Abortion Support Network ‘Why do you support ASN?’

Exhibited by
Caoileann Appleby, Account Director at Ask Direct and ASN volunteer
Added
February 08, 2018
Medium of Communication
Online, social media
Target Audience
Donors, Regular Givers, Supporters
Type of Charity
Women, Health/Family Planning
Country of Origin
United Kingdom
Date of first appearance
August 2016

SOFII’s view

Your donors' voices are a tool too few organisations use effectively. Ireland's Abortion Support Network, a small charity but a key resource for women who need abortions in a country where it is outlawed, realised that it was important not just to show donors how they were helping the cause, but also to give them a voice. By asking a simple question 'Why do you support ASN?' they provided a platform for donors, both existing and potential, to discuss this crucial issue and celebrate the work ASN does. It not only became a useful communications tool, but allied with a smart use of online technology, it allowed the charity to exceed their target.

Summary / objectives

To recruit 100 new or upgraded regular donors at £10 a month (i.e.: £1000 per month more in unrestricted income) in one month.  

The first public target was fifty new or upgraded regular donors: this target was exceeded in the first week of the campaign and the public target then increased to 100.

Background

In 1992, the Irish government issued an injunction to prevent a 14-year-old girl who had been raped by her neighbour from travelling to the UK for an abortion. For a decade, the fight for abortion rights in Ireland had been under attack from the religious rights: non-directive pregnancy counseling services were closed down and giving a pregnant woman the number of the Marie Stopes clinic in London was banned. The case of this 14-year-old girl would be a huge turning point in the demand to allow women in Ireland the right to choose.

Nearly 25 years later, a small charity, Abortion Support Network, was facing an increased demand for its services and needed more regular donors to have a chance of meeting demand. They had not had to turn a client away because of lack of funds since 2012 – almost unheard-of for an abortion fund – but without increased income this would have been impossible to sustain: their client numbers grew over 300% between 2011 and 2016 and they predicted a further 15-20% year on year growth from 2016-2018.     

Regular giving campaigns in previous years had not had the impact required so a fresh approach was needed. The inspiration was supporter surveys run in 2013 and 2014: when asked why they supported ASN, the answers were so personal, emotional and powerful. While it can be a struggle for charities to articulate the need for unrestricted income and why regular donations (as opposed to single donations) are so crucial, ASN realised that there was no-one better to make that case than the people who had already made the decision: their existing regular supporters. 

Regular supporters to ASN get an extra thank-you email – usually using a client case study – approximately every three months to show them the impact their donations are making, so the organisation simply added a PS to this in June 2016 and asked them to tell them why they are a regular donor (the PS linked to a simple Google Form).


These amazing answers were collated, permission to use them obtained where required, and formed the basis of the campaign. ASN put them into sharing-friendly image format and they were also used in the campaign emails:  

'I chose ASN because I trust every penny is spent consciously. I switched from making sporadic payments to making monthly payments when I heard that a predictable and guaranteed income was better for ASN to be able to plan ahead.' 
– Cat, ASN regular donor    
'Since signing up to a regular donation, I've been both horrified by the situations that many of those supported by ASN are facing, and inspired by the passion, hard work and genuine care shown by those that run the organisation. The grants provided by ASN are often relatively small, but their impact is life-changing, so it feels like my donation makes a real difference.'
 – Kathryn, ASN regular donor    
'It’s so unjust that due to an accident of geography I am able to access abortion services easily and [Irish women] are not' – Gina  
'It’s easy to take a political stance on what you believe, but action too is required: activism to change the laws and support for those failed by those same laws is what I am doing' - Richard

Creator / originator

Caoileann Appleby (ASN Board member 2013-2017 and fundraising volunteer). Assisted by Mara Clarke (ASN Founder and Director, now Co-ordinator) and other volunteers.

Special characteristics

Communications plan    

This whole campaign was online-only (as are the majority of ASN's campaigns): using email, social media and our website.  

They sent regular emails over the month of August asking supporters to become a ‘fairy godparent’ and ‘make magic happen’ for their clients, for example:

The emails had variants for existing regular donors, previous one-off donors, and those on ASN's email list who had never donated, and they were brilliantly supported by social media volunteers on Twitter and Facebook: the former was particularly impactful as new donors were thanked and RT’d in real time where other supporters could see.

We also had a campaign/FAQ page on our main website which showed the progress towards the target when the campaign was live https://www.asn.org.uk/will-fairy-godmother/  

Platform

There was no single regular giving platform which would meet ASN's needs as their supporters are based in the UK and Republic of Ireland (with a small number elsewhere), so donors had the choice of giving in several ways:

  • Paypal (Ireland, UK and elsewhere)
  • GoCardless (UK only, via the website)
  • JustGiving (UK only, via JustGiving)
  • Increasing their standing order via their bank (UK only) 

There was a risk of confusion which ASN tried to ameliorate using the FAQ page, offering email contact, and a query form (the latter also had a deferred start option i.e.: ‘I can’t do this now but ask me again in a few months’).  

(There are also no existing platforms in the UK to show a regular giving campaign – get on it, JustGiving!).

Influence / impact

The final total was 147 new or upgraded regular donors at £12/month: over £1,700 a month more in unrestricted income (over 75% over target) and a 30% increase in the number of regular donors in a month.

This campaign was part of a years-long pivot to donor-focused fundraising for ASN. The success of this campaign is not only due to the campaign itself but the long-term investment that ASN has made in thanking donors properly and regularly reporting back to supporters on the difference they are making (for example, using the monthly e-newsletter as well as bespoke thank-yous upon donating and regular extra thank-yous for regular donors).

Merits

The idea for this campaign came from the powerful words of Abortion Support Network's donors, and they got those insights because they asked them why. ASN knew what their motivations were and tapped into them: showcasing your donors is one way to do donor-focused fundraising:  

This campaign also used several techniques applicable to other types of campaign:

  • Social proofing: making donating this way seem like a normal thing to do was key. Using their supporters’ own quotes was crucial and it was reinforced by other messaging e.g.:
    • Using teaming language like 'join over 450 of your fellow pro-choice awesome supporters'
    • Using the average monthly donation as the main ask (and telling supporters it was the average).
  • Personal identity: many of the existing regular supporters mentioned how their support of ASN was a core part of their self-image. These quotes were used to trigger this motivation in other supporters and was reinforced by the organisation's messaging.
  • Completion principle: this is a psychological effect whereby we are driven to finish something already started; to keep a streak going or complete a task that’s nearly finished. ASN used this in a few ways:
    • Mentioning not having to turn anyone away since 2012: help ASN keep that record going
    • Setting the initial target at an achievable level (rather than starting with the ideal target of 100): when this was reached, it was cause to celebrate their donors and the progress and it meant that by the time ASN revealed the 100 target they were already halfway there.

Other relevant information

Caoileann Appleby says:

'Abortion Support Network is a tiny charity helping those who need to travel to England for safe, legal abortions from nearby jurisdictions where it is illegal or inaccessible: Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. We help in three ways: a practical information service via email and telephone; a free, safe place to stay in volunteer homes if needed; and grants towards the £350-£2000 costs.  
At the time of this campaign there was only one part-time member of staff; as of 2017 we have two (one full-time and one part-time). ASN relies heavily on its 60+ network of volunteers for all of its work and the vast majority of its funding comes from private individuals.' www.asn.org.uk

As Damian O'Broin said at I Wish I'd Thought Of That 2018, the fight for abortion rights in Ireland is still an ongoing battle and organisations like Abortion Support Network make all the difference for women in need even as Ireland hopefully will get to vote in a crucial referendum.

You can watch Damian O'Broin's moving talk on ASN at IWITOT 2018 in the below video:

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Excerpt from email sent to supporters
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Twitter thank you to new supporter
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Twitter thank you to regular donor
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Results of campaign