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Replacing Physical with Digital Collection Boxes in Charity

Fox & Hare talks to charity sector marketing experts to share insight into the future of fundraising and the power of creative campaigns.

With Christmas around the corner, we’re venturing towards what would normally be the most charitable time of the marketing calendar. And while many of the messages communicated throughout 2020 encouraged acts of kindness, charities have struggled to produce the financial support required to offset the effects of the pandemic, having to reinvent their fundraising strategies, almost overnight. We caught up with leaders in the third sector to discuss innovative approaches to digital fundraising and customer activations, emotionally connecting with communities, and harnessing the power of engagement moving into our collective new normal. 

How creative approaches have boosted digital fundraising

At Fox & Hare, we experienced the power of digital fundraising when launching #TheBigMissYou for The Big Issue this year. This campaign, consisting of a hero film and customer activation, encouraged the public to digitally sell a subscription on behalf of vendors who couldn’t work on the streets over lockdown.

Speaking with Iain G. Morrison, group marketing communications director for The Big Issue on the success of the project, he told us: “Swift decisive action saw The Big Issue Group launch an appeal to help raise much-needed funds that would support our vendors and keep the organisation afloat. With a weekly readership of over 78,000; the support we received from our engaged customer base was incredible. 


A few days before the first lockdown, we made the difficult decision to take our vendors off the streets which posed many challenges, including the loss of 80% of our revenue overnight. From there, a suite of digital innovations (including a new app, online subscription and a shift in approach to online content), gave us the ability to sell online. Our engaged supporters donated, subscribed and shared our message far and wide; encouraging others to buy from vendors when they were able to sell, to donate, or subscribe online.”

Matteo Plachesi, head of marketing and communications at The Design Museum, reflects on the swift lockdown put in place across the design and art industries. To react quickly, he explained: “We immediately decided to extend memberships for the duration of the first lockdown. Members are key supporters of the museum and instrumental in inspiring the next generation of designers. This 19-week extension was accompanied by a series of exclusive content, including a virtual version of the museum’s 2017 blockbuster exhibition, ‘Ferrari: Under the Skin’ and a new blog series.”

Learnings and Conversions: from physical events to digital engagement

Behind the scenes, brands faced restrictions on physical contact, putting physical fundraising on hold. The challenge most organisations faced has been how to replicate face to face contact, digitally. Conveying sensitive messages face-to-face is hard enough; so how did the additional touchpoint of a screen affect the relatability of these conversations?

Zoe Roll, brand marketing manager at Action for Children (previously the brand marketing and communications manager at CLIC Sargent and our liaison for the #ChallengeImpossible campaign) joined the brand team during Covid-19. Her introduction of a variety of gamified touchpoints has proven vital to Action for Children’s digital efforts.


She explained: “Covid has meant that certain activities have had to be paused or pivoted this year – but we’ve used this as an opportunity to trial different ways to reach our current network and new audiences to raise income and grow brand awareness. We’ve had to focus on generating compelling content that will stand out amongst the wider competition and empower our warm community to become ambassadors in their own local networks to champion the campaign. Excitingly this year, we’ve seen the current climate as an opportunity to pivot some of our successful in-person events to virtual products for the first time ever. Our Events team have pivoted our London carol concert to a mass participation proposition – and we’re also trialling our first-ever virtual quiz with Instagram sensations Mr and Mrs Hinch. This is opening us up to a brand new audience that may have never heard of Action for Children before.”

Events are usually the cornerstone of any fundraising outreach. Laura Hedges, deputy manager at All Dogs Matter, a dog rescue and rehoming charity in London, reflects on a challenging transition to digital events to rescue and re-home pets. “Fundraising through physical events has historically been a key way for us to connect to the local community, raise awareness and generate income. With Covid-19 we have had to be much more creative with how we now generate income, focusing on digital fundraising which has resulted in a number of new initiatives. This year we have run two successful digital events that would normally have been face-face. The ‘Great British Bark In’ – an online dog show – replaced what would have been the Great Hampstead Bark Off on Hampstead Heath. We asked people to send in pictures and video entries for seven dog show categories, which was judged by our celebrity patrons and had a huge response, with 160 entries and lots of engagement across our social channels.”

How attitudes have changed towards fundraising in 2020

This year, we have seen the continued deceleration of ‘sadvertising’ and the acceleration of positive and uplifting content, as a means of celebrating the moments of positive impact and encouraging connectivity. For an organisation such as The Big Issue, the subject of homelessness has always produced strong emotional connections, and communicating its impact is essential to engaging with their communities.


Iain notes this to be a part of their overarching goal for 2021, saying: “Emotionally connecting with your audience(s) remains vital. Marketers sometimes feel they’re drowning in data and paralysis can follow. But, there’s plenty of research that shows emotional connections drive results. Things that make your target audience smile or laugh are the sorts of things they’re more likely to share with others. Things that make them sad, or inspire them, stand a greater chance of motivating them to act.”


Louise Goulden, founder and CEO of The Together Project, a registered charity reducing social isolation through joyful intergenerational connections, agrees: “Emotionally connecting with your audience has always been vital, but whilst the growth of digital platforms offers new opportunities to connect, we also risk over-saturation. It’s getting harder and harder to create content that’s so engaging that your audience not only pauses to properly read or watch it but then acts upon it in some way. So, defining the purpose of each piece of content and then designing it to trigger that outcome is crucial.”

Finally, we caught up with Lauren Mee, CEO and co-founder of Animal Advocacy Careers: an organisation that aims to tackle the bottlenecks in the animal advocacy movement. In somewhat unusual circumstances: “This year we made our first hire (outside of co-founders) in marketing and communications, this is quite unusual as it is usually operations for most NGO’s in their infancy. However, we realised that a key bottleneck to our own success was building the credibility of our brand and gaining visibility of our services in order to help as many people as possible. James (our M&C hire) did a great job at the beginning of this work for us, and I think it was an integral part of the success in uptake for our courses this year.”


Racing towards this new landscape, we are faced with instability and new obstacles. We can embrace transformation by converting learning into action and finding innovative ways to strengthen customer connections. After all, no single one of us has the power to do more than what we can all do, together.

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