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How the RSPCA used DRTV to boost donations during the recession

 How the RSPCA used DRTV to boost donations during the recession

There is much comment in the media regarding a downturn in donations to charities. This case study dispels the myth of a blanket downturn, and puts the onus on charities and their agencies to make a compelling case for public support.

The RSPCA has been a stalwart user of television since 1997, using it as direct response television (DRTV) to recruit new donors and measure its effectiveness on a return on investment basis.

Typically, DRTV is used to recruit regular donors who set up direct debits to give between £2 and £5 a month, and was performing well for the organisation until 2007. Response rates started to decline, dipping further as the credit crunch started to bite in 2008.
In summer 2008 Mike Colling & Company (MC&C), together with creative agency Whitewater, recommended a completely new approach.

Four key insights drove their thinking:

- Changes in legislation, together with the economic environment, allowed the agencies to demonstrate increased need for RSPCA services.

- Asking for a single gift rather than a regular donation would be more appropriate for consumers in these straightened times.

- That encouraging donors to text rather than call or go online could dramatically increase response rates.

- That integrating the television activity with inserts, door drops, search, online display activity and a dedicated micro site would improve both volume of response and total campaign ROI
Crucially the message made more use of terrestrial TV and dayparts outside the traditional DRTV schedule of Monday to Friday daytime TV.

Creative showed how the animal welfare act enabled the RSPCA take action earlier where animals were believed to be suffering. Images of animals being helped at RSPCA centres appeared over commentary revealing how the charity was now dealing with 15,000 more complaints each year.

The charity dubbed the situation its “biggest animal rescue”.


A first test in September 2008 was an immediate and dramatic success. Response rates to the commercial nearly tripled compared with the previous campaign; response to integrated door drops and inserts rose by more than 25% compared with control cells and online response showed uplift of more than 75% where integrated.

The total campaign return on investment rose by more than 40% compared with the previous campaign.

The campaign rolled out in November 2008, and a special Christmas version was created starting on Boxing day 2008.

Results have continued to improve, and the RSPCA  plans to run new creative work supporting the same strategy throughout 2009.

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