Campaigning is an important part of the work charities do on a daily basis. It helps keep people connected, enables charities to gain momentum for change, and cuts through all the noise and gets people thinking and talking about big issues.
It may sound obvious, but at Just a Drop, any campaign we run needs to serve a very specific, strategic purpose. Which for us is to reach new audiences and increase the scope and scale of our communications.
We’re a relatively small charity, with limited budgets, so any such campaigns really need to count. A good example is our Steps to Water campaign, originally launched back in 2018, and its evolution into this year’s ‘The Walk to the Well’ campaign. Here’s what we’ve learnt…
Don’t underestimate the importance of forward planning
The key to our campaign work is planning. Steps to Water covers World Water Day in March, so we allowed ourselves loads of time, with planning starting months earlier, September in fact. In having this time, we were able to achieve a real clarity for the campaign, so as well as reaching new audiences, we had to have something which was:
- Relevant – so, around World Water Day
- Branded in a way which was recognisable as Just a Drop’s
- Designed to achieve a degree of ‘stand out’
- Included a clear Call to Action – what we wanted people to do
We also wanted a campaign with a degree of longevity, that could be used more than once to make our (small) budget go further, after all, World Water Day is an annual event.
Be prepared to flex
Inevitably, like any plan, we found ourselves having to adapt. As we wanted to achieve strategic aims, we were able to make available a small budget to work with an agency, as we felt that some external creativity would be important.
The thing is, the agency we went with weren’t coming up with what we felt we wanted, we weren’t being difficult, we just weren’t convinced their suggestions around the Call to Action would work.
So, we had to be flexible. We bit the bullet and decided to change horses, with only two months left before the campaign launch.
This was quite a decision to make, but in retrospect, it showed that:
- Our focus was on creating an effective campaign – and we didn’t lose sight of this
- We were resilient and this resilience I think is important
- The decision to allow plenty of time for planning was proved to be correct
Within a week, our new agency came up with the Steps to Water concept. People would count the steps they took in the days around WWD and donate 1p per step. We had effective digital materials, delivered on time, with a clear Call to Action – or so we thought.
Steps to Water in the first year was a definite success, it was really well received and reached its target. Across the next year, we sent updates on our work to anyone who participated, to show them where their donations went and also to keep the ‘Steps to Water’ sub-brand in their minds.
We’d also built in time (planning again) to review what could have gone better and the feedback we got was that the counting of steps was a little bit awkward, so the lesson learned here was to leave room for adaptation.
Embrace the natural evolution of your campaign
When the next World Water Day came around, we changed the Call to Action to something which we thought would be more straightforward: walk or run 6km, donate £6, ask 6 people to do the same – which was again, really well received. Again, there was flexibility around our key focus of achieving our strategic aim.
But, after three years, we felt that although Steps to Water had done well, we could do more to reach new audiences. So, we changed our approach and utilised our organisation’s network.
We’ve always had good links with the travel industry and each year host a Travel Leader’s Dinner. One attendee brought along their ad agency and they were so impressed with us, they agreed to create an (almost) pro bono campaign. We know that this may not happen with every charity, but every charity does have a network and connections and people they know. If we have any advice, we’d say look at your network, how can it be better utilised, where can we focus? Be creative.
This was pre-pandemic and so not a lot happened for a long time. Throughout, though, we maintained an engagement with the agency, again, it’s resilience which matters. We wanted to do something bigger and better – as mentioned at the start of this article, increase the scope and scale of our communications, which any campaign would have to achieve.
So, now we’re about to launch our new campaign for World Water Day, ‘The Walk to the Well’, featuring Ann, a real-life 32-year-old woman living in Kenya. She walks 9km each day to collect water for her family.
We’ll invite people to scroll the 9km of Ann’s walk on Twitter, by scrolling through a thread of over 2000 tweets that immerse you in her story and prompting users to donate when they’ve reached their limit. It shows the reality faced by millions of women every day – the hours it takes to fetch water for their families.
With engaging and visual content, we aim to reach millions of people and hopefully secure a huge amount of donations. Twitter have been so impressed with the concept, they’ve agreed to provide a substantial promotion budget.
Overall, we have The Walk to the Well campaign as a result of strategic thinking, being able to plan well, be resilient and have flexibility. It’s a long-term process and throughout, we never lost our vision of what we wanted to achieve – to reach new audiences and increase the scope and scale of our communications.
Find more strategy inspiration for your campaigns on our dedicated Strategy page.
Banner Image: Vlad Chețan on Pexels