Tuesday 24 March 2009

Remember a charity

Controversial charity consortium, Remember a Charity (RAC), is launching a fresh advertising campaign.

After a two-year absence, our televisions and radios shall once again crackle with this most serious of subjects. Or cackle this time round, as one of the most ingrained conventions of legacy marketing is upturned: humour has been injected into the creative.

And who has brought about such renewal?

As anyone who’s worked with him knows, Stephen George, the body’s Chair, and Development Director for Legacies at the NSPCC, is bursting with energy. And, although not single handed by any means, his leadership, imbued with this dynamism, has both held the consortium together and driven it in new directions.

A fierce advocate of research, Stephen refers to its importance in this new phase of activity in every interview or speech he gives.

A scratch beneath the surface of the new logo alone shows that care has been taken to pay attention to feedback from research.

But despite the now visible progress, RAC remains controversial.

Controversial for one reason: a two-year gap in advertising and a perceived lack of visible progress, combined with the challenges brought by recession, has focused the minds of most legacy fundraisers. RAC membership fees have been weighed even more carefully, and a number of members have pulled out, asking the question, “is it worth it – what else could I do with that money?”

But as the latest advertising campaign breaks, and the inevitable learning and research that will follow it emerges, non-members may well be left wishing they were involved.

Charity consortia often go through rocky patches, where the merits of membership are debated, and any advertising that is generated is scrutinised.

And there will be much to debate and scrutinise now.

The latest RAC campaign is built upon the principles of social marketing, where an attempt is made to change behaviour at a societal level, over time – think drink driving or stop smoking.

It works by using research to uncover the nuance in attitude that affects behaviour. In the case of drink driving, the most recent campaign was built upon an insight that people’s resolve not to drink too much is blurred in the moment they face a “just one more?” decision.

We wait with fascination to see the impact of this latest campaign on the world of legacy fundraising. It is a bold and exciting direction. And 'bold and exciting' is just what we need.

According to the RNLI's Charity Monitor, 41% of adults aged 65+ have made a Will. And 41% of those have included a charitable bequest. That still leaves three in five that don't ... and given that the average for the population is only 15% of Wills with a charitable gift, we face an enormous challenge.

But whatever controversy and criticism – or praise and admiration – this campaign generates, legacy fundraisers could do well to look at themselves first.

Will they be so focused on RAC, their enfant terrible, that the breaking campaign finds them not ready to capitalise on the enquiries and responses it generates?

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