Plan Canada refreshes Gifts of Hope

The non-profit positions its annual giving campaign as the perfect gift for the hard-to-shop-for person on your list.

The holiday season is an incredibly difficult time for non-profits to stand out, but Plan International Canada hopes that updating the approach for its annual Gifts of Hope campaign will not only break away from the charitable pack, but compete with other retailers you might be shopping at this year.

Gifts of Hope allows Canadians to choose gifts from either a physical catalogue or e-commerce site – ranging from medicine and bug nets to livestock and solar energy kits – that will be sent directly to communities where the non-profit works.

In a new spot promoting the initiative, which is running until the middle of December, we meet Dave – who exemplifies that one person on your holiday shopping list that is “impossible to buy for” – and Sabra – who lives in a developing country and asks for very little. The narrator suggests that fulfilling the modest needs Sabra and girls like her have could be a great holiday gift that changes her life for the better.

Plan worked with DentsuBos on creative strategy, Isobar for mass media strategy and Aber Group for digital media strategy on the campaign.

Gifts of Hope is one of Plan International’s longest-running international development programs. For the past four years, the organization has used the same advertising featuring a talking goat to promote Gifts of Hope.

“We loved the creative, and it was very effective in getting the key message across, but it’s becoming a more competitive marketplace and it was time for a refresh,” says Jeff Cornett, CMO at Plan International Canada. “What is similar about it and why I love it is that the nature of the Gift of Hope campaign allows you to take a more lighthearted approach to international development. Some other subjects at other times of year are sensitive, and a lighthearted approach would be completely inappropriate. The idea of holiday giving lets us take a bit of a warmer approach.”

Cornett says that while the charitable sector is always competitive during the holidays, the amount given by Canadians has been relatively flat for the past several years.

“A lot of charities are looking to virtual gifts to increase their revenue, so even that slice within the sector has gotten more competitive,” Cornett says. “But we think ours stands out a little bit because it’s always been important that this is not a symbolic giving catalogue. The gifts you’re purchasing are supporting those specific projects in the countries where we work. The authenticity backing that up in our creative is incredibly important, which is why the girls you see in the ads and the photos in the catalogue are of girls who live in the communities where we are working.”

In addition to remaining authentic, Plan has been looking to stand out by competing with all retailers, in the hope that more Canadians will be convinced to divert some of their regular holiday gift budget to its causes. That has meant several other elements of Gifts of Hope have been refreshed as well. The data and targeting algorithm that helps determine the distribution of the physical Gifts of Hope catalogue has been revamped, and the consumer experience on the website has been redesigned and simplified to stand up to other e-commerce experiences.

“If we’re competing with the Amazons of the world for people’s gift budget, then our user experience has to be just as excellent,” Cornett says.