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Grand idea: Pool resources with other charities and see a boost

Animal Free Research UK co-chief executive Emma Wrafter explains how pooling resources with other charities has boosted awareness and income.

When we talk about partnerships in the third sector and particularly within fundraising, the focus is traditionally on the relationship between a charity and a corporate organisation. At Animal Free Research UK (formerly the Dr Hadwen Trust) we wanted to try something a bit different. The Grand Challenge was born in partnership with another charity – Brain Tumour Research.

As a grant-giving research charity, we have a very broad focus in our mission to replace the use of animals in medical research. This presents us with challenges about how we communicate our work and the impact, which can also be quite technical, to both current and potential supporters.

At the time, we were also hampered by our former name, which didn’t immediately explain what we did and created another barrier to engagement.

Key objectives of this partnership were to broaden our supporter base, increase our profile and look at focusing our fundraising on a particular disease.

This is something we had not done before. We knew we needed two things to make this happen: an evidence-led research project we could hang the fundraising ask on; and a charity partner that had a focus on a particular disease. For us, ethical, robust science is king, so we knew we needed to get the research part right first. We informally approached Professor Geoffrey Pilkington at the University of Portsmouth whom we had funded before. Professor Pilkington does incredibly innovative work which pushes the boundaries to generate techniques that are relevant to humans and does not use animals. He is also funded by Brain Tumour Research, so we saw it as a perfect fit.

After initial meetings, the partnership was born and the fundraising proposition soon fell into place. Brain tumours kill more adults and children under 40 than any other cancer, yet only receives 1 per cent of the national research funding allocation. The partnership would fund a three-year research project focused on advancing 3D human cell-based models of the brain’s blood-brain barrier and how we can effectively get lifesaving drugs through the barrier to fight tumours, all without involving animal testing.

As a relatively small charity with an annual income just under £1m, we consistently punch above our weight so we set an ambitious fundraising target of £90,000. We asked Brain Tumour Research to do the same and they agreed.

An important part of the proposition was that every penny raised during the campaign would go towards the chosen brain tumour research project. The objective was to raise £180,000 by the end of 2016.

Sharing assets

To make the partnership work, we needed to share assets, resources and ideas. We decided to put this together under a joint brand called the Grand Challenge. We worked together on developing this and making sure it was consistent across both charities.

Current supporters were also important to ensuring success and we wanted to mobilise them in their communities and empower them to hit a particular individual target, which we set at £1,000 – a grand. Supporters were given access to a resource centre on both charity websites, including an A-Z of fundraising ideas. They also had access to the jointly branded marketing collateral such as selfie boards, leaflets, posters and banners.

The campaign was kicked off by sharing selfies, which encouraged supporters to join the campaign. This was launched by such actors as Peter Egan, Anna Chancellor, Nina Sosanya and Sam West.

It also included “heroes” – people who had been affected by brain tumours and who allowed us to tell their stories, some of which are quite harrowing. This case study aspect was incredibly important in helping to reach supporters.

The two charities worked closely together to scope out opportunities across the fundraising matrix and events where we could work together or leverage individual relationships. Regular updates and an operational plan were vital to ensuring we remained on track.

Targets met, lessons learned

The response was phenomenal and, twelve months later, following countless marathons, skydives, supermarket collections and other fundraising events, the target of £180,000 was reached and exceeded. During the campaign we also brought onboard and stewarded a major donor, who contributed significantly and remains involved in supporting the University of Portsmouth research.

We learnt a lot during the process about our supporters and our overall branding proposition. While the campaign was a success, it didn’t generate as many new supporters as we would have liked. It did, however, galvanise our current ones, who liked being able to focus on one fundraising ask. Working with Brain Tumour Research was key to the success of the partnership, alongside testing that very focused fundraising ask.

The name and branding for the Grand Challenge perhaps was not as strong as we had thought and confused some supporters and the general public. As predicted our charity name was also a barrier, particularly to attracting new supporters. This helped to build a case for support internally to rebrand the charity, which we did in April this year (see sidebar). It also helped us to look closely at our processes – how we steward our supporters and create opportunities for new advocates.

This year we start a new partnership with Breast Cancer UK, where we will be focusing our ask on research preventing breast cancer. Instead of hosting our resources on different websites, we will be collaborating to produce a one-stop repository. We will be testing and developing a content strategy with a focus on digital fundraising and taking those precious case studies and sharing the stories of people and families affected by breast cancer through the medium of film.

Learning from before, our joint branding will be shareable, and visually and verbally easy to understand.

By opening up and sharing resources and one vision with another charity, we learnt how to collaborate in a different way. As an organisation, we will keep on learning and sharing and building these positive partnerships because as a sector, we are much stronger together.

Emma Wrafter is the interim development director and co-CEO at Animal Free Research UK

@EmmaWrafter


Brand recognition

Dr Hadwen Trust to Animal Free Research UK

Why did you rebrand?

Our name didn’t tell people what we did; it is that simple. As the Dr Hadwen Trust, the first thing we had to do was tell people what we did as a charity. When you have seconds to make an impact, we were losing potential supporters before we even got started. We know that to complete our vision, which is to replace animals in medical research, we needed to increase our research funding and grant-giving. We need to become a £10m charity. The rebrand was part of this new income generating strategy.

What was the development process?

Buy-in from the board was vital; it embraced the change and supported a new brand and name. After being the Dr Hadwen Trust for over 47 years, this was an incredibly brave and forward-thinking decision. We tendered the process and found a natural synergy with Spencer Du Bois, which just “got” what we were about and gave us a lot of pro-bono support.

What was the impact on donors?

We included our donors from the beginning. We have incredibly loyal and long-term supporters who really got behind the process and that’s because we took them on the journey with us. As part of the development process, nearly 1,000 supporters, scientists and key stakeholders gave feedback. They all agreed on the new positioning.

What does the future hold?

Over the next year we will be developing our digital proposition to match our external positioning and we are positive that we will see an increase in supporters and income.