Three charity fundraising experts choose their top campaigns


In the wake of #icebucketchallenge, many charity professionals have asked if the nature of fundraising is changing. Whilst campaigns may come in as many different types as there are flavours of ice cream, there are common themes which unite them all. Zoe Amar asked three charity fundraising experts to choose their favourite fundraising campaign and explain why it worked.

Powering Kindness

Howard Lake of UK Fundraising says that ‘simplicity, replicability, and measurability’ are the ‘key hallmarks’ of good fundraising campaigns. He chose Electric Ireland’s Powering Kindness campaign, a one-week initiative which recently generated €130,000 to be divided amongst three charities. During the campaign people are asked to track and record all the kindness they experience on its website or via social media. It’s focused on one week of activity, but other than that participants can choose how they take part. Perhaps this flexibility to make the campaign your own is part of its success- as Lake explained, “There is no limit to the number of good deeds people can do. This year it inspired acts of kindness as far away as Brazil, Tanzania, Japan, Haiti, Philippines and Jamaica.” Check out this video of the 2015 campaign’s highlights.

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Save the Children – Gaza appeal

Paul de Gregorio, head of mobile at Open Fundraising, picked this campaign, which began life as a campaigning ask. In January 2009 Save the Children ran this powerful advert, pictured below showing a mother with her crying child and a headline of ‘Enough is enough.’, and asked the public to send an SMS to sign a petition to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Save the Children Gaza appeal

‘The image, headline and copy came together to deliver a phenomenal ad,’ says de Gregorio. ‘180,000 people responded to the ad with 9,000 becoming regular givers as a result of a telephone fundraising campaign. It proved to me that fusing press and mobile could drive mass response and is one of the main reasons I’ve ended up doing what I do for a living.’ This case study of the campaign on the Sofii site explains that, whilst the campaign’s primary goals were advocacy and brand awareness, its success as a fundraising campaign was due to its hard hitting message, strong visual imagery and clear asks. It also achieved huge political impact: Save the Children took the 180,000 text messages it received to Downing Street the next week, resulting in then Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanding a ceasefire.

Stephen Sutton

Richard Sved, director of 3rd Sector Mission Control, believes that the campaign ‘Stephen’s Story’ has many valuable lessons for fundraisers. At the age of 19, Stephen learned that the cancer he had lived with for the last few years was inoperable. He started a Facebook page, Stephen’s Story, where he posted inspirational messages and updates. The page included a bucket list of 46 things Stephen wanted to achieve, and a fundraising target of £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust. ‘The fundraising campaign led by the inspirational Stephen Sutton for Teenage Cancer Trust is the one that has both moved me and taught me the most in the last 20 years,’ Sved told me. ‘What he taught me especially is that fundraising can be just as successful, if not more so, if it focuses on positivity, as symbolised by Stephen’s thumbs up gesture. He was also a brilliant communicator, through his activism, his blogs, and his harnessing of social media. Finally, he set clear goals – his bucket list and his fundraising targets – which his friends and supporters helped him to smash.’

Stephen Sutton

Stephen sadly died in May 2014, and to date his campaign has raised over £4.5 million via his Fundraising Page on JustGiving. It also generated huge amounts of press coverage, inspired by Stephen’s life affirming story.

What’s your favourite fundraising campaign? Why not tell us what it is and why below?


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Zoe is director of Zoe Amar Communications, a marketing and digital communications consultancy who have worked with leading organisations including ActionAid, Crimestoppers, Macmillan and Anglia Ruskin University. She blogs for The Guardian about charities and communications and is on the advisory board for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. She co-founded the charity #socialceos awards.