Refuge: The Helen Titch­en­er (née Archer) Res­cue Fund

Exhibited by
Louise McCathie, director of fundraising, Birmingham Children's Hospital
March 09, 2017
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Individuals, Awareness
Type of Charity
Women, Domestic Violence, Social Change
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
February 2016

SOFII’s view

An unusual appeal that leveraged the plight of a fictional BBC Radio 4 soap opera character to raise money for the charity Refuge on behalf of real life women suffering from abuse. A great demonstration of a solo fundraiser's viral campaign with support and help by the charity.

Summary / objectives

A fan of Radio BBC 4’s popular programme The Archers created an online fundraising page for Refuge in response to a domestic violence storyline. 

The much-debated storyline sparked a national debate about domestic violence and a flood of donations to the women's charity Refuge.


An individual fundraiser created an online fundraising page for a fictional character in The Archers who was suffering from domestic abuse with all the money raised being donated to the charity Refuge because ‘for every fictional Helen, there are real ones’. The page reached £3,000 in just 18 hours and by April 2016 had raised £100,000.

Refuge worked closely with the fundraiser and integrated domestic violence prevention messages throughout, collectively making it a fantastic success, as well as raising awareness of the cause.

This exhibit is a great example of great storytelling and the use of digital.


The original online fundraising page target was £1,000, within 24 hours it had reached over £22,000 and has now gone on to raise in excess of £170,000 (the largest single donation to Refuge ever).


More than 8,000 people have supported a JustGiving fundraising page for the women's charity Refuge set up by Archers fan Paul Trueman, 

because for every fictional Helen, there are real ones.

With over £170,000 raised so far, Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said:

Never before in my 33-year career at Refuge have I seen such amazing public support for our work.

Other relevant information

The Archers: Verdict revealed in Helen Titchener trial

The Helen Titchener (nee Archer) Rescue Fund on JustGiving

To the edge of acceptability. SOFII has some more lessons in emotional messaging, from Helen's story, as told in BBC Radio 4's The Archers

Creator / originator

Paul Trueman, head of social at Bray Leino

Special characteristics

The campaign reached a listenership of 4.2 million and, due to the viral nature of the campaign, a community of engaged fans of The Archers received instant updates and communication.

Refuge had to be reactive to their overnight success and seize the opportunity by complementing the fundraiser's promotion on Twitter with Refuge's social media channels to extend its reach. This campaign demonstrates the power of a story underpinned by great use of digital, which created a community that wished to be heard, take action and donate.

When a campaign has such momentum and media coverage it was imperative to keep people up-to-date on the milestones. Refuge and Paul repeatedly thanked supporters and a personalised journey for these supporters was then created to encourage long-term support.

The campaign really touched the public, many sharing their own personal stories online and through the use of digital media Refuge could contact users directly and signpost them to the helpline.

Influence / impact

In addition, Refuge reported that during the month of February the National Domestic Violence Helpline, which they run in partnership with Women’s Aid, received 17 per cent more calls than the same period last year. 

Final notes

Louise McCathie,Director of Fundraising at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, presented this campaign at I Wish I'd Thought Of That IWITOT 2016. 

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Helen Titchener, played by Louiza Patikas, and abusive partner Rob (Timothy Watson), from The Archers.
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Paul Trueman put his JustGiving page together in about 10mins and hoped to raise £1,000 over weeks.
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Careful curation of moving comments left by donors and put on Twitter helped to drive donations and awareness.
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Social media was also used to thank donors supported by Refuge.