Marie Curie: Alpaca Meet & Greet

Exhibited by
Meredith Niles
November 26, 2020
Medium of Communication
Digital / virtual events
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Cancer support
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
June 2020

SOFII’s view

Marie Curie fundraisers attended I Wish I’d Thought of That (IWITOT) 2020 and were inspired by how another organisation was dealing with a fall in revenue. So, they got to work quickly and gave their donors the chance for a virtual date with alpacas. It’s a genius idea that works perfectly when donors are under lockdown restrictions during a pandemic. And best of all, this is what great fundraising is about: inspiring each other so we can change the world together. Of course, we’re quite chuffed that SOFII played a small part in making this happen – it really is an IWITOT success story!

Summary / objectives

In an idea inspired by a presentation at SOFII’s IWITOT, Marie Curie delighted existing and new supporters with a quirky lockdown treat. In exchange for a donation to the charity, supporters could have a virtual ‘date’ with some adorable alpacas.  

Creator / originator

Marie Curie


As the weeks of lockdown dragged on and much of Marie Curie’s fundraising activity was forced to pause, the charity was on the lookout for creative ways to generate much-needed income. Inspired by the ‘Goat 2 Meeting’ idea presented by Joshua Leigh at SOFII’s virtual IWITOT 2020, Marie Curie reached out to Bob Crosbie, owner of Bobcat Alpacas and a long-time supporter of Marie Curie. They asked Bob if he would be up for a different sort of collaboration. Marie Curie’s executive director of fundraising and engagement, Meredith Niles recalls:

‘SOFII’s IWITOT is always a highlight of my year – I love hearing about how my colleagues around the world are coming up with ever more creative ways to engage with their donors and raise money for their causes. I was really taken with the “Goat 2 Meeting” idea: I loved how absolutely of the moment it was – with practically the whole world in lockdown, all of us had rapidly become familiar with virtual meetings, and we were all missing the opportunity to connect with the things we love outside our homes. An idea that wouldn’t have worked a few months earlier now felt just right. Plus, it involved baby goats, which are irresistible. But what I appreciated most about this idea was that it just had this element of joy about it, at a time when I think all of us needed a little emotional boost.  

‘As a charity supporting people approaching the end of life and their families, Marie Curie wouldn’t necessarily be an obvious candidate to adapt this idea. But I remembered we have this wonderful supporter in Scotland who owns an alpaca farm and who regularly brings his beautiful creatures to our Scottish hospices to give our patients and families a little treat. I wondered if he might be up for supporting us in a different way during lockdown. It was a long shot, but I thought it was worth a go, so I texted our head of community fundraising in Scotland – half expecting her to think I was mad – to see if she thought it might work. She got in touch with Bob, who loved the idea and who, it turns out, was a retired IT specialist so was thoroughly undaunted by the technology challenges the idea presented, and we were off and running. 

After some initial testing to ensure we could deliver a good experience, we started promoting the opportunity for supporters to have a guest appearance from some of Bob’s alpacas at their next team meeting or private view for their family and friends. We used organic social media, PR and word of mouth to promote the opportunity, and we were delighted with the results. People really responded to the off-beat idea and were generous. We even had a gentleman who organised an alpaca meet and greet for his second date!’


In the first six months of the campaign, we generated 25 bookings raising over £3,500, including Gift Aid. About 80 per cent of the bookings were from companies, and about 90 per cent of our bookings were from organisations or individuals who had never supported Marie Curie before. We’ve just had a company in Stockholm make a booking, and we’ve had an approach from one in Amsterdam, so it’s gone international!


The idea was directly inspired by SOFII’s IWITOT, and we hope serves as an example of how charities have much to learn from each other. It was a low-cost, quick-to-market experiment that paid dividends for the charity.

Here’s a testimonial from Ben, whose second Zoom date with Libby involved a Marie Curie Alpaca Meet & Greet:

‘Finding something fun and novel to do for a date during a pandemic is a very difficult task, that's why I was so happy to come across this opportunity to experience a private tour of an alpaca farm over zoom. I knew Libby really liked alpacas and that this would be something very memorable for us both and it turned out exactly as I had hoped!’

This was the couple‘s second date over Zoom, and for Libby who loves alpacas it was a top choice!

‘I was indeed completely taken by surprise – it was probably one of the best things that could feasibly occur in a Zoom call. 10/10  – would recommend to a friend. Virtual alpaca feeding and stroking experience without the need for a raincoat – the ultimate win.’


Our wonderful supporter Bob donated his time, so the costs were minimal.

Influence / impact

In addition to the money the initiative raised directly, it also generated significant media interest and public goodwill. Marie Curie’s Alpaca Meet & Greet was featured in the MetroLadbibleEdinburgh Live and many more outlets. The campaign was also shortlisted for best Charity Virtual Event in Fundraising Everywhere’s Charity Virtual Awards 2020.

Marie Curie supporter Bob Crosbie, who runs the farm, gave his time freely.
Pearl is one of Bob’s cutest alpacas.
Who wouldn’t want to be joined on a date by this grinning cutie? Especially as it’s for a good cause.
In just six months, the campaign raised over £3,500. Not bad given the difficult times we live in.

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