Are you really ready for TV fundraising?

This is just one of the questions I’ll be helping Master Class delegates to answer at the International Fundraising Congress.

If you’ve ever considered raising money through direct response television, you really need to make sure your organisation is ready for it. This was really brought home to me earlier this year, when Lucy Caldicott from CLIC Sargent explained to me the issues she’d had to think about before embarking on drtv fundraising with her cause.

So, with thanks to Lucy for the inspiration, here are some key issues for you to consider.

1. Are you televisual?

Sounds obvious really. But to work on TV you need to be able to tell your story in a way that is highly emotionally engaging. It’s not so much an appeal to the heart, head and spirit. It’s more an appeal that grabs you by the guts. Hmm, nice image.

Given the above, it’s no surprise that causes working with children and animals have a head start when it comes to drtv.

2. What creative assets do you have?

You’ll need strong stories, the discipline to tell them single-mindedly, and ideally some strong existing footage that powerfully depicts the need your serve. (And of course the solution you provide, but for drtv you actually don’t need lots of solution).

3. Do you have multiple objectives?

The single-mindedness of drtv is very important. That’s not about the creative vanity of those who produce the work; it’s about generating a strong return on investment. DRTV is there to raise money. It’s not there to build brand awareness. Don’t try to shoehorn a raft of organisational key messages into your drtv ad. Only a spectacularly successful and large-scale sustained drtv campaign will be visible enough to make a meaningful difference to your brand awareness.

4. Do you want to spend a lot of money?

Please don’t. If your drtv isn’t working, you will not fix it by throwing more money at the media budget. Indeed it takes surprisingly little money to carry out a robust media test of drtv. The key is to start small, test, grow, keep testing.

5. Do you love your call centre(s)?

Please do. For the person who picks up the phone to give a gift, or the person who is called after they have texted you, the individual person taking or making that call must be every bit as passionate as you would be yourself. Brief them well, inspire them, reward them, and stay on their case!

6. Do you adore data?

Really, do you have a secret passion for spreadsheets (and I really don’t just mean the bottom right-hand corner). Because even in a test period you may be on more than 30 channels. The devil, and the diamonds, are in the detail. Most money wasted on drtv is wasted on media.

7. Would you like to win awards?

Oh dear. You can spot a mile off those ads that seek awards. They are terribly clever, very pleased with themselves, and tend to obscure any sense of urgent and compelling need behind a smokescreen of smugness. Some allegedly creative people love these ads. Donors don’t.

8. Do you see drtv as an end or a beginning?

In reality, drtv is merely the first step in what we hope will be a long-term relationship. The second step will be a conversation with the call centre. The third step will be any materials you then send to the donor. And so on. people who pick up the phone to respond to an ad are amazing. They do a wonderful thing. And it’s important that at each stage of contact we let them know just how brilliant they are.


This year 101fundraising is the official blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), the world’s leading conference on fundraising. This blog post is part of a special IFC Blog Series, where we give IFC speakers a chance to share their wisdom before the conference. Attending crowdbloggers will get a chance to share their views after the conference!

Participating IFC speakers are Bernard Ross, Derek Humphries, Chris Carnie, David Cravinho, Maia Kahlke-Mikkelsen and Lucy Gower!


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