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Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind - How can you increase income for an underperforming campaign - without spending an extra cent?

The Challenge

Irish Guide Dogs' direct mail programme had been performing well year-on-year - except for the Summer Appeal, which had been consistently dropping in terms of response rate and average gift. While we would not expect a Summer appeal to deliver the same level of income as a Christmas one, the drop in performance could not be accounted for by time of year alone. 

While we were planning this appeal, Irish Guide Dogs had 49 children with Autism on the waiting list for Assistance Dogs in 2018. While they were in the process of training dogs for families who were on the list, they urgently needed funding to help complete the training and match dogs to the children who needed them.

The challenge therefore became, how do we stem the decline in response rate and average gift to the Summer Appeal, in order to be able to meet the urgent funding needs of the Assistance Dog programme in 2018?

The Execution

Through previous testing, we’d identified that donors were more responsive to packs that were ‘dog-led’ rather than ‘human-led’. Therefore, it made sense to develop a pack that featured the dog prominently. This made sense considering we know that over half of Irish Guide Dog supporters are also dog owners. 

We featured the assistance dog prominently, going so far as to use Iona’s voice in the lift piece, making use of the fact that Irish Guide Dog donors are dog lovers. But we also needed to show why children with autism need Assistance Dogs and the life-changing benefits that they bring.

To do this we told the story of Charlie, a five-year-old boy, who has an Assistance Dog called Iona. Iona is Charlie’s friend and protector. She keeps Charlie safe and calm. And because of this, life for his family has changed beyond recognition. 

With a tighter data selection and improved targeting, we diverted budget to the top 20% of our file, in other words, those donors that we knew would deliver the best return.

And we used the fact that there were 49 children like Charlie currently waiting for an Assistance Dog to build a sense of urgency.

The Results

Did Iona deliver? Yes!

  • This campaign had a massive 71% increase on gross income compared to the same appeal the previous year - without spending an extra cent.
  • The response rate more than doubled from 5% to 12% and the average gift also increased by 14%.
  • ROI also doubled to 3:1.

The key learning here is that you don’t need a big budget to deliver greater income. By using both data and insight we already had on our donors, we were able to deliver a campaign that was highly relevant and personalised to meet the needs of a specific target audience, while also delivered on the urgent funding needs of the organisation.

This campaign also won Silver in the smartest High Volume Direct Mail category at the An Post Smart Marketing Awards 2019