Using Quick Response to Bolster a £200k Appeal

“BREAKING: Ex Water Company boss speaks out” – making the most of a moment for Surfers Against Sewage.

When it comes to communicating with your supporters, it’s great to have a plan The ‘gold standard’ is to have a content calendar that’s populated well ahead of time, with plenty of lead-in to write, sign-off and build content that helps you achieve your goals (whether that’s fundraising, campaigning, engagement or something else).

But, sometimes the strongest stories come from the most unexpected places. And it’s how you react to those stories that makes the difference between a decent campaign, and a great one. That’s exactly what happened this week, for our partners at Surfers Against Sewage (SAS). Like many organisations, they’re taking part in The Big Give, a huge opportunity to double supporter donations to make twice the impact with their work.

We’ve been diligently working together over the past couple of months to plan this year’s Big Give email calendar. We mapped an eight email programme designed to emphasise that we need action now, in the build up to the general election, to get the shocking levels of sewage in the UK’s waters high up the political agenda.

After four days of our week-long appeal, something remarkable happened. A former water company director reached out to SAS founder Chris Hines. He wanted to share in our rage at the state of the industry. He wanted to make a donation.

This was huge – to have someone formerly at the top of the water companies we’re trying to influence come out and condemn what’s happening was an invaluable show of support.

It showed how far reaching the appeal messaging was. We’re breaking out of the environmentalist bubble, and our demands for action are filtering into the wider consciousness – and to people who on paper you might expect to not agree with what’s being said.

We couldn’t keep this news to ourselves! We had to show the SAS community asap that their actions were having real-world impact. Petitions that reach hundreds of thousands. Shares on social media that multiply the awareness further. Donations that fund the campaigning and lobbying work that the organisation does.

And with that, we can show people that the tide is turning. That, by donating this week and having it doubled, they can have a meaningful positive impact.

We’re so grateful that SAS let us know immediately that they’d been contacted, and that the former director was happy to be quoted, as long as they weren’t named.

As an agency, we’re in the great position to be able to work flexibly so that we were able to write something straight away. The team at SAS fast-tracked approvals and made sure that the source was happy with the content, – and just like that, we were able to share this story with a community of thousands (we’ve outlined the process and timeframe at the bottom of this article).

What was the impact? While we can’t track exactly the amount raised from each email on the Big Give website (sad face emoji), we were delighted to see the totaliser shoot up by several thousand pounds in the following hours.

Our partners at SAS have raised an incredible £204,000 for this year’s Big Give Appeal. Much of that is down to the pre-planned content. But this reactive piece undoubtedly gave the campaign a boost in the middle of the week

Beyond donations, it was an update that gave supporters evidence that their efforts can make change. So next time Surfers Against Sewage need people to act in their thousands, their supporters know that they need to get involved.

What does this mean for your organisation? You have thousands of supporters, each with their own story to tell about why they give to you. You never know where those incredible stories will come from, but you can make sure that everyone in your organisation is primed to recognise and share them, and that your digital team is ready to react.

The process:

  • 1pm: SAS contacted by former director
  • 2pm: SAS ask Forward Action for writing support
  • 3pm: FA copywriter has first draft of email
  • 3.30pm: FA Head of Creative reviews and edits email
  • 5pm: SAS sign off email
  • 6pm: Email built and ready to send
  • 6.30pm: Email QA complete
  • 9am: former director signs off email
  • 10am: email sent