Charities, get ready for #FirstTenner!

  • Last year, the launch of the new polymer £5 note generated charitable donations of an estimated £12.5m
  • Will the new £10 note, due for release in September, generate a similar response, and how can your charity benefit?
  • Guest contributor, John Thompson, who launched the #FirstFiver campaign, shares his thoughts and top tips

Charities across the UK were quick to pick up on the social media storm created by the launch of the new polymer £5 note last year, raising an estimated £12.5m for good causes.

Central to this huge win for charities nationwide was John Thompson, who began the #FirstFiver campaign.

Here, John talks to us about what charities can learn from #FirstFiver, and whether the new £10 note, which is released in September, could provide a similar opportunity.

A perfect storm for #FirstFiver

I was delighted when #FirstFiver took off. It received such a positive reaction from donors and fundraisers and was widely covered across social, print and broadcast media.

It came at a time when the charity sector, and fundraising in particular, was recovering from a steady stream of negative publicity, in-fighting and strained relations with regulatory bodies.

According to CAF/YouGov research, as many as 2.5 million people may have got involved, donating an incredible £12.5m. What an amazing result for a fun campaign ignited by a single Friday night tweet!

It worked so well because it was fuelled by the “Chocolate Factory Factor” – our changing relationship with cash maintained intrigue and that feeling of pent-up excitement as people waited to finally get, and then give, that elusive golden ticket.

As there was no single beneficiary, donors followed their hearts, each contributing to an avalanche of micro-stories and photogenic content.

I think the unique nature of #FirstFiver took the sector by surprise, and its real growth and popularity was driven by people deciding to participate even before they were asked to. People used social media to make a pubic pledge, a public donation and often this was followed by a public thank you from their chosen cause.

Other cash-related campaigns

Since #FirstFiver there have been other events in the cash calendar that have been adopted by charities as a fundraising drive. Some sector-wide campaigns such as #PoundForPound and #FinalFiver had an initial burst of enthusiasm, but failed to take off in the same way.

This may be because they lacked the simplicity and novelty factor of #FirstFiver. For example, how would you know which paper £5 note was really your #FinalFiver? And is donating a pound coin really worthy of a posting on Facebook or Twitter?

NCVO wrote a useful blog post with ideas about fundraising around the new £1 coin.

Getting ready for #FirstTenner

The new £10 notes will hit ATMs and shops on 14 September. Some causes, such as Chicks and School in a Bag, and Just a Helping Hand, have already soft-launched their #FirstTenner campaigns. Jane Austen’s House Museum is using its own hashtag #AustenTenner and asking people to help preserve Jane’s house.

I spoke to a few charities of different sizes about whether they will be pushing #FirstTenner. Sixty-five percent said that they will be getting involved, and I imagine they’ll put their own slant on the campaign, with some using bespoke hashtags. I look forward to seeing how imaginative they all are.

‘Peak #FirstTenner’ will happen during September and October, and I’d expect to see major annual fundraising campaigns that take place around this period, such as Macmillan’s Coffee Morning month and the Poppy Appeal, leveraging the concept in a big way.

A few major celebrities got behind #FirstFiver. My feeling is that some causes will enlist similar support this time, which will help the campaign go viral.

I’d also like to see more companies getting involved – providing opportunities for staff and customers to donate at their offices and, for retailers, at their stores.

With my specialist interest in corporate giving, the icing on the cake for me would be to see major companies match their employees’ #FirstTenner donations.

Learnings from #FirstFiver

The success of #FirstTenner will depend on whether the public buys in to the concept of donating their first new plastic note to the charity closest to their hearts, at double the price.

Many of the organisations who were successful with #FirstFiver put a lot of effort in to drive it. Those who did particularly well:

  • Had loyal and active supporters across social media platforms
  • Provided donors with a very specific, tangible, focus for their plastic donation
  • Sent individual and tailored thank-yous (rather than being bland and generic)
  • Kept followers updated with fresh content
  • Made use of the note’s photogenic qualities
  • Shared insights about the difference the money donated was going to make

For example, in our recent Charities Embracing #FirstFiver post we showed how School in a Bag used Twitter and Facebook to promote the simple message that just four #FirstFivers would enable them to send a bag.

Giving to York, the philanthropy arm of the University of York, used #FirstFiver as a hook for the launch of its Equal Access Scholarships. It marketed its campaign with emails, an AV screen promotion and a bespoke URL to a #FirstFiver donation page, and by putting #FirstFiver- branded collection boxes across campus.

Despite the marketing efforts of some of the bigger players, my feeling is that smaller organisations making a very specific plea are likely to benefit most, as a proportion of income, from #FirstTenner.

Remember that concepts such as #FirstFiver and #FirstTenner are as much about social engagement and relationship building as they are about generating immediate donations. So aim to catch, not snatch.