Who says that, these days, off-the-page donor recruit­ment can’t be mas­sive­ly profitable?’

Written by
Ken Burnett
July 02, 2013

Though it’s just happened, the story below is about to become a piece of fundraising history, for it records a time just two weeks ago when something really significant happened.

The exhibit described here is the reason one of SOFII’s star speakers for the Once Upon I Wish I’d Thought of That event on 6 June was prevented from appearing on the big day. If you missed Indra Sinha at IWITOT 2013, here’s your chance to make up for it, in part at least. (Next, we’ll ask Indra to tell us the story he was prevented from telling that afternoon, Thank you for the days.)

For the moment at least Indra Sinha – in SOFII’s view the world’s greatest living fundraising copywriter – is still writing great ads and still pushing the boundaries of what can and should be said in the interests of truth and justice, to raise money for one of the world’s great causes, to help right one of the world’s great wrongs.

What follows below is Indra’s email to SOFII’s Ken Burnett following frantic phone calls on the day, to explain what really happened to prevent him from being with us on 6 June But first, read here the whole page press ad that caused the problems. Then, below, read what this ad achieved.

Download a PDF version of the ad here.

SOFII asks, is there any cause, anywhere, getting such a return from cold donor acquisition? Particularly, from a method and media so long since assumed to have had their day?

If so, please tell us here so we can share it with SOFII readers everywhere.

And if you are intrigued by Indra’s challenge to spot the paragraph that inspired the poet and/or to give your views as to why this ad worked so well, please post a comment (with your name please) below or email it to SOFII here. Thank you.

PS Now that his time with Bhopal Medical Appeal has come to an end Indra is threatening to set his copywriter’s pen aside, permanently. Which, we think, would be a great loss to effective fundraising. When Ken pressed him on this he said, ‘Well, if you know of any charity with a really interesting challenge, I could, just possibly, perhaps, be persuaded. But only the most interesting, mind…’

SOFII as you know is dedicated to encouraging fundraising creativity and to covering the most interesting challenges that fundraisers face. So we feel we’ll be doing everyone a favour by effecting an introduction to any charity who thinks they might have a challenging project worth putting to the man himself. Though we’re sure he’s neither cheap nor undemanding, we’re tempted now to say, ‘do yourself and the world a favour and brief Indra to write your next ad’.

But what you do with this is entirely up to you.

If you have a project you wish us to pass to Indra Sinha, send it to SOFII here.

About the author: Ken Burnett

Ken Burnett

Ken Burnett is author of Relationship Fundraising and other books including The Zen of Fundraising, (Jossey-Bass Inc, San Francisco, USA). The Tiny Essentials of an Effective Volunteer Board and Storytelling can change the world, both published by The White Lion Press, UK

In 2021, he wrote and published a book about campaigning fundraising, The essence of Campaigning Fundraising in 52 exhibits and 199 web links.

Ken co-founded SOFII with his late wife Marie and served as a trustee before retiring from the SOFII board in 2022.

Related case studies or articles

The Bhopal Medical Appeal grabs every opportunity to tell good stories

This ad turns that spying to its advantage by showing two senior executives of Dow, through some inspirational stories, how they would save money if they helped the people instead and it would most likely be more fulfilling as well.

Read more

Bhopal Medical Appeal: press advertisements

On one awful night in 1984 the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India exploded sending clouds of poisonous gas across the city that would kill tens of thousands of people and inflict misery and suffering on future generations. Thus began the Bhopali people’s search for justice and treatment, which led to the founding of the BMA, whose advertisements have become the symbols of a crime that, more than 25 years later, still inflicts unimaginable suffering and still goes unpunished. The Bhopal Medical Appeal campaigns to change this, through its fundraising.

Read more

Bhopal Medical Appeal: B’Eau Pal publicity stunt: don’t go near the water!

Don’t go near the water: 25 years after the world’s worst ever man-made disaster, B’EauPal shows that effective political campaigning takes ’bottle’ (a commonly used London term for courageous risk-taking). This is a classic opportunistic protest in a good cause.

Read more

RCSB: Bhopal emergency appeal

Created in less than two hours, this ad went on to raise more than 20 times its total costs in just a few days, to become a classic example of disaster appeal advertising. More than £420,000 was raised and most of it directly attributable to the press advertisements.

Read more

Amnesty International UK: another ad that shook the nation

Newly added to SOFII’s archive of brilliant Amnesty ads from yesteryear is this shocking full page from the mid 1990s. Though distressing, it’s well worth reading and studying.

Read more

How I wrote it: the classic Amnesty press ads

In this eight-minute video, legendary copywriter and author Indra Sinha reflects on the thinking behind some of the most poignant and affecting fundraising advertisements of all time. There are pearls of wisdom here for every enthusiastic communicator

Read more

Also in Categories