I love the NHS. For me it’s been the place where life starts as our four children were all born in the local NHS hospital, it’s where life is extended as it gave us all extra time with my mum before she eventually lost her fight with cancer and it’s where the quality of life is improved as the NHS repaired my knee and got me playing tennis and football again.
It’s an institution that I am passionate about, that I am grateful for and that I am immensely proud of.
So when Jeremy Hunt, who happens to be my local MP, was given the role of Health Secretary last year, I was worried. Of course the NHS isn’t perfect, but I don’t agree that parts of it would work better under private ownership and I don’t want to see him, or any government, selling it off.
It was at that point the 38 Degrees contacted me. They had a plan:
“From day one, let’s make sure he knows how important our NHS is. Let’s deliver him a huge open letter, signed by thousands of us, telling him that we’ll stand strong to protect our NHS. Let’s make it clear we’ll challenge him every step of the way if we need to. Can you add your name today?”
You bet I could.
So far, so good. I felt better (I’d done something) and I wasn’t on my own. But it’s what followed that I think was brilliant.
38 Degrees is a campaigning organisation, but if asking for donations sits slightly uncomfortably it doesn’t show. With great timing, they followed up with a donation ask.
But this wasn’t any ordinary ask. 38 Degrees’ plan was to buy some advertising space in ‘The Times – Hunt’s favourite newspaper’. To ‘prove we really mean business, and put our message where he really won’t want to see it. Can you chip in to splash our warning to Jeremy Hunt across a full-page advert in The Telegraph or The Times?’
Of course I gave.
And four days later, my ad was in the paper. How great did I feel?
It’s a great story which I share because it’s a great example of how campaigning and fundraising can work together.
For all the lessons we can take, I think the most important thing they got right was the ask. They didn’t just assume that because I take part in campaigns with them that I’d be happy to fund their campaigning infrastructure, they gave me an opportunity to pay towards saving the NHS, something they knew I really cared about.
And they didn’t simply assume that because I had taken part in an NHS campaign through 38 Degrees, that I was ready to jump straight to an unrestricted direct debit.
They realised that the thing I cared about was the NHS, not 38 Degrees. And because of that they got my money, they developed my ‘supporter journey’ and, at the same time, they increased my commitment to the organisation.