The charity appeals changing with the times
31st October 2023 by Kate Logan
From the Poppy Appeal to Children in Need and Comic Relief, major fundraising events have become staples of British life.
While raising money for an array of amazing causes, they also increase awareness and bring out the best of our community spirit. But with so many charities vying for our support, the pressure is on for fundraising campaigns to move with the times and combat “donor fatigue” made worse by a cost of living crisis.
Only those with the most imaginative hooks can capture our attention. They must, of course, be social media friendly, and many are moving to become more sustainable. 2023 has so far seen the launch of the first plastic-free poppy, which followed on from plant-based red noses for Comic Relief.
Comic Relief has seen donations steadily decline since its peak of raising more than £100m in 2011. Last year’s total was just £31m, its lowest since 1997. Its campaigns however are more creative than ever. In 2022 the charity took advantage of the “unboxing trend” – a social media phenomenon which led to toy manufacturers offering “surprise” toys with extra wrapping to conceal their products. Comic Relief cleverly concealed a range of eight surprise character noses in mini cardboard boxes, even including a “rare” rainbow chameleon, a pretext to increase demand – and no doubt the talk of every playground!
In 2023, Comic Relief moved on again to meet demand for more sustainable products and created a paper nose, designed by Apple’s former chief designer Sir Jony Ive no less, and created almost entirely from “plant-based materials, paper and love”. They also launched a new partnership with Amazon to sell the noses online, bending to meet changing shopping habits.
This year’s Poppy Appeal from the Royal British Legion has followed suit with its plastic free poppy. Three years in the making, the paper design is recyclable at home and made from renewable sources including offcuts from coffee cups. The new eco-poppy has gained widespread media coverage from the BBC and Sky News to the Guardian and the Mail Online, proving change can create headlines.
Children in Need takes place less than a week after Remembrance Sunday. Its strapline this year is “Be spotacular” which challenges people to take on various fundraising endeavours. It’s fair to say that Children in Need has cornered the market for wacky stunts and undoubtedly this year we’ll see our fair share of teachers in ice baths and school children donning Pudsey ears and PJs. While its premise has stayed true to its 1980s’ roots, with weeks of fundraising challenges still culminating in a live BBC1 appeal show, this year on November 17, the charity has evolved, particularly with its merchandise. It has its own online shop and this year’s Children in Need clothing range at Asda features 80 items, all available online.
Despite ever more inventive campaigns, it’s been a tough couple of years for charities. While the Covid pandemic threatened livelihoods, charitable donor levels were at their lowest level in a decade in 2020/21. Just 63% of the population gave to charity that year, according to Statistica, down from 75% the previous year. Figures bounced back slightly in 2021/22 to 66%.
With hopes that the country is beginning to emerge from a cost of living crisis, it remains to be seen whether the overall decline in the number of people giving to charity can be reversed. Either way, charities will need to continue to be on-point with their marketing campaigns to gain their share of donations.