SOFII's Blog - interesting fundraising trends and ideas from around the world

SOFII is an online archive of fundraising best practice and creativity. It is filled with an ever expanding array of easily accessible exhibits, articles, videos, opinion pieces, hints and tips, book reviews and recommendations. The SOFII blog is a place for us to share some thoughts and ideas that might not have an obvious home on the SOFII website. It’s also a place for us to invite guest bloggers to share their views. If you’d like to contribute to our blog please get in touch with

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

What can fundraisers learn from Innocent? by Lucy Gower.

Innocent is a UK company that was set up in 1998 by three friends, Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright. Bored of their day jobs (well they were management consultants), they wanted to do something completely different. So one weekend they went to a music festival in London with £500 worth of fruit and a blender to make and sell smoothies. They put up a big sign asking, ‘Do you think we should give up our jobs to make these smoothies?’ They also put out a bin saying ‘yes’ and another saying ‘no’ and asked people to put their empty bottles in one of the bins.

At the end of the weekend the ‘yes’ bin was full, so they went into work the next day and resigned.

That’s the story and they are sticking to it. Since those humble beginnings Innocent has gone from strength to strength and today has a 79 per cent share of a £169 million smoothie market. The original ethos behind Innocent was to keep ‘innocent’ with no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives. They were about helping people with a work hard and play hard lifestyle to be healthier and to make it easier for them to get their five-a-day fruit and veg. The message was simple: just buy a smoothie a day.

Since its first smoothie, Innocent has developed a strong brand, with excellent marketing and communications.

They’ve won masses of awards, continue to build on their original ‘innocent’ ethos, were the first company to develop 100 per cent recycled packaging and they have changed the business of making smoothies.

Based in West London in Fruit Towers, Innocent’s offices are quirky and relaxed. The floor is covered with Astro turf and the staff work in a casual open plan space with regular desk moves to help teams share information and avoid silos. They are involved with their customers and are accountable to them, they ask for advice onnew recipes, write great newsletters and have held some superb and extremely successful summer fetes in London. Their customer service line is called the ‘banana phone’. I called it once and someone actually said, ‘Hello, the banana phone’ when he answered. Brilliant.

Innocent’s strong brand, its passion to be a leader in its market, commitment to customer involvement, insight, prototyping and testing new recipes, and being brave enough to challenge the status quo are all the qualities of a typically innovative culture. Oh and they have also delivered some excellent and original charity campaigns.

The Innocent Foundation

The grant-making arm of the Innocent business works with NGOs to deliver their vision of sustainable farming for a secure future. They currently have 12 partners working on projects primarily in countries where they buy the fruit. There is nothing amazing about this; however, the way they link the purchase of a smoothie to the work of the foundation and highlight the difference the customer has made is excellent. The engagement mechanism varies from campaign to campaign. I planted a tree for a friend through the ‘grow me a tree’ campaign – all I had to do was enter the special code, which was on the carton I bought, on their website and they donated money on my behalf to grow trees in India. Well, actually on behalf of my behalf of my friend, who was delighted to be able to see the location on a special map on the website. Now Innocent can tell me about my friend’s tree whenever they like.

The National Trust and Federation of Irish Beekeepers

I’m a big fan of the National Trust, a conservation charity that protects special places in England. In 2010, part of their ‘forever, for everyone’ appeal has been concerned with the plight of the honeybee and this summer Innocent teamed up with the National Trust to save the bees.

Innocent have simple messaging and packaging and an excellent landing page on the website. The smoothie is delicious and you get the opportunity to make a difference by planting your own seeds. You can sign up for bee blogs and the winner of the online competition gets to visit one of the hives and meet Tim the beekeeper.Innocent developed a limited edition lemon, honey and ginger smoothie and for every bottle sold a donation went to the National Trust. Tied to the top of the bottle was a packet of seeds for you to plant to help encourage local bees. The aim of the ‘buy one get one bee’ campaign was to build 40 traditional hives in National Trust properties, provide beekeeping equipment to look after the bees and to encourage two million bees back into the UK.

This was part of a bigger campaign. The National Trust introduced 45 colonies of honeybees in the UK. Every hive was adopted by a local radio station, which told the story of their hive throughout the summer and gave away free flower seeds for listeners to sow in their gardens. Local radio websites had everything about bees from key facts about them to advice on bee-friendly planting at home. The National Trust even installed a special ‘beecam’ at one of their hives.

I learnt that bees are very important. Did you know that:

  • Bees are worth £200 million to the British economy alone.
  • Forty per cent of the food we eat depends on plants being pollinated by insects, including bees.
  • One in three mouthfuls of food is produced with the help of bees.

Why is this innovative?

It’s a partnership with a benefit for all sides: the National Trust raises awareness for their campaign and encourages footfall; Innocent sells more smoothies and tests a new recipe; and the bees get more flowers to pollinate. There are tangible outcomes; you have helped build a hive, you can visit your local hive and you are given a personal responsibility to plant some seeds. Its fun and eye catching, online and offline communications work together, it’s seasonal and time limited.

How successful was it? It’s hard to tell – the hives have been built but the two million bees are still being counted.

The big knit 2010 – Age UK

The big Knit is a partnership between Innocent and Age UK that aims to raise £200,000 to make winter warmer for thousands of old people across the UK. The big knit has been running since 2003 and has raised over £800,000 to date.

Innocent ask people to knit little hats for their smoothie bottles, which are then sold with the bottles and for every bottle sold with a hat 25 pence goes to Age UK. There have been some weird and wonderful creations and it certainly makes a visit to the chiller cabinet a bit more interesting – and apparently boosts sales for Innocent.

Again, the big knit has an excellent landing page and information packs, which include instructions on how to knit, patterns for all levels, ideas on how to form your own knitting group and a ‘hatometer’. You can also upload your hats photos to a dedicated Flickr page.

Your hat knitting helps provide old people in the UK with physical warmth, in the way of clothing, electric blankets and warm food for the winter. It also helps to combat isolation and loneliness by bringing older people together with people in their community through everyday activities, such as knitting.

Why is this innovative?

It has many of the same qualities as buy one get one bee: it’s original, it links to the cause using knitting for warmth and building communities and creates sales for Innocent. Online and offline communication is well integrated, providing a range of ways for people to get involved. It’s tangible: you will help keep people warm in winter. Its time specific to help old people during cold winter months.

Peace One Day campaign

The 21st of September was Peace Day, the only annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence in the world. Peace One Day is a nonprofit organisation, founded by British filmmaker Jeremy Gilley that aims to introduce Peace Day to three billion people by September 2012. Innocent are helping to raise awareness via a limited edition recipe and by promoting a live concert webcast; as well as encouraging customers to help spread the word by signing up to a peace wall and telling their friends. You can sign up via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

Why is this innovative?

It’s a great use of social media to sign people up. Check out the peace wall. How can you use the same mechanism for your charity’s fundraising or campaigning work?

What can we learn from Innocent?

A lot I reckon, especially about deliberately developing an innovative culture. These, I think, are the key elements.

  • Remain true to your core mission and values.
  • Be passionate about what you do and encourage that in your colleagues.
  • Dare to be different; capture your audience’s imagination.
  • Ask your customers/donors for their ideas and feedback – make it easy with competitions and incentives.
  • Get great at telling stories.
  • Give things a go, prototype, test, refine.
  • Really join up your on and offline communications and make them relevant to your audience.
  • Don’t settle for mediocrity – strive for excellence – change the world.
  • It’s OK – in fact it’s important – to have fun in the process

New ideas and innovation don’t have to be brand new. Look for bright sparks of excellence in other sectors, identify the key factors of that excellence and replicate them for your purpose. For the next challenge that you face, why not ask yourself ‘What would Innocent do?’; you never know, thinking from a fresh perspective could lead to your breakthrough fundraising idea.


P.S. I don’t work for innocent – and I’m not on commission - really.


Lucy Gower is the innovation and development manager in the NSPCC's child protection and consultancy team.

Monday, 13 September 2010

When things go wrong

by Christiana Stergiou

I received an unusual email from charity: water, one of my favourite nonprofits, the other day. It admitted failure.

They had grand plans to celebrate and promote the fourth year of their massive September fundraising campaign. Their plan was to broadcast their drill for water live via satellite from Moale in Central African Republic. However, the live drill didn’t go as planned. In fact they failed. Here’s how they explained it in that email to me:

'It was going to be an amazing story, and charity: water’s two hundredth completed project in the country. The people of Moale had been waiting for water for more than a decade. After two failed attempts to reach clean water many years ago, our local partner ICDI brought in a new drilling rig that could dig up to 700 feet. Unfortunately, they never made it that far. In what was by

far the most challenging drill we’ve ever witnessed, the team came up short after 30 straight hours when the second borehole caved in.

It was a heartbreaking and messy day. We'd hoped to show you footage of a joyful village celebrating a successful drill, but we didn't achieve that today. We’re committed to transparency at charity: water, so instead, our live drill video will show you the reality and challenges we face on the ground.

Tomorrow, we'll start drilling in another nearby Bayaka village. We haven't given up on Moale. For now, the people there will have to wait a little bit longer for their well -- but we will be back. In the meantime, with your help, we can provide clean and safe drinking water for every Bayaka through this year's September campaign'.

You can see it all on video, too. Here’s what they had planned and here’s what actually happened. It’s a great story, even though they didn’t succeed the first time.

Now I’ve just finished reading Adrian Sargeant’s wonderful Tiny Essentials of Donor Loyalty. In it, Adrian explains why he believes that building donor loyalty is the biggest challenge facing our sector. He goes on to explain exactly what fundraisers can do to improve donor loyalty through building donor satisfaction, commitment and trust.

And on that last point, Adrian says,

‘As donors develop their trust in a nonprofit they will exhibit higher levels of loyalty.’

One of the key ways to build trust with donors is to be honest when things go wrong, as Adrian explains:

‘There is no need to try and gloss over failure or only partial success. Aside from the fact that donors will find the honesty refreshing and respect you more as a consequence, it is often the case that the reasons for the only partial success are fascinating and can add real value for donors seeking to understand the complex challenges the organisation might face. It is an odd quirk of human behaviour that when people are willing to admit mistakes and seen to learn from them, they generate significantly higher levels of trust than if they’d got things right first time.

No doubt charity: water had a plan to communicate to donors if the live drill was unsuccessful. I am sure they thought through their communications for this campaign very carefully.

Very refreshing indeed.