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Why is Help for Heroes so Successful?


Last week Third Sector reported that Help for Heroes had received over £600,000 in donations following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich.  This adds to the impressive sum of over £150m the charity has raised and allocated in just a handful of years since its creation in 2007.

How come they are so successful when many other established charities are finding it tougher right now?

From an outsider’s (and a sector watcher’s) perspective, here are some of the things I see that seem to differentiate Help for Heroes from other charities:

  • Lots of media coverage generated using the powerful and very personable stories of wounded service men and women. Including well-targeted partnerships like the Sun whose readers tend to support the armed forces
  • Lots of high profile and well-supported fundraising events
  • Many well-targeted celebrity endorsements… you’ll notice that it takes more than fame to be successful.  It’s about a connection to the cause AND to the audience that will support it eg; Lawrence Dallaglio and the Twickenham rugby crowd or Mark Cavendish and cycling fans who ride in their thousands for the charity
  • Lots of proactive media stories created by the charity itself and offered to various media programme makers
  • Strong organisation across an intensive events programme
  • Hugely motivated community fundraising volunteers
  • Relatively little direct marketing fundraising activity to generate complaints
  • A relatively new charity that has not been asking for the same help for many years
  • They do not appear to guilt supporters into giving.  There is no political finger-pointing or being drawn into the rights and wrongs of the various conflicts being waged currently.  The focus is on helping the people who serve and get hurt.
  • They appear to be well-organised – capable of putting on large events successfully and at responding to opportunities at short notice with equal vigour.

The mixture of all of the above enables the charity to continue to raise money and support wounded service personnel but I don’t doubt for a second that one of the main reasons they are so well supported is because they are filling a gap in care that the public strongly feels should not be there.

The fact that we are at war is open for debate, of course, but most members of the public seem to agree that there is an injustice.  When a soldier follows orders, as they are expected to, gets injured in the line of duty and then is not helped by the very government that sent them into danger in the first place, many folks perceive a very real injustice.

Help for Heroes exists to counter this particular failing and I suspect the public will continue to support them whilst we continue to see daily stories of soldiers being wounded in active conflicts and the tragic aftermath of attacks like that on Drummer Rigby.

I think the charity’s beneficiaries do an outstanding job through their actions and outlook on life to promote the cause, which, aligned to all the media activity above will probably ensure their continued success beyond the current conflicts in the Middle East.

To sum up, I believe their success is a product of all these factors working effectively together (and credit where it’s due to the team) but that it is very much enabled by the current sense of our society not doing enough through official channels to support service personnel which is still being widely reported.  That’s not to take anything away from Help for Heroes; they spotted a need and are effectively working with the public and organisations to meet it.

What do you think?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Veronica Radakin permalink
    05/06/2013 5:06 pm

    In addition to your well informed observations I should like to add the following. Firstly, there exists a psychological contract between the Armed Forces and the nation that recognises the debt owed to those who serve on our behalf. So, regardless of the politics involved we are perhaps more motivated as a nation to give to Help for Heroes. In doing so we are acknowledging the psychological contract and balancing the debt.

    Secondly, Help for Heroes have effectively cornered their own market by negotiating with the Armed Forces to be ‘the’ charitable point of interface for the nation. This streamlines the process for the Armed Forces and provides an easy route to giving for anyone who wishes to be involved.

    Help for Heroes have understood the drivers to giving for their cause, making it easy for us as a nation to give and easy for the Armed Forces to accept.

    • 07/06/2013 10:58 am

      Thanks for your thoughts Veronica. I think your second point is so key… it’s about access to the right channels for communication and generating support and this has been done so well.

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