A complete overhaul of the Heart Foundation’s brand and fundraising initiatives led to increased donations and donor engagement.
The Heart Foundation’s goal is to “Stop premature deaths from heart disease”. And ‘Brand Profile’ and ‘Sustainable funding’ are key objectives to achieving it. But for the past five years the results of its annual appeal have remained fairly static. So it decided a radical shift in the marketing strategy was needed.
The global financial crisis, a series of natural disasters, a tightening of government funding, an unwillingness from corporate sponsors to sign up long-term and an increase in the number of charities made conditions very difficult in the not-for-profit sector. Added to that, heart disease was seen as an ‘old man’s’ disease; the Heart Foundation was seen as a ‘medical’ organisation rather than a charity; and it was not getting cut through in the biggest donation pool of Auckland, with the lowest volunteer and donation-to-population ratio in the country.
In 2011, the new ‘Fulfil a lifetime’ brand platform was established to engage with a wider audience and breathe relevance into the brand. In 2012, market research was commissioned and it delivered some important insights, chief among them that the expensive awareness advertising it had been using did not materially affect the decision to donate; the target donor for a street appeal was early-to-mid forties, female, married/partner, mostly mortgage free and living urban; and the number of volunteers and donation positions did not necessarily correlate to more funds given. Location, proximity to the right target donor (not just foot traffic), relevant messaging, ease of donation and visibility were bigger factors.
The backbone of the multi-faceted marketing strategy these insights spawned was a realisation that it needed to ‘ask’ more directly than ever before, focus its fundraising initiative ‘on the street’ and amplify the activity to connect, engage and receive donations. So it renamed the appeal Heart Week, included TXT-to-give options and created an Auckland-centric strategy location review. It also tapped into the resources of key partner New Zealand Post, which was well-connected at community levels, had a strong volunteer workforce and a nationwide footprint of shops for brand visibility.
Volunteer recruitment was driven by direct mail and a series of emails to sponsor partners, supporters and friends asking “could you spare 90 minutes?” And for the first time it gave volunteers the choice to collect on Friday or Saturday.
The consumer campaign focused on messaging around “every 90 minutes a New Zealander dies from coronary heart disease”. It direct mailed a substantial segment of its database of existing donors, recently lapsed donors and new acquisitions with highly visual personalised printed communications. This phase coincided with the start of an online campaign. And throughout Heart Week, it mobilised a team of brand ambassadors who put on a series of activations around the country, hitting prime locations for ‘90 minutes’ to garner support.
The marketing budget, usually reserved for media space, was instead invested in staff, uniforms, logistics, mobile billboards and activation resources such as ‘key messaging’ or ‘TXT-later’ cards. It also invested in targeted PR to drive media interest.
On appeal days, it introduced a new tiered-strategy of donor recognition, with gold coin donors receiving a ‘Heart Week’ sticker and note donors receiving a slightly more exclusive heart-shaped felt badge.
This bold strategic shift resulted in an unprecedented level of donations for the annual appeal and other forms of donation, while delivering a huge increase in volunteer and donor engagement and relevance. Despite very little above-the-line advertising, awareness of Heart Week also increased, which shows the effectiveness of the targeted PR campaign, its activations and its celebrity spokespeople.
This revamp has prepared the Heart Foundation for ongoing success in achieving its strategic goals for 2012-15 and fulfilling its long term vision of making a tangible difference to the heart health of New Zealand.