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28 . 04 . 22

Gold-winning print doordrop campaign for the RNLI sees a lifesaving €1.1 mio raised

Words by: Print Power
As the pandemic put a stop to fundraising, how could the RNLI boost their severely declining donations coffer? Through a strongly worded printed call to action in the form of a doordrop. Whistl’s Mark Davies talks to us about the hugely lucrative COGS Gold-winning campaign and how print media has the highest likelihood to motivate a donor.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) depends on the public’s fundraising efforts for donations that fund their heroic efforts to save lives at sea. In fact, their lifesaving is powered primarily by that kindness and generosity. Volunteers make up 95 per cent of the organisation and those crews have helped save the lives of 143,000 people on UK, Ireland and International shores since 1824. It’s much-needed donations that help to fund the best kit, training and support for new recruits.

Then Covid-19 hit, and while operations didn’t stop – they were still on call 24/7 – conventional forms of in-person fundraising activities did, and donations dwindled. In addition, the RNLI faced increased costs in making sure their lifesavers were kept Covid-safe during operations.

They needed to quickly find an alternative way to fundraise to raise their target of £880k in donations. So they turned to Whistl Doordrop Media for their expertise in using print to reach out to the public and let them know they needed their donations more than ever due to the negative impact of Covid-19.  But why a doordrop as opposed to digital?

Mark Davies_Managing Director_Whistl_door drops.jpg

Mark Davies, MD Whistl Doordrop Media

The doordrop delivers

‘For charities, the events of 2020 proved to be a perfect storm,’ says Mark Davies, MD of Whistl Doordrop Media. ‘Overnight they lost their retail stores, their event-based fundraising and their face-to-face collections. And we were all in our homes. As it turned out, that focus on the home environment proved to be massively influential in the decision to switch to in-home marketing channels like doordrops and brands who engaged with consumers in this way were rewarded with some of the best results ever seen in the channel. Life was utterly pared back to its basics and something as simple as the post turning up became an event. JICMail data demonstrates how Q2 2020 showed some of the strongest engagement metrics ever recorded.’

…many customers who discovered doordrops in the pandemic in the absence of their usual choices have remained in the channel and grown.
Mark Davies
Managing Director Whistl Doordrop Media

‘The hard metrics of response, return on investment etc equally flourished,’ he continues. ‘For many households, disposable income increased as they couldn’t spend on holidays or visit shops as they used to and so we saw an uptick in the generosity of households when it came to making donations. Interestingly, although these metrics have come down from these pandemic peaks as life has opened back up again, they remain higher than were recorded pre-pandemic and many customers who discovered doordrops in the pandemic in the absence of their usual choices have remained in the channel and grown.

Print's emotional pull

The Whistl team proposed a doordrop mailing as the perfect way to deliver an acquisition campaign and get their message across to the heart of a household fast. So they developed a campaign that targeted the top 8m households, based on a combination of current and new supporters and their propensity to donate. They also helped with the eye-catching creative that featured a visual of lifesavers at sea, alongside clear branding and a powerful, emotional, strongly worded call to action that said: ‘They’re giving everything they’ve got in this crisis. Will you give what you can?’

The results surpassed all expectations. The target was exceeded after nine weeks, with £951k raised from 27,716 donations, 45 per cent of those from new donors. That’s a return on investment of £1.29 and a response rate of 0.33 per cent. What’s more, the campaign has just won a coveted Institute of Promotional Marketing COGS 2021 Gold award for best service provided in response to Covid-19.

Target & track

Davies puts targeting at the root of successful direct marketing like the one for the RNLI. ‘It is vital to have a predictive targeting model that allows you to use your marketing budget most effectively and Whistl has industry-leading experience in supporting the charity sector,’ he says. Stats from the Charities Doordrop Market Intelligence Report 2020 revealed that of the nearly 28.5million people who donated to charity in the year previous to that (53% of UK adults), print media had the highest likelihood to motivate a donor to donate. Direct mailing to your home came in hot on the heels of newspapers and magazines. While social media networks had the lowest likelihood to motivate a donor. And in even better news for print, of those recruited through mail channels, an impressive 65% of were still donating monthly after five years. So not only was print found to be the biggest motivator, it also inspired the most loyal following and the highest lifetime value of regular giving donors. Based on these figures, the RNLI deduced that doordrops were the ideal channel.


Print’s upper hand

But Davies doesn’t underplay the importance of the creative. ‘We know that the physical, tangible, sensory nature of print does some very important things in the journey of a brand,’ he explains. ‘It conveys trust in a way that digital media simply can’t. Neuroscience has shown it encodes brands into memory better than images on a screen. It is also significantly more impactful. In an era of rampant online ad fraud, digital viewability concerns and flawed measurement, direct marketing offers a transparency to brands who use it that is increasingly being seen as more valuable. In addition, having been through our GDPR moment, it is also significantly more future-proofed than digital marketing which has yet to face its own regulation. Self-regulatory acts such as Google’s degradation of third-party cookies and Apple’s new privacy-first operating system coupled with challenges from regulators and ultimately new E-Privacy legislation still being decided upon in Brussels are all bringing headwinds to digital marketing channels and will establish a more level playing field for all other marketing channels in the future.’


The print industry has faced significant challenges since the advent of internet marketing channels but to coin a cliché, what hasn’t killed us has made us stronger. The next decade for us looks much better than the last, whereas I believe the opposite is true for digital marketing
Mark Davies
Managing Director Whistl Doordrop Media

The RNLI and Whistl collaboration effectively and emotively took the plight of the RNLI to the heart of every household targeted, and led to a rapid increase in donations – a resounding example of print success.

Davies sums up the success of the doordrop. ‘The key message for me is that brands who have the data and can measure their activity directly and effectively over the long term as well as the short choose doordrops,’ says Davies. ‘This trend was referenced in the marketing press a while back in typical fashion, labelling it as ‘contrary behaviour’ because the accepted wisdom is ever more digital, ever less print. We’re always happy to buck a trend!’


COGS 2021 Gold winner

AGENCY Whistl Doordrop Media

BRAND Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)

CATEGORY Best service provided in response to Covid-19