Cold mail, partially addressed mail and door drops made 2020 RSPCA's best Christmas ever.


As a charity, RSPCA was hit heavily by the introduction of GDPR in 2018. The ‘opt-in’ stance that they had adopted in response to the new law shut down all forms of cold mail for acquisition. This had a sizable impact on the number of active donors the charity was able to generate fundraising income from.  To fill the shortfall, RSPCA had upweighted face-to-face and other core recruitment channels.

In 2020, lockdown changed everything. Overnight the face-to-face channel stopped which meant a shortfall in recruitment and a significant gap in fundraising income and recruitment volume. There was an urgent need to find a solution that could plug this gap.


RSPCA knew they had to reach beyond activating their existing supporters and find new opportunities to engage new audiences if they were going to boost recruitment and fundraising in the Christmas period of 2020. 

Working closely with their agencies, RSPCA aligned an effectively integrated multi-channel campaign. Cold addressed mail was used to find highly targeted prospects, Partially Addressed Mail and door drops extended the campaign reach without cannibalising other activity.

Their media agency Edit’s starting point was to analyse donor data at an individual level to identify the personas they wanted to acquire. AdDynamix gave an insight into what competitors were doing and how to cut through, TGI helped them get an understanding of why people would donate to the RSPCA. The core audience segments were mapped into JICMAIL, the media planning tool that measures the mail consumption habits of key advertiser target audiences, to identify the most effective channels to reach prospects.

Cold mail was identified as a highly effective channel to reach prospect donors, putting it back in the marketing mix for the first time since GDPR came into effect. The timing was right; across 2020, RSPCA had carried out extensive analysis of their contact policy and identified that moving from an ‘opt-in’ stance to one of ‘legitimate interest’ was right for them. With extra budget that would have been attributed to face-to-face available, Christmas was the perfect opportunity to test if reinvigorating this channel – under very tight data guidelines – would help the charity reach and acquire new, highly targeted donors.

Partially Addressed Mail (PAM) and door drops allowed RSPCA to extend the reach of the campaign, beyond opted in cold data, in a targeted, cost-effective way. PAM was a new channel for RSPCA who recognised the opportunity to use it to target key prospects at a postcode level.

“Partially Addressed Mail fills that middle gap. It mopped up the areas that we couldn’t get to with direct mail. With door drops you identify what postal regions will work for you. With Partially Addressed Mail the benefits are that you can really hone in at a granular level on the streets more likely to respond and those areas where you don’t already have an individual relationship. It is a great filler.” - Karen Pierre, Marketing Manager – Donor Recruitment, RSPCA

It was essential to make sure the campaign was safe, ethical and fitted with the Data Protection Guidelines and those from The Fundraising Regulator. Working closely with the legal team of both RSPCA and Edit, it was decided to cap the targeting at 75 years old where possible to protect the vulnerable, particularly given the broader situation with Covid-19. Addresses close to the Scottish border were also excluded so not to impact on activity from SSPC – Scotland’s animal rescue charity.

“As an organisation it is important that the supporters are put first, we followed the guidelines around data protection, and those from The Fundraising Regulator. We worked really closely with our compliance teams to assess the risks that might have been involved. Also, we made sure that we took into account the vulnerability of the individuals, so we put an age cap on the data.” - Karen Pierre, Marketing Manager – Donor Recruitment, RSPCA

Finally, care was taken to exclude existing donors who would receive the warm mailing so as not to bombard them and/or waste budget. 

With the data in place, RSPCA set out to create a pack that would motivate prospects to donate. Adapted from the Christmas mailing that was in creation for warm donors, the pack invited prospects to ‘Join the Winter Rescue’. The outer showed the moving image of a dog who needed to be rescued. Inside the letter told the heart-breaking story of Bella who had been severely neglected during the last festive season, with a clear call to action to help rescue more dogs like her from suffering at Christmas. 

Based on the previous learnings, a traditional letter and envelope mailing pack was determined to be the most responsive format. Insight also showed that the target audience preferred to respond by post or by phone, so the pack included a BRE (Business Reply Envelope) and a clearly sign posted telephone number alongside a web address for those who wished to respond online. 

To understand the true performance of each channel, creative and format were kept consistent across addressed mail, PAM and door drops. This served as an even baseline to monitor media performance without the addition of other testing variables skewing results. It also kept costs down, maximising economies of scale as well as streamlining the sign off process and lowering the carbon footprint of the campaign.

RSPCA and Edit worked with Royal Mail to ensure that the pack was hard-working and responsive.  3M VAS eye-tracking was used to analyse the creative. It identified opportunities to strengthen the branding and optimise the direct response elements.  Given the importance of gaining contactable donors, the eye-tracking also ensured that the relevant sections of the donation form were clear and easy for the donor to respond to, including Gift Aid opt in.

Finally, the timings of dropping direct mail and door drop campaign in the run up to Christmas was key. Previous analysis showed two weeks of above the line activity ahead of direct response created a halo of brand awareness that helped convert response. Using this learning, RSPCA dropped the cold mail, door drops and PAM after two weeks of TV and digital advertising to capitalise on the brand awareness and drive response and donations.


This fully integrated campaign was RSPCA’s best performing Christmas campaign ever! 

Through clever targeting, the right mix of media deployed at the right time and an emotive and highly optimised pack, RSPCA smashed through their already bold forecasts.

Across the entire campaign, donation revenue was 87% above target. Overall, 47% more donors were recruited than target, with cold addressed mail delivering 150% more donors than target. Revenue from Partially Addressed Mail was 88% higher than predicted. The ROI on door drops improved by 59%.  

Due to the resounding success of the Christmas campaign, the RSPCA found a new confidence in mail in all its forms and delivered 2 more highly successful campaigns in 2021, generating much needed revenue with the absence of face-to-face fundraising because of on-going Covid restrictions. 



Source: Karen Pierre, Marketing Manager – Donor Recruitment, RSPCA

Keep up to date

Join the thousands of subscribers experiencing the magic of mail. Get creative inspiration, latest innovations, thought leadership and free resources delivered to your inbox monthly.

You must provide your first name
You must provide your last name

Royal Mail Group would like to keep in touch with you by email about our products, services and offers that might interest you. Please indicate your consent by subscribing below.

You can withdraw your consent at any time. For more details about this and how we handle your data, please read our Privacy Policy Privacy Policy.