Words of wisdom from Oxfam

Insightful interview with Oxfam.

It is not every day that you get to hear sage words of inspiration and detailed solutions from Oxfam on how to make the most of your next fundraising campaign.

At GiveEasy, we have worked with Oxfam for more than three years, and this year the team are shaking things up to make an impact on poverty.

We spoke to Edward Elston, Appeals Manager at Oxfam Australia, to find out some of their biggest challenges and achievements from this year’s tax appeal. We wanted to share the insights for charities at every level.

Oxfam Australia have an entire gamut of sophisticated tools available to them. Fundraising success is about using the right tools at the right time, and this is the formula they used to achieve outstanding success in this appeal.

After our conversation, not only were equally impassioned to end poverty, but we had a whole swathe of sage wisdom, tactics and measurable metrics to share with other charities.

Here are the wise words from Oxfam Australia, on how to take your next fundraising campaign to help save your patch of the world.


What are the key challenges faced by your charity?

We understand our responsibility to tackle poverty.

It is important to start with our purpose Edward explains, “We are trying to tackle global poverty in communities around the world. This is the core reason for our organisation to exist. In everything we do, we have to show integrity. Ethically we are responsible to our donors and our beneficiaries, which brings its own challenges. Some organisations are not held to the same standards. We have to be transparent in everything we do.”


People really care.

“Every person involved is personally and professionally invested in the cause. As a result, sometimes it can be hard to see the big picture.”


We aim to use our resources as efficiently as possible.

“As with all charities, we are no different. We are working with limited resources and we have an enormous task ahead of us. We have a responsibility to our donors to spend the money as efficiently as possible. In fact, our fundraising investment is approximately 10%, whereas other large NGOs tend to spend more.”


How to be as bold as Oxfam

Edward's message to other charities is: “Don’t lose sight of the big picture, it helps to focus your efforts.”

Lesson 1: Start with great content

“The truth is that these people need help. Our aim was to strike a balance between the enormous need and their personal dignity.”

“We know that donors respond to strong need. These people are going through hardships you cannot begin to imagine. You can help, you can make this better.”

Oxfam's campaign focused on breaking the cycle of poverty in Zimbabwe. 

No parent can raise a child without food, water and education.

A brutal drought has ravaged Zimbabwe for the last five years, leaving 4.1 million people facing extreme hunger and thirst, and unable to farm and earn an income.

In some of the worst affected areas, families are eating only one meal every two days. Without food and water, children struggle to find the strength to attend school and thrive. We fear that an entire generation will slip through the cracks – and the cycle of poverty will continue. 

It is a heart-wrenching story, you can read it here.

We needed plenty of emotive content to get our message across all channels.

Our strategy was to start planning months in advance, while the content team were in Zimbabwe. We worked hard to get content to use across every channel. Our campaign would need fundraising content for:

  • Digital marketing
  • Strong stories for letters and emails
  • Optimised for social channels
  • Interviews and quotes
  • Emotive photographs


Lesson 2: Use your data to understand your audiences

“Charities should make it easy for donors to give. With our excellent data analysis, we can now do that.”

Our job is to make donating easy for our supporters, because they want to help alleviate the pressures of poverty. So we use our data to make sure we are talking to donors on the channels they prefer, and that we don’t bombard them with unnecessary messages.

Oxfam Australia uses a full multi-channel approach. “Some people prefer to receive letters in the mail, others like to talk on the phone and hear the stories, while some just want to donate, and we send them an SMS.”

It’s important to reach donors with the right mediums, and this was one area that worked really well this year. “Our SMS list was made up of people who had not yet donated via other channels.”


Lesson 3: Be bold with your digital toolkit

Oxfam Australia has a large toolkit, and the experience to use the right tools at the right time. For this campaign, the opportunity was to try lots of different tools, and to put best practice in place.

Oxfam Australia used GiveEasy for SMS, which prefill forms including unique donation amounts, to make donating quick and effortless.

“SMS is great. People see text messages quickly, and they respond. Oxfam appears in their phone, it is quick and gets to the point.”


Lesson 4: Trust your instincts

“Taking risks. Not being afraid to fail. If you don’t ask you won’t get.”

Oxfam Australia opted for a last-minute SMS, which was sent out at 7pm on the last day of the financial year. “We are not afraid to make the most of those last few hours. It creates urgency, to donate by midnight.”

All the forms are pre-filled with unique amounts, so there are very few barriers to donate.

Oxfam Australia’s return on initial investment was ten-fold. “It is true value for money”.

Overall, the results speak for themselves. “We received a $7,000 donation via SMS. It shows that people trust this medium.”


Your overall campaign success

“In many respects, this was a history making campaign. It was more than the funds raised, it really allowed our teams to work together more effectively.”

Across Oxfam Australia, this is one of the biggest campaign ever. Our target was 2.5M.

We had a highly collaborative approach across the teams. It just shows that you can’t achieve this alone. Everyone pitched in to do the best job possible.

“At the end of the day, strong storytelling and data analysis has won this campaign. If you get these two right, it sets you up for success.”

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