If the direc­tion is the oth­er, the dis­tance does not mat­ter’: an inno­v­a­tive calendar

In this arti­cle, Vania Pavan shares one of her favourite fundrais­ing cam­paigns and shows how a sim­ple cal­en­dar was turned into a huge suc­cess for a small char­i­ty in Verona. Vania tells you how the cam­paign evolved and high­lights the impor­tance of co-cre­ation in our work. This is a won­der­ful exam­ple of Ital­ian fundraising.

Written by
Vania Pavan
December 14, 2021

‘Se la direzione è l’Altro, la distanza non conta’.

‘If the direction is the other, the distance does not matter.’  

Research shows that high levels of well-being correspond with high levels of donations and civic engagement. This correlation between well-being and civic engagement encourages real innovation in fundraising: because we know that good fundraising combines the beneficiary, the donor and the society they live in.

But how is it possible to achieve this extraordinary feat? 

Recently, I discovered a charity in northern Italy who have successfully achieved their own goals by re-working an existing product and ultimately generating a 33 per cent increase in income from the previous year. 

Cooperativa Sociale Monteverde Onlus (or Monteverde for short) is an Italian non-profit organisation that supports people with disabilities, young people and families through education, rehabilitation, transport and activities like after-school educational programmes.

Monteverde was born to respond to the needs of the local area. And over the years, it has become much more than a standard non-profit organisation. It has evolved into a real ‘community enterprise’, where the local people are actively involved in the work. 

But how did they do this? How did they engage the community and their supporters?  

In 2018, Monteverde achieved this by reinventing one of their existing fundraising tools: a printed calendar, made available to supporters and their local community around the end of the year.  

They chose to innovate and adapt the calendar in an exceptional way – and today I’d like to share this campaign with you. I hope it inspires you and gives you more insight into great Italian fundraising. 

An innovative calendar

As we fundraisers know so well, great campaigns usually start from a practical and precise urge. In this case, it was the organisation’s need for a new bus with which to transport the disabled people they help.  

Each year Monteverde would usually develop a unique calendar, based on their work and the disabled people they help. 

Like many charities in Italy do, Monteverde decided to offer their calendar to local people during festivals or events in towns and villages. The calendars are always a great way to raise much-needed funds, with donors making a gift of their choice – based on a suggested donation of around €10 to €20.

However, in recent years this product began being less and less successful at raising funds for the organisation.

That’s why, in 2018, the organisation decided to innovate. 

They decided to turn their usual calendar into a more effective product that would be of interest to local individuals and still support the disabled people they help.     

But how?

Co-creation: bringing together disabled people, the organisation and the local community

For weeks, the fundraisers working on the project also worked within the charity’s education department, so they could understand the help provided to disabled people in detail and put their different visions and skills for the creative into play. 

Monteverde decided to create a calendar that gave new meaning to the word ‘other’. The goal was to use a co-creation process to bring together the beneficiaries, the organisation, and the local people. 

They were able to realise this goal thanks to storytelling and the ‘hero’s journey’ techniques. They looked at changing the way the audience looks at the needs of the beneficiaries – the bus, the transport, the closeness. 

Next, they identified everyday real-life situations for the disabled people that Monteverde helps like eating lunch, listening to music, or taking a walk. 

Finally, they masterfully reintroduced the meanings of these situations by linking them to the much-needed bus, identifying twelve themes (one for each month of the calendar year). 

Through the game of ‘what if?’ the team created a brilliant innovative campaign which came together under a single message: ‘Se la direzione è l’Altro, la distanza non conta’ or ‘If the direction is the other, the distance does not matter.’

And there it is: the wheel of the bus becomes a place to share lunch (what if the wheel were a table?).

The bus disc brake becomes vinyl for listening to music together (what if the disc brake was on a DJ’s record player?).

The muffler of the bus becomes a dog to take a walk (what if the muffler was an animal?). 

Magically, the organisation’s beneficiaries became the undisputed protagonists of a campaign that shortened the distance between the donor and the charity. The perception of the ‘other’ was broken down by visualising daily activities and gestures, such as cooking or listening to music. And in doing so, it joined together the disabled people and donors as the unique voices of a large choir. 

You can click here to see a copy of the full calendar in PDF form.

Making fundraising a ‘common good’ experience

Of course, it wasn’t easy to find every piece of the bus, clothes, and objects for the photo shoot. They were all donated by local people, businesses, enterprises, residents of the community, cultural associations, and families. The idea was so engaging that everyone felt like a protagonist and participating by donating pieces of this incredible story. Everyone played their part. 

This is how a fundraising tool turns into a ‘common good’ experience. And creating this calendar was also great fun for everyone involved. 

I invite you to watch it a short, inspiring video of the making of the calendar, here: 

The local community embraced the new calendar

News of this wonderful calendar went out via all Monteverde’s usual channels or ‘touch points’ with their supporters. They posted about it on social media, in their newsletter, and at local festivals, markets and events. Word of mouth was key, as people began talking about this new edition of the calendar – they wanted to make a gift and get their own copy. The charity provided an email and phone number so local people could get in touch.

The result was many people contacted Monteverde wanting their own calendar and they raised an incredible €15,000. That means the 2018 calendar raised 33 per cent more than the previous year!

I think this is extraordinary and a wonderful representation of Italian fundraising. Because the organisation did not ‘sell’ these calendars online, they did not have to do extensive marketing. There were no donation forms, no set price, no ‘click to buy’ buttons – instead the calendars were displayed locally, with local people giving what they felt appropriate to help those living within their own community. 

But the focus was not just on the money. Monteverde are proud to have used creativity together with the culture of giving, to give new life to one of their existing tools (the calendar). To the charity, ‘fundraising’, also means the idea of nurturing – not only raising funds.

And now, each year the Monteverde team, beneficiaries and donors look forward to the new edition. They are committed to challenging themselves each year to innovate and combine sustainability and disability. 

It is a campaign which shows great innovation, great grassroots mobilisation and in turn, it achieved great fundraising results. All by reinventing an existing idea – making it better through co-creation. 

What lessons can you take away from the creation of this campaign?

1. Innovation often starts with tools that we already have available.

2. Like all processes, co-creation starts from inside every human and every organisation. For Monteverde, shortening the distance with ‘the other’ meant listening – just like their communication department did when they worked with the education department to develop the calendar. 

3. Giving a role to everyone means making space and enhancing their importance. Just as a transmission tube of a bus – apparently useless – has a fundamental function, everyone has an essential social role in our community. 

4. Teamwork means good organisation and respect for the tasks of each fundraiser, transforming the process into a ‘choir’ working together towards one ambition. 

Monteverde didn’t use an agency, they maximised the skills of their team and volunteers. This led to great results in which everyone finds their place.


Author: Vania Pavan, Revised by Veronica Parise

This case study was written for you by Vania Pavan as part of SOFII’s ongoing collaboration with the Italian Association of Fundraisers (ASSIF) – a partnership that aims to bring inspirational Italian fundraising to fundraisers worldwide. The article was revised by fellow ASSIF member Veronica Parise and the SOFII editorial team. 

Se vuoi leggere l'articolo in Italiano clicca qui.

About the author: Vania Pavan

Vania is a marketing and fundraising consultant. She has been an international relations officer for several governmental departments and the communication manager for Pubblicità Progresso, the leading social communication agency in Italy. She created the first online international library on PSA, linking all countries in a global network. In addition, she designs and coordinates web and multichannel projects. Thanks to her experience in the private sector, she can offer marketing and fundraising consultancy grounded in commercial acumen, proposing projects between for-profits and not-for-profits. She has worked with more than 50 not-for-profit organisations, including big international NGOs such as Greenpeace and Amref, while also directly coordinating small schools in Africa. Vania is coordinator of the editors and content writers of the Italian Fundraisers.

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