How micro-projects can transform your fundraising results


Creative and Strategic Director - Passionate about working with charities to ensure effective communication with users, supportes and other stakeholders.
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Creative and Strategic Director - Passionate about working with charities to ensure effective communication with users, supportes and other stakeholders.

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The first step with any fundraising appeal is to be clear on why you are asking for donations. Are you raising funds for a specific project or, instead, do you need money to meet your day-to-day running costs and ongoing charitable activities?

The way you construct and communicate your fundraising appeal, in terms of both your design and your message, will have a major impact on your results. Many donors are more willing to give money for specific one-off projects rather than general long-term activities.

But what if your charity doesn’t have a current project you think would be suitable for a one-off appeal? It’s worth reviewing your activities again and, to help with your brainstorming, you might look at other charities to see whether you can apply their approach.

For example, here are two case studies from well-established national charities: Guide Dogs and Lend with Care. Why use case studies? Stories are an excellent way of getting a message across. Not only in a blog post like this, but in your campaign material too.

As you’ll see from the case studies, both charities use story elements in their campaigns. Stories can connect to people’s hearts in a way that logical explanations, however clear, may not.

The Guide Dogs

The Guide Dogs website lists various ways to make donations. One of these offers donors the chance to sponsor the training of a specific puppy. This turns what might otherwise have been general fundraising into an appeal for a specific project.

The sponsor-a-puppy idea also ties in with a second strategy: packaging your appeal so that it impacts your audience’s emotions. If you sponsor a Guide Dog puppy, you will receive updates on ‘your’ puppy’s progress, including photographs, and access to the puppy’s exclusive Facebook group.

And two years later, after the puppy has completed its training, you can support a new puppy. In effect, this is a way of attracting regular donations to cover an ongoing general cost: puppy training. But it allows the donor to feel they are ‘making a difference’: funding a tiny segment of the charity’s spend.

Lend With Care

Lend With Care is another charity that structures fundraising around donations for specific projects. The charity makes small loans – just a few hundred pounds – to individual entrepreneurs in developing countries.

After transferring your donation to the charity, you can browse the profiles of individual entrepreneurs and read a summary of their business and their funding target. Then, in a similar way to buying an item online, you can click to allocate your donation to part fund one or more loans to your chosen entrepreneurs.

Once your loan is repaid the monies come back into your account, and you can make a fresh loan to another micro-business. Again, this provides long-term funding. Interestingly, when you allocate a loan to an individual entrepreneur the website asks whether you would like to make a small donation to the charity’s running costs.

The micro-project strategy

To use a micro-project strategy effectively, your appeal needs excellent design and clear marketing messages. If you look at the websites of these two charities, it’s clear that they have put a lot of effort into design and messaging.

For example, the Guide Dog website includes many photos of cute-looking puppies. What’s more, the puppies have names and profiles. In addition to these heart-centred images, you will also see brief but clear text summarising the training the puppy will receive. This explains how the charity will use your donation, thus satisfying the logical side of your brain.

Similarly, the Lend with Care website shows photographs of individual entrepreneurs in countries such as Cambodia or Ecuador. Each profile has a design format which provides an effective overview of the type of business, the location, and the fundraising target. This gives the donor sufficient information to select specific loan recipients, based on whatever criteria such as country, business sector, gender of the entrepreneur, and their track record of repaying previous loans.

We did not work on either the Guide Dogs or the Lend with Care project. However, we can appreciate the excellent design and messaging involved. If you would like to explore a similar strategy – a fundraising appeal based around micro-projects – we’d be delighted to help.

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