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What the best charity campaigns include

If you’ve ever worked on an appeal or campaign for a charity, you’ll know that they’re costly to put together, and need to kickstart people into donating significantly to make them work to the charity’s benefit.


Since 2020, I’ve worked with UK and international charities on direct mail campaigns, newsletters and reports. I’ve been a part of some amazing campaigns. Here’s what I’ve done (and what you should too!):


Put focus on your case studies


Planning your campaign? Stop. Too far, too fast. First, you’ll need to put a project plan together, or a brief if working with freelancers or agencies. As part of this, you’ll want to include background info, including testimonials and case studies to draw from. So how can we make them the best case studies ever, to make your campaign really, really strong?


It’s so disappointing when a campaign has been worked on so well, but the content isn’t as strong as it could be. Make time for collecting amazing case studies, and test different options to gather these. Sending out a form for people to fill in is OK, but consider the best responses to these, and go back to the respondents with a 1:1 interview to get the most out of their answers. If you do this well, you’ll not only bring your campaign to life , you’ll create a content bank that will serve you for the future too.



Tell a story


Everyone remembers the campaign about the one, singled out child and their experience. Multiply this story by the millions of people you’re trying to help and the story vanishes into a number nobody can visualise or relate to.


I don’t want you to lead with ’10,000 were displaced as a result of the earthquake’, I want to hear the emotional appeal of one parent, carrying her young child to safety amongst chaos and danger. Let me put myself in her shoes for a moment, and I’ll have an emotional reason to involve myself.


Speak to donors like individuals


Your campaign might start with a letter addressing someone with ‘Dear <name>’, but do you carry on like they’re the only reader? Focus on how their specific support would change your work, and what they could do. Barnardo’s and Oxfam do this really well with the cost examples a single donation can make, e.g. ‘£30 can provide a family with food for a week’.


Make people feel good for supporting you, but responsible too. That weight of involvement is a good thing to encourage repeat donations, and offers them a real story that can continue in your mid-long term comms with them.



Your motivations are your donors’ too


What’s the aim of your campaign? You might say, ‘to raise X amount in donations’, but what’s the good in that if you don’t know what that money will do? The aim of your campaign is the very last stage of action taken as a result. Will you feed 5,000 people a hot meal? Will you provide shelter for 1,000 fleeing families?


It doesn’t matter what this costs (to a certain extent), what matters is that this is what you want to do. This is what your donors want you to be able to do too, so your motivations for working are the same as their motivations for donating. Speak honestly, openly and frankly about what you want to achieve.


Ella St Communications supports charities with marketing strategy, planning and copywriting. If you’d like more info, or would like to hear more about what we’ve done for others, book in a casual chat here.

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