Dogs Trust: Home from Home’ direct mail appeal

Exhibited by
Dogs Trust
April 17, 2024
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Dog owners and those who care about animal welfare
Type of Charity
Dog welfare
Country of Origin
United Kingdom
Date of first appearance
April 2023

SOFII’s view

When times get tough, the tough deliver great direct mail appeals.

This bright, bold and compelling fundraising campaign from Dogs Trust exceeded all expectations at the time when it was needed most – during the UK’s ongoing cost of living crisis. With a record number of dogs in need of homes, this ‘Home from Home’ appeal raised vital funds to expand the charity’s foster caring network. It smashed its targets and saved many dogs who had nowhere else to go. Keep reading to find out more about this fantastic campaign.


Dogs Trust is the UK’s leading dog welfare charity. Since 1891, we’ve been working for a better future for dogs and the people who love them and remain committed to never putting a healthy dog down, as we believe all dogs deserve to live life to the full.

Dogs Trust foster carers are supported by our expert staff and provide dogs in need with a homely environment and the same level of love and dedicated care that they would receive in our rehoming centres.

Dogs Trust covers all the costs for every dog’s bedding, toys and veterinary care, as well as one-to-one training and any other essentials they need. We also supply food donated by our generous brand partnersOur foster carers are more vital than ever, because without them, more dogs face simply having nowhere to go.

Summary / objectives

During the UK’s cost of living crisis, the demand for Dogs Trust services had never been greater.

At the time of putting the appeal together, we were facing the highest levels of daily handover enquiries we’d ever received. Owners were desperate for us to care for their dog, as they found themselves unable to provide for them financially – but our centres were almost at capacity.

There were 1,200 dogs on our waiting list, yet Dogs Trust simply didn’t have the space to take them in. Relinquishment (owners giving up their dogs) had increased by nearly 30 per cent year-on-year. In fact, during one month alone we received 4,277 handover enquiries (that equates to 17 handover calls per hour).

While we were taking preventative measures to keep owners and their dogs together during the cost of living crisis, we knew we needed to respond to the immediate need now. With our rehoming centres stretched, fostering became crucial to helping us care for more dogs in desperate need.

As a charity, our objective in 2023 was to grow the foster carer network by 50 per cent to help us to be there for an extra 1,300 dogs. So, as a fundraising team, the objective of this warm cash appeal was to engage existing supporters to make a donation to help provide everything a dog needs during their time in foster care.

Creator / originator

Project management: Robyn Wheele, Retention and Loyalty Campaign Manager

Copy and creative: GOOD Agency

In addition to external agencies, the Retention and Loyalty project lead also formed part of an integrated Project Team at Dogs Trust made up of members of our Communications and Digital teams, with the aim of creating a wider reaching, more impactful Dogs Trust ‘moment’ to help drive recruitment of new foster carers for Dogs Trust.

Special characteristics

As you can see from the images, the team created a square shaped direct mail pack with a lift piece, donation form and reply envelope. You can read the full letter by clicking these links. To view the letter front, click here and to see the reverse, click here

Due to the calls we were receiving, we were conscious that many of our supporters were feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis themselves, so our messaging needed to be sensitive and transparent about why we were continuing to ask for money despite the financial climate we found (and still find) ourselves in.

Dogs Trust’s brand is all about positivity, so to counter any sense of fatalism, this appeal had an optimistic and determined tone. It gave supporters confidence that, collectively, we can make a difference, despite how tough the current situation may be.​ Although the tone of voice was urgent and imbued with jeopardy, it needed to be inclusive – like a rallying cry. It also had to be informative and demonstrate the need and aspiration. All in all, the appeal needed to feel like a joint effort between the charity, donors, and foster carers.

With less disposable income, we thought that more people would be likely to spend more time in their home and so we focused on home comforts that are crucial for dogs in foster homes too.

We leaned on people’s unconditional love for dogs, as well as the sense of family and community. We used regionalisation in a line of the appeal letter copy by referring to the supporter’s nearest Dogs Trust rehoming centre, to establish a greater connection between the supporter and the dogs taken into the charity’s care in their local community. We hoped this would encourage responses and donations. Supporters also received customised asks informed by their past giving behaviour. 


Direct mail campaign-specific targets and actual results are outlined below. Our wider integrated campaign target was to grow our foster carer network by 50 per cent in 2023 – in order to help us be there for an additional 1,300 dogs.

The appeal not only had the highest average gift of all Dogs Trust fundraising campaigns in 2023, but it also delivered the highest return on investment (ROI), had the best response rate and exceeded the gross income target by over £167,000. Expenditure came in at approximately £16,000 under budget.

The joint promotion between Fundraising, Comms and Digital teams helped Dogs Trust to double its number of Home from Home (HFH) Foster Carers in 2023. Given that the purpose of the campaign was not only income generation, but also recruitment of foster carers, the results are truly remarkable.

We’re unable to ascertain exactly how many people were driven to become HFH foster carers off the back of the direct mail appeal specifically, as they may have seen multiple messages across different platforms.

However, we added a tick box at the application stage to help identify how a person had heard about fostering with Dogs Trust. It was last reported that 85 of the new Home from Home foster carers ticked that they’d heard about it through our fundraising appeal.

Other relevant information

The direct mail campaign was supplemented with communications across the following channels:

Influence / impact

It was the first time that one of our fundraising campaigns had directly helped to achieve an operational objective – coupled with income generation – which would make a far greater impact on dog welfare.

At the time of writing, this campaign has been shortlisted for the Chartered Institute of Fundraising Awards 2024, in the category for ‘individual giving campaign of the year’.

Final notes

The case studies who featured in the direct mail appeal – dogs Doodles, Stanley and Roo – have all now found loving forever homes.

IMAGES: © All images courtesy of Dogs Trust

Doodle was one of the dogs featured in the campaign. Here he is, in his foster carer’s garden.
The outer envelope of our direct mail appeal featured an impactful square shape, a picture of Doodles and a strong message.
Inside the pack was a lift piece that explained why we needed the donor’s help. This is one spread from the piece.
On the other spreads, the lift piece also featured stories of other dogs, like Roo.
The front of the letter helped us illustrate the urgency, and clearly stated how the donor could help dogs with nowhere to go.
Even the reverse of our reply envelope spoke to the donor. It included the phrase ‘cost of loving’ rather than ‘cost of living’.