Helsinki Children’s Hospital had dilapidated over the years, and in 2013 the deterioration had reached a level that was unbearable for both the staff and the already ill children. A group of private individuals got eventually enough and founded an support organisation for the construction of a new children’s hospital. Myy Agency took the responsibility of the fundraising’s communication as a pro bono case, despite the project seeming daunting in both its size and difficulty.
The project set a fundraising goal of 30 million euros, a large sum in a country Finland’s size. The financing structure of the project also differed drastically from the traditional ways of funding the construction of public facilities, on top of which the competitive environment in fundraising was tougher than ever before.
We were a public laughing stock: why would people donate their money for the construction of hospital in a country known for its high taxation? Nevertheless, we were determined to make the impossible happen.
Effective communication: a short guide
The support organisation’s board was working their backs sweaty for the case, and actively networked with businesses to reach collaborations. Thousands of fundraising activities carried out on a volunteering basis played an important role alike. The partnering communication and marketing agencies put as much effort in the project as they did on those of their own customers, and we were lucky to get to collaborate with a large media house.
The communication strategy was formulated well before launching the fundraising campaign. To stand out, the campaign had to catch the attention of the masses, without shocking people or trying to gain pity points with the sick children.
The campaign communication thus had a positive focus: we build the children a new hospital. Period. Additionally, we had to convincingly explain why everyone should donate for the cause. What partly made the campaign interesting was that the project was different from other Finnish fundraisings, and the message between the lines was that the public sector had failed to fulfil its duties.
Our target group was – humbly – all Finnish enterprises and everyone living in the country.
Get ready, set, go!
Immediately after the campaign launch, New Children’s Hospital was on everyone’s lips, with some strongly supporting the project, but also many expressing their scepticism. With a clear communication strategy and carefully planned crisis communication we slowly but steadily got our message through to people. Questioning and even critical discussion in social and other medias played out well for us – the awareness of the project increased exponentially.
The communications director was Anne Berner, in addition to whom many others were couched for effective media interactions. New Children’s Hospital became a social movement with many volunteers holding various events and promotions all over Finland.
Openness and determination
At least one in ten news about the project had a negative or at least sceptical tone – how much false information was flying around online chat forums we cannot even estimate. Our communication used systematically the same messages that were also used to clear any misunderstandings. From the beginning, being open about the fundraising was a priority for us.
The communication was conducted via various channels on a daily basis. After just one year, whopping 97 percent of Finns knew about the project – compare this with our original awareness goal of 50 percent of the population! Within the same period, New Children’s Hospital gained over 1400 media hits.
Enjoy the results
Keep calm and carry on is a good piece of advice for reaching success. Staying focused despite the storm of rumours, questions, and criticism resulted in us reaching the goal of fundraising 30 million euros in just one and half years. We are excited and looking forward to the New Children’s Hospital opening its doors in a few weeks.