Hercule Van Wolfwinkle: ‘Bad’ pet portraits fundraiser
- Exhibited by
- Tony Banks
- January 19, 2023
- Medium of Communication
- Target Audience
- Individual donors
- Type of Charity
- Country of Origin
- United Kingdom
- Date of first appearance
The following case study is sure to make any fundraiser smile. It’s the type of feel good fundraising we love to see – but as fundraisers we have to consider why these doodles struck a chord with donors and translated into income-raising success. Tony will tell you more below but we believe this campaign worked because the value-exchange was so personal.
In 2019, a useful article on Charity Digital highlighted that, ‘44 per cent of donors told Accenture in 2017 that they would be willing to donate up to 10 per cent more for a personalised experience. And that number increases to 62 per cent for millennials.’
This campaign works because supporters get that highly personalised experience, either with an exclusive doodle of their very own pet, or via the connection they make to the stories told within Hercule’s online community.
Summary / objectives
Who is Hercule Van Wolfwinkle? Well, Hercule claims he’s rubbish at drawing pictures, but in spite of this his ‘bad pet portraits’ have raised more than £200,000 for two UK charities.
Hercule has achieved this thanks to an innovative idea and some very smart, personalised fundraising.
Creator / originator
Hercule Van Wolfwinkle. That’s not his real name of course. He made that name up, and in real life Hercule is also known as Phil.
Back in 2020, Hercule thought his six-year-old son was spending too much time on the computer. He wanted to tempt him away from the screen, so he asked his son if they could do some drawing together. The pair hoped to use their own artwork on some homemade thank you cards.
With just a few pencils and plain white piece of paper, Hercule drew a doodle of their family dog, Nala. His son had a laugh and Hercule decided to post the drawing on social media. He shared the doodle alongside a real photo of Nala, so all his friends could have a chuckle too. He included this hilarious comment:
Beautiful hand drawn pictures of your favourite family pets. Just send me a photo and I can produce a unique and wonderful piece of art that will grace any home and make the memories of your furry friends last a lifetime.
Some examples have been posted (I know it’s hard to tell but the photographs are the picture on the left in each one).
£299 ono. No VAT.’
Within a couple of hours, Hercule was getting requests from friends to draw their pets too. But he didn’t realise the huge potential of these doodles until a friend offered to pay for one of Hercule’s unique pet portraits.
Hercule decided not to take payment for his drawings. Instead, he chose to use them as a very clever fundraising tool and set up his very own Facebook page dedicated to his pet drawings.
On the page, Hercule offered to draw pet portraits for free, before uploading the images to social media. He then asked his supporters to give a donation of any amount to the charities he’d chosen – Turning Tides Ending Local Homelessness (a homelessness charity in Hercule’s local area) and StreetVet (a charity providing free veterinary care to the pets of people experiencing homelessness across the UK).
Before long, requests for his pet portraits started flooding in and the all-important charity donations did too.
So, have these dreamy doodles been a fundraising success? Well, two years on, Hercule has drawn 1,200 original pet portraits for people around the world. He has created a global community and 188,000 people follow his Facebook page. He’s made his supporters smile and laugh along the way. The demand he has built is phenomenal.
But most importantly, at the time of writing, Hercule has single-handedly raised over £200,000 for two of his favourite UK charities.
He’s won awards from fundraising organisations who loved his innovative idea and commitment to good causes, and he even generated £500 for charity by auctioning off an original doodle of Boris Johnson and his dog.
Clearly, these aren’t mass produced pictures. They are fun, hilarious, personalised and very special.
The supporters who are lucky enough to be selected for a drawing receive much more their original pet portrait by Hercule. They also receive a funny new name for their pet, a backstory and even a fake customer review. All this effort and detail shows Hercule is really paying attention to who his donors are (and who their pet is, of course!).
His drawings are full of the personalisation that we know works so well in fundraising – because Hercule gives his donors more than a smile and a portrait. He gives them a highly tailored value-exchange, in return for their support for his charities.
With over 70,000 to 80,000 people on the waiting list to have their very own pet portrait, Hercule can’t draw a picture for everyone who asks him to.
But many supporters still choose to give to one of his chosen charities, because they love what he’s doing and hope their request might be one of the lucky ones that ends with a fantastic doodle of their pet.
Supporters are moved by his portraits. They often share their own stories, donating even if they aren’t requesting their own pet doodle.
Hercule has branched out to merchandise like calendars, t-shirts and more. A portion of the proceeds from these still go to his chosen charities. And Hercule also embarked on a 24-hour ‘drawathon’ where he completed an amazing 85 portraits in just one day. This alone raised over £60,000 for one of his charities, Turning Tides.
Finally, it’s important to note that Hercule hasn’t strayed from his original fundraising objectives and goals. He has turned down private commissions time and time again, in order to focus on raising funds for the two charities he supports.
He’s kept to his unique, simple drawings because they are the heart of what he does. They allow him to make people smile and raise money for the causes he cares about.
Editor’s note: This fundraising campaign was presented at IWITOT10 on November 10th, 2022. You can hear more insights from Tony by watching his full seven-minute presentation on Hercule Van Wolfwinkle below.