Princess Mar­garet Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion: Wings of Hope appeal

Exhibited by
Renée Eaton.
September 06, 2009
Medium of Communication
Direct mail.
Target Audience
Individuals, planned gift, regular gift
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

This carefully crafted direct mail programme neatly combines an innovative donor involvement device with a symbol of hope that each year plays an important part in maintaining and lifting patient morale over the Christmas holiday period. Perhaps a bit sentimental for some tastes, but it works. This pack has built donor loyalty and raised increasing funds for the cause while providing a way of linking donors to patients.

Creator / originator

Harvey McKinnon developed the original concept of the dove appeal in conjunction with PMHF staff.

Summary / objectives

First mailed in November 2001, the ‘Wings of Hope’ is now a tradition at Princess Margaret Hospital – one of the world’s top five cancer research hospitals, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This appeal is mailed as a year-end special appeal to house (warm) donors, as well as prospects (hospital ex-patients, addressed rental lists and unaddressed households throughout the Greater Toronto Area).

With declining response rates in 2004 and 2005, the primary challenge for 2006 was to increase income. A secondary goal was to increase donor loyalty and long-term value. Success! The 2006 appeal saw a significant increase in income and response rates over 2005 results.


The centrepiece of the Wings of Hope appeal is a small paper dove, used as an engagement device. Each year, the letter tells a moving story of a personal encounter with cancer. It invites the reader to dedicate the paper dove in honour of someone special and return the dove to the hospital along with their donation. Dedicated doves are then hung in the atrium of the hospital to give hope and inspiration to cancer patients and their families over the holiday season. The appeal name speaks for itself: this is an appeal about giving hope – to cancer patients, to their families and their friends – today and in the future (in the form of a gift towards cancer research).

Donors are invited to attend a special “Dove Dedication Ceremony” at the hospital. This dedication ceremony provides added involvement for those donors who wish a closer connection with the hospital. Also, the ceremony gives the appeal urgency, as the letter asks donors to send their dedicated paper dove to the hospital by a specific date.

The 2006 letter was signed by a mother who lost her 21-year-old daughter to leukemia. It is an emotional and heart-wrenching story as well as a celebration of life and of hope, and it fits perfectly within the overall campaign theme. The 2005 appeal featured a story of cancer survival. Along with the client, we agreed that a more emotional letter of loss and remembrance could potentially inspire additional donors to give.

For stewardship purposes, as well as to potentially encourage increased response, we included a holiday greeting card for the donor to keep with the 2006 package. The card is attached to the dove insert – a production decision which served two purposes: (a) to reduce printing costs and (b) to reduce the “distracter factor” of a completely separate card.

Special characteristics

New to the 2006 appeal was the inclusion of a micro site to give donors an alternative response option. The reply form referenced the micro site url and provided the donor with a unique, personal access code to enter the site where they could dedicate their dove as well as make a donation. The letter postscript also mentioned the micro site and provided the donor with a unique, personal access code to enter the site where they could dedicate their dove as well as make a donation. The letter postscript also mentioned the micro site.


One dollar Canadian per piece for house and addressed prospect, just $0.40 for unaddressed prospects.


The average single gift was $51.40 and the combined response rate (single and monthly) was 13.21 per cent. Cost to raise a dollar came in at just 12.7 cents.

Although we mailed slightly fewer packages in 2006 than 2005 (almost three per cent less), gross single gift income was 29 per cent higher in 2006 than 2005. The single gift response rate was 24.5 per cent higher in 2006 over 2005, while the monthly giving conversion percentage remained static. Average single gift came in at 7.5 per cent higher than in 2005.

Overall net income came in 30.6 per cent higher than in 2005, despite the added expense of the combined holiday greeting card and paper dove element for 2006.

A total of 1.6 per cent of the total income came in through the micro site.

The response rate to tailored packages for donors who gave the previous year was 31.57 per cent– which is higher than 2005. And response was 42.12 per cent from those donors who received packages with specific reference to the name of last year’s honouree – again higher than in 2005.


The Wings of Hope appeal accounts for a significant percentage of the Foundation’s annual direct mail income. It has been instrumental in reactivating lapsed donors and securing additional gifts from monthly donors. Of particular note, the Wings of Hope unaddressed package consistently results in net income for the Foundation each year – very rare for an unaddressed package.

In consultation with HMA, PMHF incorporated the dove theme into their leadership and major giving programmes, with the introduction of the ‘Wings of Hope Dove Wall’ – a more permanent glass donor recognition wall installed in the hospital’s atrium.