Single bond binds hearts and minds

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Oxfam is attempting to extend its global reach and increase its income from donations by bringing its campaigns under a single identity.

Karo’s story is one of hope not pity. Fleeing her home after an attack by rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she found safety at an Oxfam camp. With her baby named Happiness she now has clean water and shelter.

Such tales are inspiring Oxfam’s Having a Bit of a Do initiative, which will celebrate International Women’s Day by encouraging supporters to organise events in March to celebrate females like Karo (pictured).

This is just one idea that has come to fruition following the charity’s innovation process, says Oxfam fundraising and supporter marketing director Cathy Ferrier. Anyone in the business is encouraged to put forward ideas and about 20 new concepts are assessed at any one time.

The Having a Bit of a Do campaign evolved from celebrities gathering together to share stories about the charity’s work, Ferrier explains. “The celebrities were really inspired by it so we opened it out. We carried out some research and it tested well.”

She adds that the project aims to encourage people to discuss the work that Oxfam does, as well as raise money. “It gives us the chance to talk about all the projects that we do, such as girls’ education and programmes to help women who experience sexual violence.”

What Ferrier calls the “innovation pipeline” is about “asking what do people want [from a charity] these days”. The economic downturn has made this question even more pertinent with 30% of people stopping their charity donations in 2010, according to research by fast.MAP.

The public thinks good causes only spend 50-60% of the funds they receive from the public on achieving their objectives

Oxfam’s latest campaign – 100 Per Cent Giving – attempts to convince those who are reluctant to donate. The campaign has a double benefit, Ferrier explains. “People think charities have huge administration costs and if that is a barrier to giving then we can say we’re taking it out of the equation with our partnership with PayPal, which will cover the administration cost of donations made in February.

“But it has also given us the opportunity to tell people that we’re very aware of running costs, we’re driving them down as much as possible and that they’re not as high as you think they are.”

While charities typically use 80% of their funds to carry out their work, according to marketing consultancy DMS, the public thinks good causes only spend 50-60% of the funds they receive from the public on achieving their objectives, which tallies with Oxfam’s own research.

Advice from the consultancy says charities should use more creative visuals and solid figures to demonstrate exact costs. Smile Train, a charity that conducts cleft palate surgery in developing countries, tells donors that a single operation costs $250 (£156), for example. And it’s this transparency that Ferrier is keen to communicate through 100 Per Cent Giving and other campaigns.

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100 per cent of giving

Oxfam has partnered with PayPal to launch 100 Per Cent Giving, in which the online payment company will cover the cost of every donation made to the charity in February. The initiative aims to encourage donations by reassuring people that the charity will receive all the funds.

The idea came about following an Oxfam report which shows that 72% of the British public believe running costs take up a large chunk of their donation, with 65% admitting that this puts them off giving money to charity.

Part of the campaign will involve educating the public about how much is spent on essential running costs. According to the charity, for every £1 donated to Oxfam 19p is spent on administration. However, its research suggests that people believe this number to be three times the actual figure spent on admin.

The charity will test the response to this campaign and will look to continue a partnership deal, perhaps with other businesses, if it leads to a high donation rate.

Oxfam’s other initiatives in the UK

International Women’s Day
During the second week of March, Oxfam is inviting people to join its International Women’s Day celebrations. The charity is asking people to join together to “do dinner, do drinks, do dancing, do something” with the aim of raising awareness of, and money for, Oxfam’s women’s projects around the world.

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Oxfam Unwrapped
Instead of buying a conventional present for a friend or loved one, the charity is offering people the opportunity to buy anything from a goat to a toilet for those in need around the world. This enables those buying a present to give something more tangible than a donation. Videos of the “gifts in action” aim to show donors where and how their gifts help communities. People can also set up Unwrapped wedding gift lists or a charity list for anything from birthdays to Bar Mitzvahs.

Trailwalker
The charity is challenging teams to walk 100km in 30 hours across the South Downs. Partnering with the Gurkhas, Oxfam is hoping to get 500 teams involved. Although this is a UK initiative, it has been picked up by some of the 14 charity affiliates around the world, including those in New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong.

Oxfam Vintage and other shopping
In 2010, Oxfam launched an online vintage charity shop to match demand for clothing, accessories and homewares from the past.

Oxfam also ran a pop-up shop at last year’s Vintage at Goodwood festival and has an online second-hand store selling everything from bridal wear to its own ethical collection, which is also available on the high street.

To increase the reach of the charity and develop a global brand identity, Ferrier is chairing the brand and marketing-led communications groups across the 14 affiliates that make up Oxfam International. The aim is to create a consistent brand personality that will strengthen campaigning around the world. At the moment each of the 14 organisations has its own branding and identity.

Oxfam raises just over £300m a year from over 900,000 supporters, and is one of the largest charity brands in the UK. According to Intangible Business charity valuation top 100, last published in 2007, Oxfam is in third position behind Cancer Research UK and The National Trust.

But Oxfam America ranks at number 88 in the top 100 US charities, with a brand value of $34.6m (£21.5m), according to the 2010 Cone Non-Profit Power Brand 100 in collaboration with Intangible Business (see table below and in related files at the end of this feature). This compares with Food for the Poor – the leading international needs charity, according to the report – which has a brand value of $698m (£434.6m).

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The motivation for unifying the Oxfam brand is clearly to increase its global influence. While plans are still being developed, one of the aims will be to communicate that the charity has a “visionary” personality that works towards a better future.

Another is to communicate that the charity is a “force for change”. The global identity work, which will be completed in the summer, will lead to more centralised campaigns, while still allowing for individual elements for local markets. But in certain regions the visionary side of the personality will be strong. In America, for example, the general public doesn’t respond as well to the campaigning side of Oxfam’s personality, so the country will concentrate much more on communicating how its efforts can make a real difference to people for the long-term.

The first global campaign to launch following the implementation of a global identity is the Food for Justice campaign

The first global campaign to launch following the implementation of a global identity is the Food for Justice campaign, which launches in May and will run for about three years. The campaign will look at how people can grow enough food to both feed themselves and generate an income. Ferrier says: “We need to campaign hard to get poor people the right deal around access to food and a fair price for the food they produce.” She adds that the global identity work will give the campaign a “consistent look and feel”.

Making campaigns work harder is a mission that is close to Ferrier’s heart. She says that when donors’ money is invested into a campaign like Food for Justice, the fundraising department has to be “pretty confident” that for every £1 that is spent, £5 or £6 will be returned.

“We’ve been driving efficiencies and we’ve been more cost effective,” she adds. “Since I’ve been there we’ve driven down our cost to revenue [ratio]. My marketing costs are now 8p in £1 compared with about 10p in £1 when I joined.”

As the charity has become more business-like, it has to be careful to ensure that it runs in a professional way but without giving the impression that it is a cold corporate.

“I don’t have business objectives like making a profit. Everything that we make goes straight out to either meeting people’s needs in disasters or for long-term development work, helping people to build livelihoods. It’s about being a business but with a heart.”

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