The Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­ches­ter: Emer­gency hard­ship appeal

Exhibited by
Jemma Gurr, head of regular giving, The University of Manchester
May 14, 2020
Medium of Communication
Digital / Major Gifts
Target Audience
All donors
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
United Kingdom
Date of first appearance
28 April 2020

SOFII’s view

As coronavirus spread some students at The University of Manchester were faced with difficult financial circumstances. The university, aided free of charge by agency Hubbub, launched a powerful digital campaign with a core appeal delivered from the voices (via video) of the students facing hardship themselves. It’s a clever and affecting way of linking donors to beneficiaries directly and made excellent use of social media. The campaign is still underway and looks set to reach its target of £1 million. All within a few weeks.

Summary / objectives

We set out to raise funds to support students who are facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.


The coronavirus pandemic has caused financial uncertainty for many students – due to lost part-time work and a reduction in family income. Those from the lowest-income backgrounds are most likely to be affected. At The University of Manchester, one in four of our undergraduates comes from a low-income household. We wanted to harness the support of our whole community to build an emergency fund that could support students facing financial need. 

We approached the appeal in two phases. First, we reached out to some of our major donors and asked for their help. As well as receiving some wonderful gifts to start us off, we were able to secure a gift match for donations made in our public phase.

Then we launched a public appeal. We put together an appeal video featuring students, staff and donors – all filmed from their homes. We worked with digital agency Hubbub to create an appeal landing page including a totaliser and a ‘donor wall’ allowing donors to display their name, gift amount and location – and see who else has given.

The night before the appeal launch, we sent an e-appeal to a group of our loyal and recent donors. Then on launch day we sent a bigger appeal to the rest of our contactable database. We also went live with a social media campaign including an Instagram Stories Q&A, and activity on our University digital channels.

We’ll be continuing our digital campaign over the coming weeks with more activity to update and remind our community. With such a great response in the first week, we’re feeling confident about reaching our £1 million target.

Special characteristics

Working as one team towards a shared urgent goal, we were able to get our whole community involved.


£0! As we were existing clients, Hubbub generously offered to build us a causes page at no cost due to the unprecedented situation. Everything else was put together in-house by our talented team.


In just the first week, we had around 1,300 donors from 75 different countries – bringing the total in our emergency fund to nearly £750,000. More than 60 per cent of our donors had never given to The University of Manchester before, and we also saw a wonderful response from previous donors. Of the direct debit donors who we contacted via e-appeal, more than seven per cent responded with an extra cash gift.

In a difficult time, this appeal demonstrates the power of reaching out to your community and asking for their help.