Uni­ver­si­ty of Leeds: The cal­en­dar appeal

Exhibited by
Adrian Salmon, University of Leeds and Aline Reed, Bluefrog
May 28, 2013
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
November, 2012

SOFII’s view

Another excellent mail appeal from the University of Leeds that carries on with the theme of alumni sharing their experiences and memories of their time at the university. It builds on the happy times that most will have had during their student life and gives them the chance to help students in the present time.

SOFII particularly likes the story of the 102-year-old alumnus who must have been delighted to have received a reminder of his university days such a long time ago.

Creator / originator


Summary / objectives

Following our success earlier in 2012, our aim was to create another successful mail cash appeal for the University of Leeds.

We wanted to build on our donor recruitment and reactivation earlier in the year to get a second gift within the year. We also wanted to continue recruiting new donors from the alumni file.


The culture of giving to your university is less developed in the UK than, say, the United States.

University fundraising has traditionally revolved around an annual appeal model. This doesn’t necessarily mean asking alumni for a gift once a year, but some universities are now moving away from this terminology to make it easier to demonstrate the need for year-round support.

The University of Leeds has a highly successful telephone fundraising campaign, which uses student callers. The callers can share their experiences of the University today and build a great connection with alumni.

The purpose of developing a cash mailing programme is to reach donors who can’t be contacted by telephone, or who prefer mailings instead of, or as well, as calls. After our successful mailing earlier in 2012, we were keen to solicit second gifts from newly recruited donors and continue recruiting new donors.

The appeal and reminder were combined with an online channel of communications (emails and landing pages).

Our ask was based around supporting scholarships.

Special characteristics

Earlier in the year, we had collected memories and photos from alumni of Leeds from their time at the University – we decided that a calendar was the perfect place to use them. Calendar appeals can be very successful for ‘regular’ charities and we wanted to see if we could replicate those results for Leeds.

Costs meant that we needed to create a generic calendar that would appeal to alumni of all ages – from those who graduated in the 1930s to those who graduated this century. In order to connect with our audience, we looked for as many universal experiences as possible to feature month by month.

These included: what student rooms through the ages looked like, graduation day, the famous Otley Run pub crawl and the experience of making friends.

Where possible, each month also featured a way to reconnect with the University – through social media, for example, or a visit to the campus.

We chose a great picture for the front cover to represent being part of a team. We thought that no graduates would be old enough to remember it and instead selected it because it was such a quirky, eye-catching image. But we were proved wrong…(see end section).

The appeal also introduced alumni to students who had received a scholarship to come to Leeds and asked them to support another. These highly motivated students were able to demonstrate the difference that a scholarship made to their studies.

Influence / impact

This appeal showed it is possible to increase the frequency of asks successfully made to alumni. When they are sent communications which are relevant, engaging and inspiring, they are prepared to give to their University.


This is proof that a more comprehensive mailing programme can be successfully implemented and generate repeat gifts from alumni.

Other relevant information

The lovely front cover image of the calendar is the University of Leeds men’s water polo team from 1930/1. It was given to the University by the son of a Leeds graduate who appeared in the photo. Soon after the mailing went out, Adrian received a call from someone else who treasured the image – 102-year-old Leeds alumnus, Dr Christopher Davidson.

He didn’t appear in the picture but remembered being asked to ‘fill in’ as goalkeeper for a match against Manchester. Manchester was very good and Christopher had a busy time – picking the ball out of the back of the net.

His was one of many wonderful memories prompted by the calendar, which alumni then shared with the University.

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Images of summer fun prompt former students to share their memories of a time when the sun shone all the time and it never rained.
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The special message reminds us that December is a good time to make contact with old friends.
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The first page of the letter.
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The outer envelope.
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The complete calendar pack.
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Dr Christopher Davidson shows the superb front cover of the calendar.