40,000 Strong – how strong creative led to strong fundraising results

Speaker from Help4Heroes at Raw London's Relay event

Lexi Short, Senior Campaigns Manager, and Andy Johnson-Creek, Head of PR, at Help for Heroes joined our latest Relay event Grow Your Giving: How cutting-edge creative is driving fundraising in 2020. As a relatively young charity, they face a series of ongoing brand challenges to keep the cause relevant and ensure people understand the ongoing need for services that support veterans. 

With a small budget and a relatively new marketing function, Help for Heroes needed to create a public-facing campaign that would shift the dial across brand and fundraising, with a consistent message that highlighted the relevancy of the cause. The key objectives were to: 

  1. Increase brand health, specifically on consideration and intent with 2 key ACORN audience groups. 
  2. Create a change in government to review the current discharge practice. 
  3. Raise £160k in direct cash donation and drive supporter acquisition.

40,000 Strong

The final campaign creative utilised a central hook or visual mechanism to reinforce the key insight, show the scale of the problem and build consistency across multiple touch points. 

The physical installation of 40,000 toy figures represents each of the 40,000 people who have been medically discharged from the armed forces in the last 20 years. To make the creative more relatable, the figures are representative of 7 real beneficiary ambassadors featured plain clothed, without weapons, looking positive and to the future. In fact, they are exact 3D replicas of the 7 veterans in 5cm green plastic.

These beneficiary ambassadors became the focus of the campaign and their real-life stories were featured across the content mix in videos, written communication and as the core visual motif alongside the installation. This helped to reinforce the point that each of these toys represent a real person with real challenges. 

Launching the campaign

The installation launched in Manchester, and the campaign earned blanket coverage across Sky, BBC, ITV, C5 and 25 regional radio interviews, and targeting the MOD and the government with punchy headlines and strong imagery also lead to wall to wall print coverage.

Targeted out of home, display and social media ad campaigns worked really well to coincide with the media activity and, to make the best possible use of the budget, were geo-targeted to Manchester where the military connection is 3 x more than the rest of the UK.

These learnings were then taken to run mini installations across the country, with supporting local online and media campaigns. The toy figures remained the visual motif across the whole content mix . Keeping the message consistent in this way increased the resonance and impact, and made it easy for people to follow across touch points.

Optimising for digital channels 

Help for Heroes worked directly with Facebook and their creative shop on the digital activation of this campaign, and saw dividends in optimising each piece of content for the intended channel. This offered an opportunity to really think about the way audiences would really engage with the content, and what would encourage them to stop and think. 

The 7 beneficiaries also became online brand ambassadors, sharing everything across social media, wrapping the brand story into their public speaking and going on to do fundraising events on behalf of the charity. This created a holistic story for the brand and the campaign, adding a huge sense of authenticity.


  1. The campaign beat all brand objectives, driving consideration and intent in the target audience. The index trust and consideration also increased across all audiences and is now at the highest point for 3.5 years.
  2. Taking the message into the public space and making headlines with the veterans led to significant breakthroughs in Public Affairs.
  3. This campaign tackled the challenge of driving both brand and direct response, beating the fundraising target with 5 more weeks to go. 60% of donations so far are directly from the figures, with the average donation per figure at £3.16 more than expected. There has also been an increase in regular giving and payroll giving, which wasn’t mentioned at all but subliminal giving has come through. 
  4. Additionally, the 7 beneficiaries and their figures have generated a user generated movement on social media, prompting people to share their stories. This is led to an opportunity to learn and build on the success, planning to end the campaign with ‘I am one of the 40,000’ engagement campaign. 

Key learnings 

Single story through all of your campaign communications. 

Invest in high quality and optimised content to maximise your content mix.

Regional engagement can be a hidden gem – both on and offline.

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