Voluntary Sector/Media: FT sees the sense in helping Sightsavers

The Financial Times selected development charity Sightsavers as the partner for its 2011/12 seasonal appeal, providing print and online editorial coverage of the charity's work. The appeal aimed to raise awareness of, and money for, Sightsavers' work in preventing and curing blindness, and supporting those who are irreversibly blind in some of the poorest parts of the world.

Seeing is believing: The Financial Times made trips to see Sightsavers' work
Seeing is believing: The Financial Times made trips to see Sightsavers' work

Campaign: Financial Times Seasonal Appeal 2011/12 for Sightsavers
Client: Sightsavers
PR team: In-house
Timescale: November 2011-February 2012
Budget: £5,000


  • To raise awareness of funding for Sightsavers' work in Africa and Asia
  •  To target a new audience and recruit donors for the charity.

Strategy and plan

The campaign set out to raise Sightsavers' profile among FT readers and the international business community. To engage the FT readership, the campaign focused on the economic impacts of living with visual impairments in developing countries and the effects these have on productivity.

Sightsavers secured match funding from two partners to ensure the appeal was as successful as possible.

Firstly, pound-for-pound match funding on all donations was secured from Sightsavers' long-term corporate partner Standard Chartered through its Seeing is Believing programme.

Secondly, it secured match funding for all donations made by individuals living in the UK from the Government through its UK Aid Match programme. This meant that all donations made by the UK public were tripled, while all corporate and overseas donations were doubled.

The impact of individual donations due to the triple-match funding was a key campaign message. In the current difficult economic climate, this was a significant incentive for donors, many of whom commented on the exceptional return on investment they received for making a gift.

Sightsavers and the FT also hosted a photography fundraising auction and an online eBay auction of dining experiences at top restaurants with FT journalists.

Standard Chartered encouraged its employees to donate the equivalent of their last hour's pay in 2011 and Sightsavers launched this initiative to the public, encouraging people to use an online calculator to work out an hour's pay and then donate it.

Measurement and evaluation

Following trips made by the FT to see the charity's work in action in Nigeria, Bangladesh and India, 45 different editorial articles appeared in the FT and on its website. The appeal was featured in charity trade media and the photography auction was promoted in The Daily Telegraph, as well as in listings titles. News stories about the last hour's pay campaign were featured in The Sun and by the Mail Online.


Overall, £3.3m was raised for Sightsavers across a ten-week period, making it the most successful newspaper charity campaign of the year.

The success of the fundraising was also a result of the engagement of the two match-funding partners, which also benefited from the PR impact of the appeal. A total of 1,590 donations were received though the appeal.



Generating match funding is a desirable box to tick for any fundraising effort.

To achieve it for a campaign aimed at financially savvy donors, whose reading material indicates an above average interest in watching the pennies (and especially watching them multiply) was a bonus.

I particularly liked the way the campaign tapped into the financial mindset of its target audience, emphasising the economic impacts of living with visual impairments.

Calculating and donating an hour's pay was a powerful concept. Given the coverage in the media, it played well with workers in all walks of life.

I remember, as a young employee enduring a particularly boring temporary job, working out my hourly pay to the minute, and how much simply popping to the loo in company time was earning me.

How much more satisfying it would have been if I had thought to donate the money to a worthy cause - and then seen it tripled.

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