Donkeys, doves and diversity: reflections on Christmas past

Categories: Community Engagement.

Rowans Hospice’s Lake of Lights event at Canoe Lake, Southsea, by Philippa Newman, 2015

Kate Jenkinson, Head of In-Memory Consultancy at Legacy Foresight, writes about the effectiveness of the Light Up A Life campaign.

From Porthpean to Inverness, hospice charities are currently waist-deep in wash-ups of their seasonal fundraising activities.

Christmas is the spiritual heartland of the hospice calendar, with Light Up A Life firmly at its core. But how is this flagship campaign evolving – both in response to the pressures hospices are facing and in the way supporters are choosing to remember loved ones?

I asked seven hospices – all of them members of the In-Memory Insight Learning Circle – to reflect on how they’d engaged with in-memory supporters over the period. Had they done anything differently this year? What had worked particularly well and which important lessons would they be taking forward into future planning?

Our conversations reflected the huge variation in the way the basic campaign model is delivered – but the commonalities gave us some real food for thought.  

  • We started by looking at the challenges of Light Up A Life (LUAL) in its many guises. Who were hospices inviting to their Christmas events and what did this suggest about their commitment to donor care? Our hospices were struggling to reach out into the wider community – but trialling various new strategies to do just this, such as upscaling their paid social marketing, scoping out parallel summer remembrance events and using corporate partners to create mini, satellite campaigns.
  • We discussed the thorny issue of venues for LUAL events. How are traditional church venues stacking up against the newer, more inclusive settings and what factors are really driving hospices’ choices? Secular, iconic venues and events at the hospice itself both appeared to be a hit with donors.
  • When it came to the fundraising element of the campaign, I found evidence that income from LUAL appeared to be flatlining – despite various, minor initiatives having boosted donations income on the day. But there was little sign yet of hospices trying to counter this by looking outside of the immediate parameters of the service, for example with legacy promotion.
  • I asked about new innovations for 2018. Had our member hospices trialled anything for the first time in 2018 and what had the impact been? Fundraisers were considering new initiatives such as digital components and the impact of these alongside old-school personalisation and the ‘beautifully-worded letter’. I came across some impressive examples of bespoke communications for this audience.
  • Finally, fundraisers were keen to talk about what really matters – the donor experience on the day. LUAL clearly continues to deliver high emotional reward for participants, alongside personal challenges for those on the ground responsible for organising an often complex and sensitively-balanced event.
  • Overall, our conversations raised the question of what really matters to in-memory donors and ultimately, to the hospices themselves? With many of the existing events at, or near, capacity, the elephant in the room seems to be what LUAL campaigns are really trying to do. Our findings suggest that now could well be the time for a re-imagining of Light Up A Life and its objectives.

You can read the full think-piece behind this article on Legacy Foresight’s website here 

Meg Abdy of Legacy Foresight will be speaking at the Hospice UK Fundraising Conference ‘A deep dive into legacy fundraising and why it matters’  on February 12.