The pairing of problem and solution has been commonplace in marketing and fundraising since the 1950s, and it is still right for a pandemic.

Dan GeavesCreative Strategy Director - 3 min read

My team asked me to write this article. Between home-schooling a five year old, keeping major projects rolling, and getting involved with sprint work, I thought it was a bit of a stretch. But then, comparatively speaking I have been asking them for a whole lot more recently. It turns out that I could use some of the time I have been spending making rounds and rounds of toast and tea. 

Their request of me comes from a deep desire to serve. We’re drawn to acknowledging and showing appreciation for the charities that we work alongside, by helping them do more.  So, I have decided to share some observations of the techniques we are seeing in action. I hope you pick up some tips, or at least some validation.


Which brings me to:

1. When things are moving fast, decisions happen quickly. And when that happens you need to stop doubt creeping in.

Fundraisers and creatives do place a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect. And pursuit of perfectionism leads to procrastination. So when you are in need of agility, make sure managers know to step up feedback that provides validation.

Buying-in additional experience helps build confidence in fast decision-making. World Vision NZ collaborated with us to create an emergency appeal in less than a week.¹ We’re happy to help with agility boosts at a time like this, and since we only charge for time spent, well… “you do the math.” 

2. One of the most common decisions required is whether to pivot² a Winter/Tax Appeal.

We’re helping Vinnies, Amnesty International, Autism Spectrum, Black Dog Institute, and Caritas Australia to pivot to new warm appeals. If you want help, there is still time. We can start by discussing your problem:solution pairing. The first step in our creative process is only completed when we are comfortable that we have a strong pairing of an unaddressed problem (or unmet need) with a solution that a donor can provide. The pairing of problem and solution has been commonplace in marketing and fundraising since the 1950s, and it is still right for a pandemic.

Everything is much much faster when the logic of these two ingredients is sound. In fact it is from this logic that emotional reactions and viewpoints can be justifiably communicated.


3. Pivoting isn’t limited to appeals.
Our first pivot was helping RSPCA shift Million Paws Walk to become a virtual event (Walk This May for a million doggie step)³. It has been amazing to watch the team at RSPCA NSW in action. From bushfire responses at Christmas time, and now pivoting a major community fundraising event, they are calm without losing passion, and pragmatic without losing creativity. 
Now is a great time for you to nurture and practise how you combine those qualities.

4. Ramping up your digital acquisition

While face to face channels are put on hold, it’s now the time to ramp up your digital channels for recruiting new regular givers. Without the expertise of your face to face fundraisers identifying the good regular giver, you’ll need a strong proposition and accompanying online supporter experience that will ignite their passion to give and continue to give post pandemic. We’ve worked with Auckland Hospital Foundation to quickly turn around a digital acquisition campaign that fits nicely in this climate.

5. On the topic of digital, good technology platforms help things to move swiftly.

Those were things RSPCA NSW invested in before the crisis. So if you are feeling frustrated by slow progress, use that as insight for the future. Investing in culture and technology may seem like an insensitive thought right now given the vulnerability of many jobs.

But if you are frustrated by your organisation, COVID-19 is doing you a favour by revealing a lack of agility. Culture and technology require investment. 

We are working with several charities who are commencing development projects to be completed in time to take effect in four to six months. The issues they address include how to take service delivery online, and how to create a clear organisation stance with which to guide all communications and fundraising. These are some of the projects that have the longest lasting impact on our clients, because they provide a way to create a positive vision of the future where ‘things will never be the same again.’

None of us can afford to work exclusively in the immediate horizon of time forever. Make a diary date now to consider before the end of this financial year, how you will help your organisation change for the better.  

6. Get on with the important job of managing supporter relationships.

What everyone is feeling right now is akin to grief. So, since people’s motivations to give include the desire to stop feeling hopeless, and the intent to see their actions aligned to the way they see the best version of themselves. Many of our clients are using those insights to reach out to supporters (especially regular givers and mid-value donors) and say “there is good being done in the world thanks to you and your gifts.”⁵

For certain donor groups such as regular givers and mid-value donors, using the phone is important. Now is a good time to consider one of the sector’s fantastic telemarketing agencies who are able to use their talented teams to make calls from home.

6. Create the strongest supporter experiences you can.

A useful heuristic to consider is people’s bias towards peak moments. People’s ratings of experiences are skewed by their memory of emotional highs. We’ve applied that insight to help Auckland Health Foundation launch its acquisition campaign to draw the community to express support for doctors, nurses and all health workers.

This insight is also driving some charities to plan ahead for what their regular giving supporter experience will be after the lockdowns. This is falling into one or both of two camps:

     (A) Developing for when street fundraising teams return or

     (B) Discovering what messaging will work for digital acquisition. 

7. Bringing that all together.

There is definitely evidence that charities are considering all three horizons for innovation. 

  • By pivoting, charities are dealing with operations right now. 

  • Through planning, fundraisers are building capacity for the near future.

  • And by investing in development, they’re preparing for recovery and even growth. 

Stay safe.




¹ You can see snippets of the TVC on their Facebook page :
² If you want to know what pivoting is please watch this.
³ Walk this May campaign :
⁴ You can view the #Loveyourhealthworker campaign here:
This is a lovely example from MSF Australia.
You can visit Auckland Health Foundation’s marketing led campaign here:

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