At a recent FSI ‘In Conversation’ breakfast about “future proofing” charity fundraising, Beth Bottrill Meningitis Now Director of Fundraising was able to share some valuable insight. She talks to us about the lessons her team have learned while reinvigorating one of their most popular fundraising events.
Here’s what Beth had to say.
You need to look for problems
The Toddle Waddle has been part of our charity’s fundraising portfolio for over a decade. The idea is nice and simple – little people go out and do a short sponsored walk, and they ask their friends and family to support them. It’s been very successful in the past, with income at its peak exceeding £100,000. In recent years, however, this dropped to £37,000 and whilst this is still an amazing amount, it was clear that Toddle Waddle needed some attention.
Engage in some market research
We decided to hold focus groups with those who had held a Toddle Waddle in the past. This included a national nursery chain, Busy Bees, who had also chosen Meningitis Now as their charity of the year in 2017. We learnt a lot through this process: particularly that while the event is still really loved and people liked doing it, our materials and concepts were outdated and tired. Using this insight, we decided to invest £3,000 in completely redesigning our packs and looking again at every element of the event; and we ended up only spending half of that!
We knew we weren’t going to make an investment like this for another few years, so we wanted the new materials to be really flexible, and to have longevity. For example, we didn’t want to place time limiting factors on the new materials, something we had done in the past with themes such as a royal wedding. The same was true of the message. It needed to be a clear call to action and that’s the line at the bottom: ‘small steps make a big difference.’
Tell a story
When we looked at other charities doing similar things, they were often using children’s characters like the Teletubbies to engage people. We knew that we would never be able to afford the licensing fees, but we also thought that you don’t actually need to use other people’s characters. We have got our own amazing stories to tell, of children and young people that are rebuilding their lives following meningitis. So that’s what we did, we went out on social media and through our support team, put a call out to say ‘are there any families that would like to take part in this? Would they like to feature in our new Toddle Waddle packs?’ And we were amazed at the response. The stories we heard are at the heart of our campaign.
The look is really important
We got a bit lucky and a really brilliant illustrator got in contact with us and said, “I would love to be involved”, so our amazing families were captured in beautiful illustrations. We then told some of the stories behind the children featured in the pack and they are very, very powerful. We wrote blog entries and press releases about the children, which enabled us to reach a lot of people, that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Analyse the results
We launched in March 2018 and, so far, we’ve had 104 event registrations, compared to 72 last year. Our social media activity, driven by the personal stories and using the illustrations, has delivered a threefold growth in web page visits and secured press coverage valued in excess of £17,000. We’ve also secured a partnership with Daisy First Aid, a chain of paediatric first aid trainers. They contacted us regarding a potential partnership and we were delighted to be able to say ‘we happen to have this new opportunity’. This has led to Toddle Waddles being recommended to all their franchise holders and we hope that each one will be holding a Toddle Waddle for us this year.
I have to use this opportunity to thank Carrie Bater and the amazing Community Fundraising team at Meningitis Now for their creativity and passion in developing this new pack which we are all really proud of.
Meningitis Now has been working towards a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis for over 30 years, growing from a local support group to a national charity along the way. To continue its mission, which also includes ensuring everyone affected by the disease gets the support they need to rebuild their lives, Meningitis Now is reliant on fundraising income of £3.5 million per year.
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