Another lesson from history

May 5 2009 - Mark Phillips

Barnados 1931

I’ve just come across another ad that shows us how to do it.

Produced by Dr. Barnardo’s Homes (or simply Barnardo’s as they are now) in 1931, it has a huge amount that today’s fundraisers could learn from.

It shows a single child who was “once destitute“.

The picture of a healthy looking boy is great. It might be better if there was more direct eye contact, but it – along with the claim that “Barnardo’s are making a man of him!” – powerfully demonstrates success. The emotion in the face overcomes the need to show graphic poverty.

The image is supported by three simple statistics:

108,500 children admitted – showing experience and expertise.

8,000 children being supported – showing need.

5 come in daily – If the preceding numbers could induce feelings of helplessness, this helps overcome them by presenting a number of children that can be comprehended and helped.

Finally, a great call to action:

10/- will feed one child for ten days.

I’d have used a coupon, but in 1931 those donations probably arrived accompanied by a carefully written letter with contact details included.

Even the instructions for the cheque lends to the power of the appeal. It needs to be written to”Dr. Barnardo’s Homes Food Fund”. There is the basis of a product in that name alone. I’d love to know how it was followed up. I wish some of these old fundraisers wrote their autobiographies. They would make fascinating reading.

The ad is beautifully focussed. It benefits enormously by not being cluttered with descriptions of wider work, mandatory copy statements or disclaimers. It is however powerfully branded.

If you are interested in seeing other examples of great fundraising ideas from history you could have a look here or here or, even better, take a trip to sofii.org. You’ll find loads of amazing ideas. if you are a fundraiser it really is required reading.

Note – 10/- or 50 pence was a huge amount of money in 1931 – it was the equivalent to a widow’s pension or almost two days pay for an agricultural worker.