Tró­caire — Sep­tem­ber direct mail cam­paign 2017

Exhibited by
Dave Wilkins – direct marketing officer Trócaire
November 23, 2017
Medium of Communication
Direct mail – to existing donors
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Ireland – both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Date of first appearance
29 September 2017

SOFII’s view

This campaign highlights the importance of intelligent identification and targeting of donors. Trócaire carefully selected the donors they thought would respond to an ‘exceptional ask’ and in return they were rewarded by with more responses and donations. 

Country of origin

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Summary / objectives

One of six direct mail campaigns to ordinary individual donors (not major or corporate) carried out as part of Trócaire’s public fundraising activity, the September DM has been a stalwart of the campaign for several years. The primary objective was to reach an income target of €175,000. Trócaire included an ‘exceptional ask’ where we asked a small number of targeted donors if any of them would be willing to pay for a field ambulance, also known as a Tuk Tuk ambulance, for one of Trócaire’s medical centres in Southern Somalia.


At the end of 2016, Trócaire appointed an external creative agency, Ask Direct, to create our 2016 Christmas DM appeal (we had previously developed direct mail packs internally). Ask Direct are a Dublin-based creative agency that specialises in not-for-profit DM campaigns. They have worked on a number of successful campaigns for Trócaire this year, including the impending Christmas 2017 DM and additional campaigns into 2018. Ask Direct introduced the ‘exceptional ask’ concept to Trócaire and the September DM was the second time the charity had tried it. 

Earlier in the summer, they liaised closely with the international programmes team to decide which one of their programme countries would best suit the brief. And, indeed, if they were to use an exceptional ask, what that might be.

Between Trócaire’s international team based at head office and the Somalia and Ethiopia country teams it was decided that the focus of the September DM campaign story should be around cholera outbreaks in Somalia and Ethiopia. During conversations with Dr Abdi Tari Ali, the Somali programme manager, Abdi referenced how critical the time window for treating cholera was. What moves fast in the Southern Somali desert? A motorised three-wheeled ambulance!. The DM itself featured a particular mother and child who were successfully treated in one of Trócaire’s  medical centres in Somalia and talked about more recent outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD) in Ethiopia.

Creator / originator

Caoileann Appleby at Ask Direct (

Special characteristics

From the end of 2016 Trócaire started to proactively use RFV (recency, frequency, value) analysis to target its warm donor base. RFV scores the value of a donor from three to 15, with 15 being highest. These donors are then split broadly into the top four per cent, next 16 per cent, and then the remaining 80 per cent. The agency developed three DM packs of increasing detail from standard to mid-value to high-value. 

Donors sent the high-end pack received

  • Handwritten and hand-stamped C5 outer envelope
  • Two-page, A4 letter
  • Tw-page, A4 response form
  • Two-page, A4 'lift' letter on how cholera is spread and treated
  • Two-page A4 ‘field letter’ from the Somalia programme manager
  • Three A6 postcards (including a picture of a Tuk Tuk ambulance)
  • Two-page, A5 separate letter from the director of fundraising and marketing with the exceptional ask: a €4,350 Tuk Tuk ambulance
  • A business reply envelope (BRE)

The mid and standard packs received printed C5 window outer envelopes and included fewer inserts than the high-end pack. Mid and standard did not receive an exceptional ask.

Influence / impact

Once infected cholera victims have just six hours to get treatment. It’s a simple and easy disease to cure, but if someone doesn’t get treatment within the time frame he, or she, will die. So time and speed is of the essence. This is where a Tuk Tuk ambulance comes into its own. But obviously it is also important for helping very seriously ill people and pregnant mothers to get to a medical centre safely.


The budget was €48,000 euro for everything. Creative development, print fulfilment and postage. Target database contact just over 25,000 records of existing donors


Trócaire had used the exceptional ask once before during our flagship lenten campaign – March 2017 – and were astonished when four donors stepped forward to answer the call, each buying a small boat for a Honduran community. However they were unprepared for what happened next with this September DM campaign. Not four, not five, not even 10, but 22 (22!) ordinary individuals agreed to pay for one of these life-saving ambulances. The teams in the recipient countries where these ambulances are headed are utterly thrilled with the outcome of this campaign. Everyone, overseas and at head office, was completely bowled over! 

Total income from this campaign is currently at €270,000 including €93,000 for the 22 ambulances. These ambulances will be used across Trócaire’s medical centres in Somalia and to support their programmes in other East African countries where they work.

Response rate 8.5 per cent

ROI 6:1

Average gift €127 

Average gift, without exceptional ask: €84 

Thank You process

As well as this new approach to targeting and DM pack tailoring for Trócaire’s Direct Mail campaigns, the Thank You process has been enhanced to make sure the end to end donor experience is maximised. 

For each of the 22 Ambulance donors, Trócaire’s International Director Seán Farrell, recorded a short personalised video message from our locations in Southern Somalia to each of these donors, by name, which will be sent to them on DVD. 

We also make sure that the Thank You letters our regular donors get are tailored to match the information in the Direct Mail piece, and includes an A6 impact postcard also related to the Direct Mail campaign. And everyone who is opted in for phone, gets a thank you call.


This campaign not only shows the success of carefully targeted exceptional asks as part of direct mail activity but shows the right item, at the right price point, for the selected targeted audience is critical. It also shows, with the right ask, just how extraordinarily generous ordinary donors can be. 

Other relevant information

Trócaire, which means ‘Mercy’ in the Irish Language, is the overseas aid and development organisation of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Founded by the Irish Catholic Bishops in 1973, it is probably the best known of Ireland’s INGOs; it is especially known for its iconic lenten campaign that has been running since it was founded. 

In the financial year 2016-2017, Trócaire’s work directly benefited the lives of over 2.6 million people in 23 countries across Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa where we spend almost €58 million euro.

Trócaire is part of the Caritas Internationalis network.