds so please get in contact and let’s see what we can do together.

Donations The BasicsDigital  Marketing Part One, Digital Marketing Part Two, Direct Mail, Consultancy Services.

Click on any of the links above to go to the relevant articles

Paul Svendsen

Support a “Friend of WTFAW” this Christmas

Make a gift to one of the following “Friends of WTFAW” and help animals this Christmas. Their founders have given so much can you help?

Animals Angels


Founder Christa Blanke

Safe Haven for Donkeys in The Holy Land


Founder Lucy Fensom

Save The Dogs (And Other Animals)


Founder Sara Turetta

Nata Libera


Founder Angela Revel Chion

Thank You

Paul Svendsen


Digital Marketing Part Two

I want to start this post by adding to the last subject in “Digital Marketing Part One” I must admit that I am also on a steep learning curve at the moment, although I have years of experience in charity administration and fundraising, technology has moved so fast in the last few years that there are now many more ways to use the available options.

For instance with regard to web and blog sites, sites like WordPress have become so sophisticated that for many small organisations linked with other social media sites they can be used as your sole digital address. I would be interested to hear from anyone using just a blog site.

I am going to have a go and use a WordPress site for my Consultancy work. Look for the link soon!

OK I wanted to talk about the use of e-mails for charities, although it has virtually replaced “snail mail” for most people, many older people still like to use pen and paper.

Now this can be a problem for charities as communicating by e-mail is not only efficient in terms of time but also in terms of cost. When you consider the financial cost of sending mail-out appeals and the cost to the environment there are very strong reasons to try and convert as many of your communications with supporters as possible to e-mail.

Apart from day to day communication e-mails can also be an effective fundraising tool. I will go into marketing via e-mail in a later post.

You should obtain e-mail addresses at every opportunity but keep snail mail for those people who don’t want to change.  The following are just some examples of ways of acquiring e-mail addresses;

  • request communication vie e-mail in your newsletters
  • Make sure you get the e-mail addresses of  your visitors in your visitors book
  • Add any existing email contacts to your mailing list
  • It may be worth combining a fundraising appeal with an appeal for e-mail addresses to your “snail mail supporters”
  • If you go to events/shows collect e-mail addresses, a small prize competition is a good way to do this
  • In all these approaches stress the savings to the charity
  • You can get very good e-mail software to manage your email communication, the following link will take you to a resource to give you some ideas


I hope you found this post useful and will write again soon, the next post will be looking at Direct Mail






Digital Marketing Part One

When you are a small organisation with limited resources the last thing you want to do with your precious funds is to spend them on marketing. But without paying for marketing how do you attract more supporters and more funds?  As I mentioned in my Donations The Basics post, Digital marketing is a way of building up your profile with an almost zero budget. If you are smart a small organisation can compete with the biggest all over the World and in the eyes of many supporters small is beautiful.

Ok I know it is difficult to convert Facebook fans and web browsers into actual supporters but it can be done, unfortunately the main investment is time and you do need to burn the midnight oil to make this strategy work or find a trusted person with the skills needed to help you.

A well-structured web site can be a window into the activities of your organisation. A golden rule regarding web sites is to be clear about what its function is. Do you want it to inform, to educate or raise funds? If you are a small organisation I would suggest the following strategy;

  • that your website is your fund-raising tool
  • your blog site is your informer and educator
  • and your social networking sites are your recruiting tools


Your website does not have to be clever or flashy, what it does have to do is get readers attention quickly and convince them to make a contribution to your cause. I think that to achieve this a little goes along way. Rather than provide lots of information about your organisation and your objectives on the landing page (the page where people will normally enter the site) much of this area should be reserved for your strongest and most newsworthy activity and it must be up to date. If you think of your web site as an alternative for an expensive advert in a newspaper or TV then you will be working on the right lines. In the few moments your visitors are on your site you have to convince them to join your cause. Hopefully you have piqued their interest already through effective use of your social media sites or your blog if you have one.

The last point is to keep your web site as fast as possible, people have a very short attention span and if a page takes too long to load they may not wait to see the message! There are lots of sites on the internet that will tell you how to keep your site fast but a simple rule is KISS “Keep It Simple Stupid”.  A simple lay out, minimal clever graphics, low memory usage pictures but of high quality in terms of message and a clear honest and compelling narrative will win over the hearts of your potential supporters. And if you have the hearts the support will follow.

To make the best use of your web site;

  • Be clear about your web sites purpose (write a note on your monitor to remind yourself)
  • Concentrate a large part of your landing page on your latest/strongest  activities
  • Keep the site clean, simple and fast
  • Use tools like Google Analytics to see how you are doing allowing you to fine tune the site.


You can have 2000 Facebook fans but how many of them are going to support you? Once again it is down to how you motivate your “friends” to be more than just well-wishers. Apart from recruiting supporters social media sites can provide a fantastic source of people who if not willing or able to support you financially can provide services in other ways. For instance if you hear of a welfare case miles from your location a social media supporter may be able to go for you and check out the situation, providing pictures and other necessary information that will allow you to decide if you need to spend resources acting on the problem yourself.  The act of doing this may start a small active group of supporters in that area which grows all on its own. That’s the beauty of social media, it is driven by what people are interested in and if you can provide a spark that inflames their interest then they will be more likely to want to know more about you and become a supporter.

To get the best out of your Social Media Sites

  • Update with interesting, heart-breaking, funny, challenging stories
  • Invite users to contribute in interesting ways
  • Keep referring users to your web site

The Blog Site

Well here you are reading my blog site, I think the concept of blog sites are great and a tool that many fundraisers ignore. The great thing about blog sites is that you can provide the detail that should not be on your web site and you can get feedback from your supporters. Again blogs need to be concise, informative and to the point as sometimes readers want to get the information they need quickly and do not want to go through pages of your musings. I tend to put a list of bullet points after each main subject point

The blog site is a great way to get the ethos of what you are doing out and to hopefully win over new supporters by persuasion rather than by hard-hitting appeals. Very often a supporter recruited this way will be a supporter for life.

So the use of Blog sites is to

  • Provide a resource for more detailed analysis of your project
  • Provide an avenue for feedback
  • To recruit long-term supporters to your cause
  • Keep referring users to your web site

OK again this only covers the basics of Digital marketing but this is a blog site, if you want to know more on any of the aspects or something I haven’t covered just ask and I will write about it


In Digital Marketing Part Two I will be covering the use of Email and other digital methods of reaching potential supporters.


Donations, The Basics

Donations are the life blood of the majority of charities so unless you are a millionaire or have other sources of finance you are going to need help to maintain and grow your organisation. I have seen many charities that have amazing potential but lack the resources to convert all those great ideas into reality.

Donations come if many forms, it could be people’s time, money, services gifts, experiences but the key factor is that it is something given without anything required in return. The challenge is to motivate people to donate and to do this you have to put aside time and resources. It doesn’t matter which of the above types of donation you are seeking, if you get the basics right you will generate them all.

OK so what are the basics?


You have probable heard of the acronym “Keep it Simple Stupid” and you should remember this at all times. Marketing is not rocket science although some of the marketing companies would have us believe that it is, there are awards out there for the best advert, the best designed direct mail campaign and so on, I have been to directors meeting where the CEO,s of large charities proudly produced there latest full colour newsletters, whilst they may impress each other I doubt that many supporters will be impressed, the majority of supporters I have talked to want to see as little of their money as possible spent on marketing and as much as possible on the core activity. So it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look slick, it’s what you are doing with your supporter’s money that’s important.

I can remember an article a few years ago now in one of the leading charity magazines was comparing direct mail campaigns including one I was running for The Donkey Sanctuary, my campaign was branded, “amateur, and homespun” whilst the others received glowing reviews. I didn’t complain because the homespun approach returned over 12% response rate against an average of the time of around 3%. That SIMPLE direct mail campaign recruited over 50000 new supporters in four years and raised millions of pounds in donations.

 Pictures speak a thousand words (or a million for the right one!) 

Hope had her ears hacked off by her drunk owner

Always carry a camera with you when you are on welfare missions or in fact at all times, that one picture that portrays the nature of your work will be worth more than anything else and could launch   the campaign that puts your organisation on the welfare map and brings in those much-needed funds. Believe me you never have enough good usable pictures so take as many as you can whenever you can. After all with digital technology it doesn’t cost anything!

Exposure = Confidence = Donations

The more  the name of your organisation is seen by the public the more they will have confidence and support your work, very few people will donate on seeing something for the first time so it’s important to build up your image in stages, blowing your whole advertising budget on a media campaign can be a terribly costly mistake. You need to put your stories out there in the free media as much as possible and when you have a really good coverage than back it up with your marketing campaign. To do this you need to build up a rapport with your local journalists, every week you should be planning to send out a press release, if you are planning a rescue or other activity that might be of interest to the public then let the press, television, radio know, they may just be looking for a story and if they bite it could be fantastic for you.

Digital Media

Although there is a lot of competition out there the internet is a very powerful fundraising tool, the secret is converting those Facebook, Website and Blog supporters to donators. I used the Internet in the project in Spain and Italy with good success. Digital is an idea opening fundraising strategy as you can reach a wide audience with relatively low investment.

The value of a diverse supporter Base

I have seen quite a few charities get into trouble because they relied on just a few major donors, large donations whilst always fantastic news can also cause an organisation to grow beyond their means in the longer term. Having many smaller value supporters whilst being more time-consuming provide security for the future. With very good charity databases on the market, many free of charge up to a certain level it is much easier now to look after many supporters and provide them with the kind of service that will reward the organisation with a lifetime of support. Remember also that a lifelong supporter is also likely to leave a legacy! Building a database of loyal supporters is a hard task but if done correctly will ensure the success of the charity for the future.

Grants and Company Sponsorship

There are grant making trusts and companies out there with budgets available for charitable use,  all you have to do is convinces them that your organisation is the one they should support! I have applied for and grants and been successful in getting them.

Paid Marketing Campaigns

TV adverts, radio, newspapers, direct mail, magazines, leaflet drops, the list goes on and on. You can easily spend a fortune and get very little in return but… if you get all your other pieces in place all these mediums can be very effective,. There are also ways of minimising the costs for charities.

To Summarise

Ok I know I have not provided much detail here but this post is just about the basics, to bring the above ramblings to a point, the basics of good fundraising are;

to remember KISS at all times, collect as much photographic material about your project as you can, use every free method of PR at every opportunity to build your organisations public profile, use digital media to maximum effect, build a database of supporters and look after them, approach grant making trusts and businesses for support, launch paid for marketing campaigns only when your profile is high and get special charity deals, read this blog to find out the details

I hope you found this post helpful and look out for further posts where I will be providing much more information about the subjects touched on above.

Paul Svendsen

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