Creating an urgent email fundraising appeal to help refugees through a grim winter

The 30 second read:

Care4Calais needed to raise money via email to support refugees through the winter, but their list was relatively small. By building a focused campaign with urgent, clear, tangible asks we inspired 4.34% of their supporters to donate – more than three times our benchmark.

The longer read:

The challenge

During a turbulent year for refugee rights, and against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, Care4Calais needed to urgently raise funds to support refugees through a harsh winter.

We’d already helped them grow their small but passionate email list using handraisers. Now, our challenge was to create a highly engaging email fundraising campaign that would motivate people to give generously.

What we did and why

Starting with an outline plan for 11 emails, we held a workshop with the Care4Calais team to refine the content and tone of voice. This drew on our best practice, plus their audience insights.

To make the email series super engaging, we did a few key things:

  • streamlined the format so that each email focused on a single narrative and call to action.
  • made the cash asks tangible by directing people to Care4Calais’ online shop, where boots and coats for refugees were the most popular buys.
  • offered a range of actions (not just giving money), including sending a message of support to a refugee, answering a survey, buying a t-shirt and volunteering.
  • kept the tone personal and relatable, using a strong first person voice, emotive language and vivid descriptions to help people picture the conditions refugees were facing.
  • appealed to people’s values with messaging that reinforced their sense of being part of a compassionate community standing up for refugees.

We were also ready to react fast: when snow hit the UK, we turned around an extra email in 24 hours asking people to urgently donate to help refugees facing sub-zero temperatures in Calais.

The impact

Care4Calais’ winter fundraising appeal was one of the most successful we saw in 2022.

Across 12 emails, 4.34% of their modest but mighty list donated, giving a total of £39,163, or £1.44 per subscriber. Our reactive snowy weather appeal performed the best of all, demonstrating the power of a timely rapid response fundraising email.

The project proved just how much a well-planned, relevant, focused email campaign can achieve, giving Care4Calais a strong foundation for future appeals