Last week, @conorbyrne showcased some of the best Christmas appeals. If you haven't already, take a look here and you'll see some great work (including a piece for Mencap done by Bluefrog).
A few days after reading Conor's post, I received what is, by some distance, my favourite charity communication of the year. And so, inspired by Conor, I thought I'd share it with you.
It's truly marvellous. If I did have an award to give, it would certainly be making its way to the very talented young man who came up with it. He doesn't work for either a charity or an agency though.
His name is Amosi. He's eleven years old. And he's the child I sponsor through ActionAid.
So let's have a look at what he sent me.
It arrived in this envelope, which over the years, I (like many child sponsors) have learnt to recognise. Rather than languishing in the pile of unopened appeals, newsletters, utility bills and DM packs addressed to long-gone residents of my house, this envelope is opened as soon as it arrives. And if I'm on the way out (as I was last week) I'll take it with me so I can read it at the soonest opportunity.
Inside the envelope was this, which to be perfectly honest, I put to one side at first.
Because this is what I really wanted to read.
This is the letter that Amosi wrote to me. And over the years, I've seen the messages grow longer and become more sophisticated, just as the handwriting has become neater and more confident.
Here is the translation.
And here is the wonderful drawing that Amosi did of his cat 'Sweetness' and the rat (s)he has just caught.
Now, I don't know where Amosi gets his data from or what targeting model he's using, but it's remarkably effective. I suspect it's called 'paying personal attention to what someone tells you about him/herself' and I recommend it to any charity. Because in the course of his letter, Amosi identifies himself as a cat lover to a fellow cat lover, thereby building a wonderful level of kinship between two people living a great distance apart.
As shallow as it sounds, I like cats. And now I know Amosi likes cats, I can't help feeling even warmer towards him.
Of course, at some level, this is what child sponsorship is all about - learning, sharing, caring. But from my point of view, it almost wasn't.
Last year, I spent a few months working on a great project with ActionAid, which I've posted about previously – click here to read. Together, we were creating new materials for sponsors that did full justice to the child sponsorship scheme ActionAid has been running for over 35 years now.
A few keys points in our brief included:
- Showing a sponsor what is special about ActionAid child sponsorship.
- Demonstrating it is not a paternalistic relationship.
- Offering the sponsor the chance to get more involved.
As I wrote parts of the pack which encouraged sponsors to write to the child they were sponsoring, I felt a growing feeling of guilt. I had never written to my sponsored child and here I was telling people how much it meant to children to hear from their sponsors.
I felt bad. Really bad. And the only way to make the feeling go away was to write a card. I chose one with Thierry Henry on it, knowing that Arsenal who he played for at the time are very popular in Tanzania (rather than my preference, Aston Villa).
The next time a letter arrived from Amosi, he thanked me for my card and there was a noticeably longer message (perhaps I'd come to life to him too).
This summer, taking a tip from the welcome book I'd written myself(!), I sent him a postcard from the seaside which had an illustration of a huge sea gull on it. Apparently, as well as football, it's reasonable to assume that children like to receive pictures of animals and slightly frightening looking birds.
So perhaps Amosi read between the lines and identified me as an animal lover – leading to the letter I've shared with you above.
And so there it is, my favourite charity communication of the year – demonstrating once more why time after time, we at Bluefrog return to child sponsorship as one of the finest fundraising models and continue to learn from it.
On the basis of a single communication, this is what this particular piece reminds me:
- Feedback needs to demonstrate to the donor what their gifts are helping to achieve.
- Feedback should ideally come from a known individual.
- Over the long-term, feedback should acknowledge what you've learnt about the donor and maintain a coherent 'thread' of communication.
- The more personal, the better.
In my opinion, Child Sponsorship is the best committed giving product in existence, but it's obviously not suitable to every cause. And so when creating new products, we try and make sure we meet these donor needs.
That's it for today.
That's it for today.