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Learning from the DEC Ukraine appeal

Learning from the DEC Ukraine appeal

The appalling war in Ukraine and the terrible suffering of its people have filled our screens, airwaves and social media in recent days. We are all aware of what is happening and few cannot have been moved by the desperate scenes emerging from that country. As a result, the appeal launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee raised £85 million in just two days, of which £60 million was donated by the UK public. So why has the appeal been so successful and what can other charities learn from this?

1. The need is very clear

The terrible suffering of families with children being shelled and fleeing their homes makes the need very clear. It is ordinary people like ourselves who are suffering. As we know, people give to people and so donors can imagine that their support will directly address the needs they see and help people such as those on their TV screens.

2. Urgency

The need is immediate and the suffering is happening now, so there is a clear urgency to donate today.

3. Dramatic footage

With so many news reporters in Ukraine, there is a constant stream of reports, images and video footage available, which changes by the hour. As a result, the media have plenty of material to use each day to refresh the story, much of it alarming and dramatic. This keeps the conflict in front of us daily and enables it to dominate the news.

4. Children are suffering

For many people, the strongest emotional appeal to donate is when they see children suffering. After all, these are children like their own or their grandchildren and the war is also affecting other vulnerable people such as older and disabled people.

5. It is easy to give

Giving to the DEC, which specialises in major disasters, is an obvious and safe way to give. Because of its track record, donors know that it is the expert in such crises and that their donation is likely to be well used and to make a difference. It is also very easy to make a donation with multiple options.

What can we learn?

Other charitable causes cannot compete in the short term with such an appeal and indeed may even lose out on some donations as a result of it. However, they can all learn something from the success of the DEC.

Firstly, are they setting out the need strongly clearly and consistently? it is easy to assume that people know why your work is important and why you need funding, but this is not always true. Take another look at your case for support. Does it really underline the need you are addressing and spell out a clear reason for your work and why people should give to it?

Secondly, are you emphasising the urgency of your work? Even if your work is long term and ongoing, there may be aspects of it which are urgent and things which need to happen now if you are to solve a problem or prevent one in the future. So consider again how you can add some urgency to your appeals.

Thirdly, it is hard to compare every day suffering with warfare, but are the images you are using sufficiently strong and dramatic? Do they connect the donor with human need? Do they enable people to feel that they are giving to other people? Do they present the need as Immediate and compelling? Studies have shown that images of human faces are very powerful in connecting donors with people’s needs. So Are you using images to maximum effect? if not, do you need to obtain or create some new ones?

Fourthly, can you demonstrate how children or other vulnerable people are impacted by the needs you are addressing? What will be the impact on them if you do not raise the money you need? Of course, not every cause involves children or vulnerable people, but where you can show the impact on them it will certainly support your fundraising.

Fifthly, are you making it easy for people to give to your charity? Convenience (or the lack of it) is a major factor in the success of any appeal. People are busy and therefore you need to provide options for them which make it quick, cheap and simple to respond.

While few charities will ever be able to compete with a major emergency appeal such as we are now seeing for Ukraine, the underlying principles are still the same for any fundraising organisation and much can be learned from the success of such appeals.

if you would like to discuss how to make your appeals more effective, please contact us for a free chat on 01785 663600 or

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