SickKids reinvents canvassing to reach monthly donors

With face-to-face fundraising unavailable, the non-profit makes a strategic shift and takes "VS." in a more intimate direction.

SickKids is demonstrating the versatility of its “VS” platform, adapting it to a more intimate format to go along with a shift in fundraising strategy.

The campaign hinges on the impact statement “because someone gave monthly, SickKids saved my life,” and features four former SickKids patients reflecting on their experiences in its care. The decision to pivot to a more personal approach was driven by discussions with donors about why they give to the hospital, explains Denika Angelone, senior strategy director with Cossette, the hospital’s AOR.

“One of the things that really resonates with donors is understanding the progress and impact they’re making,” she says.

The campaign was designed to accommodate a larger shift in SickKids’ fundraising strategy. With the global pandemic causing the lockdown of public spaces, traditional face-to-face canvassing that has typically been done door-to-door or on the street has been unavailable to the hospital. That means it had to find new opportunities to raise money, specifically when it came to bringing on monthly donors – a regular and reliable source of funds for non-profits – as opposed to the big pushes and seasonal fundraising goals typically associated with “VS.” campaigns.

It did so by adapting to the digital space – primarily social media, which attempted to emulate the familiar one-to-one approach.

“This was a way to reinvent canvassing by mobilizing our former patients at the hospital, as well as influencers who have connections to the cause, to have them canvas digitally for us in their own networks and neighbourhoods,” says Heather Clark, VP of direct and digital marketing at SickKids Foundation.

But as it found success, SickKids realized the campaign could be further adapted to expand its reach beyond the digital space.

“The campaign started out as a digital idea that we were going to bring just through those channels,” says Clark. “But with strong insight and a big idea, these things have a way of really growing.”

Now, SickKids has put more resources behind the push, and is bringing the kinds of stories that resonate on a one-to-one level to a bigger platform. In addition to a 60-second spot featuring one of the alumni, SickKids aired a 30-second ad across the GTA during the Super Bowl. It has also distributed campaign postcards and placed OOH posters in Brampton and Woodbridge with QR codes that point to an AR video featuring a local alumnus. PR agency Citizen Relations enlisted the help of influencers, including TV personalities Tracy Moore and Mary Berg, to tell the story of their connection with the hospital and drive further donations.

The campaign, according to both Clark and Angelone, is another example of the way in which the “VS” platform can stretch to accommodate the needs of SickKids.

“We’re constantly learning and figuring out what resonates with people and what gets the results we need,” says Angelone.

“I think that’s what we’re doing with these stories,” adds Clark. “There’s a lot of content that we have created, there’s lots to this campaign. But with the four alumni that we feature, their stories are just so big and raw and this was the way we could just tell them.”