Case Study:

Lancashire charity enjoys Christmas gift of paid social success with Santa Dash ad campaign

St Catherine’s Hospice in Lostock Hall, Lancashire, is an independent charity which supports local people affected by life-shortening conditions with it's specialist palliative and end-of-life care, and must raise £5m of its annual £7.5m running costs. Learn how we helped make its annual fundraising Santa Dash one of the most successful ever in 2023 with a paid social campaign on Facebook and Instagram.

The project

Santa Dash is one of several fundraising events run by St Catherine’s Hospice and exists to generate some of the income needed to contribute to its annual running costs.

It takes place around Preston’s historic Albert Edward dock on a Sunday morning in December every year and sees participants run, walk or wheel two laps dressed in Santa suits. Everyone that takes part gets a complimentary breakfast sandwich and a commemorative medal at the end.

The event is well known locally and typically attracts around 300 participants.

Historically, it’s been promoted through traditional media such as a printed newsletter, flyers, posters and roadside banners, as well as by email and via the charity’s Facebook Page, to an audience that mostly consists of existing supporters.

In 2023, the events team wanted to make it bigger than ever by reaching a broader audience and increasing the event’s appeal.

St Catherine’s turned to Fifty2M for ideas, and it was quickly decided that a paid social media campaign on Facebook and Instagram would be the approach most likely to yield success.

We used our creative spark and detailed knowledge of Meta’s advertising platforms to design and run a two month long campaign on both platforms, gaining significant reach among new audiences and boosting attendance levels.

What we did

We started by reviewing the existing Facebook and Instagram audiences to get an understanding of the demographics of those people who already had a connection to St Catherine’s Hospice. One of the key findings to emerge from this work was an insight into where supporters live, allowing us to define our targeting geographically within a radius of the hospice which was surprisingly bigger than we’d initially anticipated.

Existing social media fans and followers were identified as an audience to target, with the Facebook page having 18,000 followers.

Next, we explored other local audiences that were likely to be attracted to Santa Dash if we could reach them with ads, and settled on two: people with interests in charities and causes, and people with interests in running.

Armed with what we now knew about the target geographies, and with three distinct audiences to try and get in front of, we developed three separate full-funnel campaigns, one for each audience.

Using a mixture of St Catherine’s existing graphics, photos and videos from previous years, plus assets we created ourselves, we developed ad copy and creative that was designed specifically for each audience separately in a bid to make it really resonate.

So, for instance, existing fans and followers on Facebook and Instagram were targeted with ads that referenced their existing connection to the charity. Those people locally with a more general interest in charity work were targeted with messaging about simply supporting another local charity. And runners? They were targeted with ads that encouraged them to join in so they could get one last medal to add to their 2023 tally!

The audience of existing supporters were initially encouraged to register their interest on a dedicated Facebook Event Page we created, the idea being that this would help to create some early buzz. It worked, and people quickly started sharing this page and encouraging others to take part.

All other ad traffic was sent to a dedicated Santa Dash page on the St Catherine’s website.

Overall, our campaign reached over 67,000 people, giving the charity a major brand boost among new and varied audiences. Not only that, more than 450 people signed-up, achieving the events team’s dream of making it their biggest Santa Dash ever.

What the client says

Emma Jacovelli, Head of Community Engagement at St Catherine’s, commissioned Fifty2M to deliver the Santa Dash promotional campaign.

“The Covid pandemic had a really big impact on charity fundraising across the board, but especially event attendance.

“We really wanted Santa Dash to be an even bigger success in 2023 than it had been in recent years, and we knew we needed to try a different approach to promoting it if we were going to attract more people to sign up and join in.

“In the past, we’d relied a lot on traditional methods like posters, banners, leaflets, and newsletters, but it’s always hard to track which of these work and there are limits to how many people you can reach with them. There’s also a danger that you can end up just getting in front of people who already know you.

“It was obvious from the first meeting with Fifty2M that they understood our challenges, and they immediately came up with ideas for using Facebook and Instagram adverts that we would never have thought of.

“We knew we’d made the right choice as soon as we started working with them. The way they identified new audiences and adapted their messaging to suit them individually was really clever. They used persuasive language, and adopted a tone and style that was very different to what we’d normally do ourselves. It was really refreshing and it obviously worked.

“I would definitely recommend them to other charities that want to reach and engage with newer, bigger audiences.”

It was obvious from the first meeting with Fifty2M that they understood our challenges, and they immediately came up with ideas for using Facebook and Instagram adverts that we would never have thought of

— Emma Jacovelli

What this case study demonstrates

This is the perfect example of how audience segmentation facilitates the use of targeted ad copy and creative that's more likely to resonate and produce results. It also highlights the benefits of investing in paid social in order to reach more people, rather than relying on organic only social media - especially considering that only 10% of your fans and followers will ever see your posts.

Lee Petts, founder

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