The Sand­cas­tle Trust: Christ­mas appeal and fundrais­ing film

Exhibited by
Danielle Singleton
February 07, 2024
Medium of Communication
Online, social media
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Supporting children/young people with disabilities and their families
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
December 2023

SOFII’s view

In a 2023 article, the Lloyd’s Bank Foundation stated that:

‘Small charities, those with an income under £1 million a year, make up 96 per cent of the voluntary sector in the UK. Despite making up the majority of the voluntary sector, these 159,041 small and local charities only receive 17 per cent of the overall sector’s income.’

So, unsurprisingly, when you work at a small charity and income is much needed, setting up an important appeal can feel like a huge responsibility. In this case study, charity founder Danielle shares how she learned variety of new skills – including how to co-create a fundraising film and design a landing page – so The Sandcastle Trust could reach more donors and raise more funds with their 2023 Christmas campaign.

Creator / originator

Danielle Singleton, founder of The Sandcastle Trust. Danielle was supported by a mentor she connected with via The Saltways, a film and animation agency, and their Small Charity Appeal Programme.


The Sandcastle Trust is a very small charity that walks alongside children, young people and families who are living with a rare genetic condition. We help them to build lasting positive family memories, strengthen relationships, as well as improve their emotional wellbeing and resilience.

Summary / objectives

With just two part-time members of staff and a team of dedicated volunteers, The Sandcastle Trust makes a huge impact on the lives of the families we help. But with limited resources and a modest income of less than £115,000 a year, setting up a fundraising appeal from scratch wasn’t going to be easy. In fact, it felt overwhelming.

Fortunately, I was able to take part in The Saltways eight-week Small Charity Appeal Programme, where I learned how to create a campaign and deliver it from concept to completion. I was paired up with a mentor who talked me through each stage of developing our 2023 Christmas appeal.

Ultimately, our goal was to raise £500 to support the work of the charity, via a coordinated fundraising campaign – and gain skills that our organisation could use to create more successful appeals in the future, at minimal cost.

Special characteristics

We decided to combine a dedicated landing page on our website with social media posts and a selection of powerful fundraising films. I chose a theme of ‘making memories at Christmas’ and worked with my mentor to devise a calendar so I could track exactly where I needed to be in the process of creating the fundraising appeal.

The first task for me was to develop honest and moving video content that would help our donors understand what it’s really like to be part of a family who lives with a rare genetic condition.

I reached out to one of the families we support. Two of their children (Ollie and Amelia) have CNL2 Batten Disease. They were both diagnosed in 2015 when Ollie was three and a half years-old and Amelia was two years-old. Batten Disease is a life-limiting condition with an average life expectancy of six to twelve years.

Ollie and Amelia’s parents have been supported by The Sandcastle Trust and happily agreed to co-create a fundraising film that could be used in the appeal. Before we started, I learned how to capture the content on a standard mobile phone. I then worked with the family so they could tell their story and explain how our charity had helped them make precious memories at Christmas. We used voice overs, family video footage from the past, plus new footage that the parents recorded on their phones, in their own time.

Editing the films was a collaborative effort, and we were sure to combine the storytelling elements with the appropriate call to action we needed for our fundraising. We ended the film by asking donors to help families like Ollie and Amelia’s create more special memories together during the festive season.

You can view the final film here:


The appeal launched on December 1, 2023 – just in time for the festive period. Our landing page went live and we started a series of social media posts.

As you can see in the images on the left, we primarily featured Ollie and Amelia’s film, but we also added more stories on our landing page. These featured other families that we help and had a totaliser at the bottom so all the donors could see how much we’d raised so far.

We gave donors the option to give online or text to donate. The majority of the donations were given online and our average gift was £29. The largest gift was £250 and came from a new donor!

In total the appeal generated 41 donations and 22 of those donors were completely new to The Sandcastle Trust. As a very small charity, most of our donors are families we have supported in the past. So, we were thrilled that this appeal helped us to raise our profile and attract new donors to our cause – it is something we have always struggled with.

Again, due to our small size and lack of experience in doing a multi-dimensional appeal like this, we set our fundraising target at just £500. At the time of writing (29 January 2024), we’ve smashed that target and raised £1,403.25, including Gift Aid.

Other relevant information

The charity supplemented our usual social media posts with one paid Facebook ad – we had a tiny budget for this of just £50, but it was worth giving it a try. We also supported the appeal with some e-mails that had Ollie and Amelia’s parents as the signatory – again bringing the family we help much closer to the donor. My mentor was a huge help in making suggestions that ensured the copy was moving and compelling.

Everyone who donated was sent a personalised thank you email.

While, on this occasion, none of the donors signed up to a regular gift, I have a follow up call with my mentor to discuss how I might try and convert donors into regular givers.

Final notes

The support of my mentor has been pivotal in us extracting as much benefit as we can from the film we co-created for the appeal.

And now, The Sandcastle Trust has the skills in-house and a clear process to follow so we can create more of these appeals at a low cost, generating much needed funds for our small charity. I’d encourage other founder-led or small organisations to give this sort of fundraising a try!

If you’d like to book onto a similar course, there are some places available at a discounted rate. Please click here to find out more. Applications for the 2024 cohort will close on 14 February 2024, so don’t delay.

© IMAGES: Courtesy of The Sandcastle Trust

Amelia (left) and Ollie (right) have been helped by the Sandcastle Trust. A video co-created by the charity and their family told the moving story that featured in the 2023 Christmas campaign.
The Sandcastle Trust is a small UK-based charity that helps children, young people and families who are living with a rare genetic condition.
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The Sandcastle Trust created their first-ever dedicated appeal landing page so they could track donations to their new campaign.
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Donors could give by clicking the donate button or via text. They could also learn more about the people we help by watching the video we co-created with Ollie, Amelia and their family.
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The appeal also featured social media posts, that again were co-created with Ollie and Amelia’s family.