If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know we try and share stuff that you can actually use. We're particularly keen on 'truths' of fundraising, which have been forgotten, ignored or, for some reason, disbelieved (see this post about coupons, for example).
So here's another one for you.
Local is best.*
Topical Relevant Unusual Tension Human interest
Being local is one way of being relevant. And it's less limiting than you might think. With a little imagination, almost any cause can be 'local'. Here's some examples that have, to a greater or lesser extent, lifted response.
For a development charity: Donors were sent a pre-call letter about a project in Rwanda. We explained that doctors and midwives were extremely scarce in the area. In fact, each donor was given a locally relevant comparison. For example, someone living in Lancashire may have learned that the situation was the equivalent of having one qualified doctor for the whole of Manchester. It's this relevant fact that donors talked about unprompted when we called them - it (literally) brought the skills shortage home to them.
For a cancer charity: We were asking donors to help train and support more nurses. We made this relevant by referring specifically to the number of nurses working in the area where the donor lived, then asked them to support their local nurses. That's all relatively straightforward.
For an arts charity: Well, this is one I can show you in more detail.
At the beginning of the year, we worked with the Art Fund on an emergency campaign to save an Anglo-Saxon treasure hoard, discovered by a metal detector in a field in Staffordshire. In the early stages of the project, a few of the pieces were put on display in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Local people (including my mum) queued for three hours just to have a glimpse of this amazing find.
Found locally, the Art Fund wanted to ensure the treasure could stay on display in the West Midlands - and, they enlisted our help.
In the Midlands, our campaign ran with the line 'Save the Staffordshire Hoard for the West Midlands'. Amongst the engagement pieces used was a sticker for donors to put up at home or in their car so they could feel part of a united local effort. The local councils certainly helped build this feeling by using large ads in public spaces to support the campaign.
Here, the campaign reaches Tamworth.
Nationally, we ran with the message 'Join the battle to save the Staffordshire Hoard' ('battle' being appropriate as the find was mainly sword-fittings or, as historian Dr David Starkey put it, 'Gangland bling'). For donors outside of the West Midlands, what was important was that the treasure stayed on public display in the UK.
The whole thing was put together in just a couple of weeks - press ads, banners, a website, doordrops, mailings, inserts, takes ones etc. (In fact, I wrote this post at the time, suggesting that emergency work is often the best.) And all the fundraising materials were supported by some excellent PR, generated by the Art Fund and its enthusiastic supporters and partners.
The DM elements beat their targets by 50% and the whole campaign raised £900,000 from the public, with online being the second most significant income channel. And if you need any further proof of success, you can always call into the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery or Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and see the Staffordshire Hoard on display.
I'll resist the temptation to end with an awful pun about the treasure you could find by implementing 'T.R.U.T.H' and using the power of 'local fundraising'.
*There are exceptions to this rule I've discovered since discussing it with Mark. 'Local' really only works when it is relevant to the donor. When Mark worked at the YMCA, they found that people actually gave more generously to the YMCA if they lived further away from a centre. The reason for this remains unclear, but could well have been that the local aspect simply didn't matter to the donor. Anyway, you'd be wise to split test anything that you want to prove works for your donors.