Uni­ver­si­ty of Leeds: direct mail cash appeal to alumni

Exhibited by
Adrian Salmon, University of Leeds and Aline Reed, Bluefrog.
May 13, 2013
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
May, 2012

SOFII’s view

Through careful targeting and superb personalisation the University of Leeds has proved that using direct mail for cash appeals can still be hugely successful.

Creator / originator


Summary / objectives

Our aim was to create a successful mail cash appeal for the University of Leeds. We were tasked with recruiting and getting repeat gifts from donors.


Over the last few years, the University of Leeds has developed a successful fundraising programme, predominantly using the telephone. It has been more challenging to get successful results through mailed cash appeals. This appeal represented a new approach to recruiting and retaining donors via mail (although this was combined with emails and website landing pages).

With recent changes in funding to higher education, there is even more need to engage alumni in supporting their university. Our ask was based around supporting scholarships.

Special characteristics

A key insight was to identify that audience needs varied and we couldn't take a 'one size fits all' approach. A fairly technical and personal mailing resulted.

In a sense, every student has a different experience of Leeds depending on what era they attended, the course they studied and the activities they pursued. In order to connect them to the university that they felt they had attended, we segmented by era. This meant that graduates from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and the medical school received a bespoke scrapbook of images from their time at Leeds. A generic option was also created.

Each scrapbook was different, but we aimed to pick out things from the archive that particularly recalled an era. For example, one scrapbook included a flyer from the University shop witha a tin of baked beans priced at 11p. Another – from the 50s – showed trams, now long gone, passing in front of the University.

Many of these images had been sent to the University by alumni and we invited everyone to share any other photos and stories they might have.

As well as reminding the alumni of their life at the University, we brought them up-to-date with the challenges facing students today. We showed them that although many aspects of life at Leeds are unchanged, the funding picture is now very different. Alumni were asked to support scholarships for students from less privileged backgrounds who had achieved excellent A level results.

With the donation form, we took care to include opportunities for the donor to re-engage with the University – we invited them back to campus.

Influence / impact

This appeal showed it is possible to mail successful appeals to alumni; it also revealed a substantial group of donors who gave their first gift to this piece, suggesting their preference may be for a combination of email and mail.


Alumni aged 50 and over were targeted for this approach, alongside those who scored highly on the Leeds propensity model and those who had made a donation previously.

A high level of personalisation was used, referring to the alumni's course, graduation date and, through the scrapbook, their era at Leeds.

Twenty-two 'elite' supporters received hand-signed letters.

Versions of the pack were also created for alumni who were based overseas and in the United States.

Donors were offered a University pin badge in thanks for their gift.


Our aim was to establish that mailed cash appeals could be successful and we set ourselves ambitious targets – average gift of £150 and an overall income of £108,000.

In fact, we beat the target by £30,000 and achieved a much higher average gift.

We received gifts from 573 people who had never given to Leeds before.


This was a highly successful appeal, which took a new approach to DM appeals. It was also closely targeted and, although it showcases real need for support, it also sets out to engage and entertain donors.

The approach stood out and clearly created a great deal of good will. We had several instances of people recognising themselves or their friends in some of the photos – and gave very generously! We also received lovely stories and photos from alumni keen to share their experiences of Leeds with us.

Other relevant information

This is the most successful DM cash appeal the University of Leeds has ever developed, raising more money in 12 weeks than the University had raised in their previous eight years of sending mail appeals.

View original image
The letter and reply form.
View original image
The trip down memory lane is triggered as soon as the envelope is opened.
View original image
Poster from the 50s.
View original image
Poster from the 60s.
View original image
Poster from the 70s.
View original image
Poster from the 80s.
View original image
Poster from the 90s.
View original image
The clever headline reminds the graduates that Leeds is still their university.