Breathing new life into Marie Curie’s 32 year old fundraising campaign
How do you revitalise a long-running annual fundraising campaign, and then, having exceeded all targets, find new ways to build on that success the following year?
That was the challenge that faced creative agency Hope&Glory when it sought to boost the appeal of Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal for the second year running. Its solution: go even bigger. And so, this March, the agency enhanced its award-winning Garden of Light campaign.
Having temporarily installed 2,100 hand-made daffodils in 2017, one for each nurse working at Marie Curie, in London’s Paternoster Square, in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral, this year the daffodils increased to 4,000, representing the number of people supported by the charity that month.
The installation, which took 800 hours to build and ran for ten days, was illuminated to represent the light that Marie Curie nurses bring into people’s lives during their darkest hours.
Smaller Garden of Light installations were set up in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, each with a specific number of daffodils to represent the patients treated in that country over March. Each was slightly different. For example, a giant ten-foot daffodil lamp and yellow armchair covered in 300 daffodils was illuminated in Caernarfon Castle in north-west Wales.
As visitors walked through the London Garden of Light, they heard the words of a handful of terminally ill people who have turned to Marie Curie and extracts of letters from families and friends of people cared for by the charity. There was also the opportunity to write their own experience or memories on a daffodil and hang these from a memory wall.
‘It is an immersive event,’ explains Seb Dilleyston, director at Hope&Glory. ‘Visitors get to see and do something.’ But the key is to make every element significant, he adds, hence the number of daffodils. Artists and celebrities, such as Alesha Dixon and Stephen Fry, also designed special daffodils for the installation.
All the signage around the garden encouraged visitors to post on social media, using the hashtag #GardenofLight, to increase the reach of the installation but also to ‘shine a light’ on the work that Marie Curie does. Anecdotal evidence suggested these social media interactions encouraged people, who may otherwise not have done so, to visit the garden.
‘Fundraising is so important for the charity sector,’ explains Dilleyston. ‘But when it is an annual event, how do you do it again, building on the previous year, and yet keep it fresh? We had to evolve it. The structure had to change so that it was not just a wall and a garden once again.
There are no happy stories; Marie Curie is not looking for cures
‘We want the Garden of Light to be an event that moves forward each year but does not lose its common thread.’ The memory wall was a constant, with no alterations. ‘It was probably the most engaging element, and was clearly valued by those visiting the garden.’
Marie Curie also plans to preserve the walls. ‘This year the Garden of Light was bigger, it had more daffodils and covered more space. It was an evolution; a step change rather than a leap.’
Marie Curie first approached Hope&Glory almost two years ago. The charity recognised that its annual Great Daffodil Appeal, a month in supporters are asked to wear a daffodil pin, for which they make a donation, or take part in fundraising exercises, was well known, but that its work was not well understood.
This lack of understanding had a direct impact on both engagement and donations, and had become a critical issue to resolve. There was also a common misconception that Marie Curie is a cancer charity.
Instead, it is a charity that every year provides free care to 50,000 people suffering from terminal illness and offers support for their family and friends. ‘There are no happy stories; Marie Curie is not looking for cures,’ explains Dilleyston. ‘And if you haven’t been touched by terminal illness, it is hard to understand the charity’s work.’
Rather than seeking to educate people on Marie Curie’s role, Hope&Glory instead decided to focus on what the world would look like if the charity did not exist.
‘People would be left with unhappy memories of how their loved ones died,’ says Dilleyston, adding that Marie Curie’s 2,100 nurses bring light into people’s darkest days.
‘They allow people to die in their homes; they create a positive legacy and positive memories.’
Dilleyston concedes that annual fundraising events for charities can suffer from a sense of ‘familiarity’ and ‘become habit’. For example, the Great Daffodil Campaign has been running since 1986. There can be a sense that if a campaign worked well last year there is little point in tinkering with it, or even that it is simply too difficult to do something different. Organisers also can lose sight of their goal in the struggle to raise awareness of the charity’s role and its need for funding. Working with agencies, who bring a fresh set of eyes and can challenge the status quo, can bring around behavioural change.
He explains: ‘The key is to keep it authentic, but to also remember what the ultimate goal for each activity is.’ Nowhere was this truer than in a new Christmas activation launched last year. Hope&Glory challenged Marie Curie to ‘do something different’.
A Christmas tree was installed on London’s South Bank, and people were invited to power its lights by sharing Christmas memories involving lost friends or relatives with the hashtag #LightUpChristmas. Every time a memory was shared over Twitter or Instagram, the fairy lights shone a little brighter.
More than 2,000 memories were shared over December. ‘We also trialled a contactless donation point by the installation,’ adds Dilleyston. ‘But you could tweet a memory for free.’
The campaign was entirely social media led, and one of the key aspects of Hope&Glory’s work for Marie Curie this year has been to engage with new audiences, particularly younger people, which is obviously key to its future. ‘We really thought about how we could engage with a younger audience around our events for the charity,’ he explains.
The support of influencers, who also had a personal connection to the charity, drove strength of messaging
‘By increasing awareness, it allows new people to understand and ultimately engage with the charity.’ Working alongside Marie Curie’s in-house social team, Hope&Glory created a suite of assets that could be used across the charity’s social channels, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, to amplify the campaign during the Great Daffodil Appeal but particularly around the Garden of Light.
The assets ranged from photographs of the Garden of Light and some of the messages left on the memory walls to using specific content around the ambassadors, nurses and also families that had been supported by Marie Curie. ‘Posts from celebrity supporters, such as Stacey Solomon and [actor] Jason Isaacs, along with artist partners like Charlotte Keates, who designed a bespoke daffodil, further drove engagement on social,’ adds Dilleyston.
‘While high profile celebrities were able to give a boost to reach, the support of influencers like Charlotte, who also had a personal connection to the charity, drove strength of messaging.’ However, he also concedes that it ‘was also incredibly important to show the real people who work for Marie Curie and are supported by them’.
Assets were created involving nurses and families that they had helped for both editorial and social use. In the final days of the installation, an event was held to which 24 high profile London-based influencers were invited. They captured creative images, which were hosted on their personal channels as in-feed posts and Stories. In total, the influencers reached almost 700,000 people with their content.
The sum raised by this year’s Great Daffodil Appeal has yet to be totted up, but last year Marie Curie raised £6.6 million – almost eight per cent of the total sum raised by the campaign over 32 years. The Garden of Light certainly shines bright.