Charity campaigns: the low-down
Wednesday 1st October
What do awareness campaigns really achieve in terms of education and changing health behaviours – and just how successful are they at fundraising? Christopher Runchel, research officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer shares his views.
Q: How successful are initiatives such as October's breast cancer awareness month at spreading key health messages?
A: They are very successful, and a really great way for us to engage with our supporters, engage with the media and update them on all the work we're doing in important areas such as research and public health. It goes without saying it's also an important fundraising opportunity for us. Last year we raised nearly £200,000 with our Breakthrough Bake Off alone.
Q: As well as this year's pink bake off, do you have any other pink themes for 2014?
A: We've been asking people to give #2Fingers2BreastCancer by painting two fingernails pink. This was actually an idea from a London-based advertising agency that is supporting us as their charity of the year. They used this as an internal campaign to help them reach their target, then agreed to let us share it as well.
Q: How else do you fundraise in October?
A: The vast majority of the money we raise comes from our corporate partners, such as Marks and Spencer, Avon and ghd, who have supported us for many years. They've really been very generous in sponsoring us: each time a customer buys a certain product during breast cancer awareness month, they make a donation to us. We receive about £5m each year from our corporate partners, and this is money we really need to fund our groundbreaking research.
Q: Does the awareness month have a genuine impact on public knowledge of breast cancer?
A: It's hard to put exact numbers on how successful an initiative such as breast cancer awareness month is when it comes to educating the public. There has been an increase in the number of women consulting their doctors over the years, so that's a good thing. Recently there have also been campaigns launched to monitor this, and in England we have Be Clear on Cancer and in Scotland there's Detect Breast Cancer Early.
Q: What has Breakthrough Breast Cancer achieved this year?
A: The 10th anniversary of the Breakthrough Generations Study was a huge milestone for us this year. It’s the world’s largest study investigating the causes of breast cancer. The hope is that by identifying the root causes of breast cancer we will one day be able to predict the women that are at risk of developing breast cancer and then use that knowledge to prevent them from developing the disease in the first place.
Q: Are charities having to try harder with their campaigns these days?
A: It's true that the charity market is getting more and more saturated, but it's really important to remember that we are all on the same team. We're all fighting to make life better for people. But we need to be aware of the clever new fundraising ideas that people are coming up with: an example is the ice bucket challenge which has now gone viral. Social media is definitely something we have a strong focus on to ensure that our key messages reach the public.
There are still 1,000 women a month dying from breast cancer in the UK alone and we need take our ground-breaking work to the next level by investing in research that has the power to stop breast cancer for good. We aim to do this by focussing on two key research areas: prevention and secondary breast cancer. Almost all deaths from breast cancer are not caused by the breast tumour itself, but by the spread of cancer cells around the body where they form secondary tumours. We are investing a lot of money into understanding how this process happens, so that effective treatments can be developed and lives saved.