WSPA: Big bear build’ and big bear res­cue’ appeals

Exhibited by
Kerry Vandersypen and Aline Reed
April 21, 2013
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Environmental / animals
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

This wonderful story from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) proves that if you have a problem the first people to turn to are your existing donors. They already feel part of your organisation and, if you have treated them right, will be more than happy to help again.

Editor’s note: Since this exhibit was first posted, WSPA was renamed and is now called World Animal Protection.

Creator / originator

WSPA and Bluefrog

Summary / objectives

In 2006, WSPA secured funding from their donors to build a bear sanctuary in Zarnesti, Romania. By November 2011 the sanctuary housed 59 rescued bears and was nearing full capacity. Something needed to be done to ensure that bears could continue to be rescued and re-homed in safety and comfort.

WSPA turned to their donors once again to ask if they would play a vital part in solving this problem, giving a gift to not only help build an extension for the enclosure, but to help fund the rescue of a further 25 bears.

The solution was broken down into two key steps, the first being to notify the donor about the need for the extension to the enclosure and asking them to give a gift to help fund the build. This was mailed to donors at the start of 2012 and was called the ‘big bear build’ (BBB). The second step was to notify the donors once the build had been completed and ask them to give again to help fund the rescue of the 25 bears. This was mailed to donors at the end of 2012, coinciding with Christmas and was titled the ‘big bear rescue’ (BBR).

Direct mail packs, telephone campaigns, emails and inserts were all used to keep the campaign in the forefront of the donors’ mind and present them with a clear and concise problem and solution, something they could easily imagine themselves becoming a part of. 


WSPA donors had already done so much for Romania’s bears, having funded the sanctuary in 2006 and continuing to help fund the running costs. It was therefore the logical option to approach them once more to ask them to help continue the story.

This campaign was the vehicle needed to engage with these donors and help them feel part of something special, inspiring them to want to be a part of making history in Romania. 

Special characteristics

Both BBB and BBR were able to build on the donors past relationship with WSPA, playing back lots of personalisation, from the type of support they had given in the past (cash, regular giving, WSPA’s regular-giving product ‘Animal Protector’) to the length of time they had been a supporter. Whether someone had been supporting the organisation for a decade or just a year, they would be able to see where they sat in the Romanian bear rescue story and clearly see how they could help make a difference today.

The elements of the packs, from the images to the detailed plans of the build, all helped to make the aim of the campaign plausible and the donors to visualise how their gift would make a difference. In particular the gate-fold project notes in the BBB pack that went to mid-value donors worked as a visual metaphor to show how the donor’s gift would be opening up a new world for these 25 captive bears.

A deadline was used to support this sense of urgency. WSPA needed to start the build as soon as the snow thawed, bears were living in utter misery waiting to be rescued. Time was of the essence and donors were given a date in which to reply by to ensure the build was completed in time. 

Influence / impact

This campaign clearly showed donors that they were highly valued by WSPA and that their support was making a difference. Having been on a journey with WSPA rescuing the captive bears since 2006, the donors were able to see the influence they had made so far as well as the change they could make possible now.

By breaking the campaign into two sections (BBB and BBR) WSPA were able to give feedback on the success of the build immediately and show donors that the impact of their generosity meant that WSPA could move on to the next stage and rescue the last remaining captive bears. This was a momentous point in WSPA’s history that could only be possible with the donors support. 


This was WSPA’s highest grossing appeal ever, with BBB bringing in well over double its targeted income. The funds raised from BBR meant that WSPA were able to start the rescue and re-homing of the 25 captured bears.


It isn’t often that an organisation has the opportunity to partner up with their donors and make an immediate impact on the cause they are fighting for.

This campaign allowed the donor to feel part of something special, their story was given a beginning, middle and end and the feedback they received helped them to see that they were making a real difference to the lives of captive bears in Romania. 

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The big bear build pack.
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The plans for the extension was sent to donors.
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The budget for the extension was sent to donors.
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The flier explained why WSPA have to rescue the bears.
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The outer envelope with a compelling message.
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The big bear rescue pack.
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It would be hard to resist this card.
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This enclosure shows just what the donor will achieve.
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The message on this envelope gives a solution in a powerful way.