2014 Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence Campaign of the Year: The Children's Center
Campaign of the Year
(Also Gold Award — Multichannel, $10 million and over)
Heal Children, Heal Detroit 2013 Year-End Multichannel Appeal
The Children’s Center
(Submitted by The Children’s Center)
Response rate: 4.2 percent
Total cost: $9,932
Income generated: $90,287
Average gift: $520
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.11
I can usually predict the ultimate Campaign of the Year winners by the number of gasps and “wows” I hear as the judges mull over particular entries — as well as the amount of furious note-scribbling going on. When I heard one of our judges say, “This gives me chills,” followed by a round of hearty agreement, I suspected we had a winner. And the final judging bore out my suspicions.
The campaign at hand was The Children’s Center’s Heal Children, Heal Detroit multichannel appeal. Powerful imagery of children that balances their beauty and potential with the seriousness of their situation is just the start of the long line of winning elements in this campaign.
Beyond the numbers is the wonderfully consistent messaging that seamlessly carries through the many touchpoints involved.
In this case, multichannel also meant multigenerational, as one of the stated goals of the campaign was specifically to reach the next generation of donors, while at the same time targeting existing and lapsed donors, and acquiring new donors from the organization’s traditional donor profile (45 years and up).
It was a tall order that took some big thinking.
“Reaching the millennial group is easier said than done,” writes R. Trent Thompson, senior director of brand and strategic communications at The Children’s Center, who submitted the campaign. “The majority are not yet established in their careers and have not accumulated enough wealth to be captured by the many lists and databases available to funders. Reaching this particular segment was indeed the greatest challenge of the campaign.”
While current donors and future philanthropists may be moved in different ways, TCC settled on a message that everyone could get behind: “Children are the future of Detroit. If you want to heal Detroit, then we must first heal the children. For a brighter, future Detroit — help Detroit’s children heal, grow and thrive.”
With messaging no one could argue with, TCC launched a comprehensive campaign that included these elements:
- Direct mail: a two-stage direct-mail approach targeting volunteers and lapsed donors that featured a personalized pledge sheet as well as a Web address and QR code directing donors to a custom, responsive landing/donation page.
- Email: a series of five emails sent three weeks apart to reinforce the campaign messaging and call to action, with a link back to the custom landing/donation pages.
- Social media: TCC leveraged its 27-member, internal social-media team and a number of external key influencers, providing prewritten tweets and Facebook posts with selected campaign images, as well as Facebook cover images to make it easy for them to spread the word about the campaign. There was also a presence on Pinterest and Instagram.
- Telephone/face-to-face: continuing its traditional use of these channels.
- Donor acknowledgment letters: Campaign-specific thank-you messages helped close the loop.
Thinking outside the box to reach millennials, Gen X and Gen Y, the campaign also included:
- Pop-up restaurants: TCC created five impromptu dining experiences in places frequented by millennials. Promotions for the dining experience leveraged the influence of key millennials. Each event featured an informational video about TCC, conversation and food created by local, up-and-coming chefs.
- Yellow Coaster Hunt online contest: Several local bars and restaurants agreed to use special yellow coasters during a specific time period, and participants were asked to locate coasters, take photos and post them to their social networks.
- Social media: TCC live-tweeted during tours of its campus, then repurposed those tweets throughout its social-media calendar.
No doubt, this campaign is a multichannel masterpiece. But another thing that got the judges’ attention was the organization’s reason for submitting it:
“We entered this competition to share with other nonprofits what has worked for us,” Thompson writes. “To inspire use of their imagination to connect with generational donor audiences in new and relevant ways, beyond the traditional approach. And to say, ‘Think outside the proverbial box. Get creative.’”
Response rate: 3.42 percent
Total cost: $122,613
Income generated: $487,171
Average gift: $2,619
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.25
Sometimes, it still pays to think inside the box. But it all depends on what’s in there. Our judges were downright giddy to get their hands on this stunning campaign from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to fund its new Buerger Center. The allure of the hefty mailer, in box form, grabbed them right away.
Inside, they found highly personalized elements including personalized blueprints of the building and a handwritten note from CHOP’s executive VP (with his business card and contact info).
This mailing, which went out to low-dollar donors, midlevel donors, major donors and the hospital’s board of trustees during a peak fundraising time (November to December 2013), was a risky one. The hospital had never mailed to both low-dollar donors and major donors at the same time. The package also needed to redirect donor attention from patient stories (the crux of all previous fundraising efforts) to funding a building. There was no choice but to make it genuinely unique.
“From using a Buerger Center-branded box as the carrier to including personalized blueprints of the building, the intention was for the donor to feel that they had been hand-selected to receive an exclusive invitation to become part of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Christina Kukelhaus, an account executive at Schultz & Williams.
Our judges also applauded the hospital’s willingness to take a risk, as well as the package’s ability to draw a great average gift without sacrificing response rate.
Response rate: 1.47 percent
Total cost: $89,800
Income generated: $103,117.73
Average gift: $77.60
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.87
There were guffaws all around as our judges looked through this submission from the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation. Always a good sign.
Not that humor is necessarily a hallmark of a great campaign, but when done right it can elevate the effort to award-winning status.
Although it is a multichannel campaign using direct mail, email and a social-media element, this submission’s reach alone wasn’t what earned it its honor here. More impressive was how it found numerous ways to present its consistent message. The theme — missives from Josh, a 16-year-old patient at the hospital, offering “insider” information about the facility — stayed consistent throughout the elements of the campaign, but each of the six mailings, one year-end piece, an email and a Facebook page seemed fresh and unique.
Plus the humor didn’t hurt. Josh’s personality and perspective on life are real, his voice is his own, and he was able to paint donors and potential donors a genuine picture of how much their support means to a real patient and his real family.
“Because Josh’s stay in the hospital plus his ongoing treatment have been so extensive and put him in contact with so many facets of the hospital, we focused each mailing around a different area that the foundation wanted to highlight,” explains Angie Winschel, a partner at Almanac, the design and branding firm that worked on the campaign.
Each of the pieces featured casually written side notes from Josh and offered tidbits of advice such as, “Order extra butter at every meal. Save them up for your mashed potatoes,” and, “Meet Toni (one of Josh’s favorite physical therapists). She’ll make ya work!”
Mailings guided recipients to a themed Facebook page to keep the engagement going, and it also worked as a vehicle to engage other potential donors who weren’t on the mailing list.
Sick kids aren’t the easiest topic to joke about, but this campaign succeeds by letting Josh just be a teenager and drive home a point to donors in a way that engages, entertains and educates.