Oper­a­tion Raleigh: toi­let paper mailing

Exhibited by
August 30, 2009
Medium of Communication
Direct mail.
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Children, youth and family.
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

This is one of those audacious, simple ideas that leaves everyone wondering, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ Truly, the best fundraising is almost invariably the most simple and most direct. This mailing also successfully shows the value of writing ‘from the field’, in a distinctive way.

Summary / objectives

This story of fundraising initiative is so simple that it demands to be heard. Operation Raleigh takes young people to far-flung corners of the planet, where they often find themselves denied the daily comforts they could so easily take for granted when at home. When on Operation Raleigh expeditions, leader John Blashford-Snell used to play to the pioneering, ground-breaking, remote places, exploration image that is at the core of the Operation Raleigh ‘brand’.

He did this by writing ‘thank you’ notes to the expedition's sponsors, their major corporate supporters, using shiny squares of hard toilet paper. On these he would write that he was up to his neck in some ‘Indiana Jones’ type situation, explaining that he urgently wanted to tell them how vital their support was in making the expedition a success, but he only had this scrap of paper, the only thing he could write on. The arrival of such a note into a top UK or international company’s boardroom made a real breakthrough impression. Repeat support was almost always assured.


Raleigh International is a UK-based youth development organisation that aims to help people of all backgrounds and nationalities to discover their full potential. Initially it was a four-year project that started life as Operation Raleigh. Making a thank you letter the defining communication embodying all brand values is very rare, but this simple concept does it rather well.


Its brilliant, simple and it worked.

Colonel John Blashford-Snell, one of the founders of Operation Raleigh

Special characteristics

It was handwritten on toilet paper.


Nothing more than a second-class stamp, an envelope and, of course, the toilet paper.

Ken Burnett presents Operation Raleigh: toilet paper mailing at I wish I’d thought of that, Toronto 2013

Captains of industry in the boardrooms of England could readily grasp Operation Raliegh’s urgent need for funds to replace their dwindling supplies when the appeal for help arrived written on sheets of toilet paper.
This exhibit’s creator, explorer and adventurer Colonel John Blashford-Snell.