Case Study: #SheInspiresMe by Women for Women International

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Generating a 543 per cent increase in corporate partnerships income, three successful events, 12 per cent growth of the individual database and attracting two new A-list celebrity supporters, the #SheInspiresMe campaign has been a major success by any measure. And all from one hashtag.

The campaign was initially conceived as a way to reach a younger audience. We knew that there are large numbers of young women in the UK who are passionate about women’s rights and gender equality. They are more likely to call themselves feminists than any other age group and have a keen interest in global politics and international development. We knew that our core message would resonate with them, but at the time we did not have a mechanism to engage them effectively. Our main call to action, across all channels, was our £22 per month sponsorship product, which is unaffordable to the majority of this younger demographic.

We also realised that our target audience spent much more time online and on social media compared to our traditional supporters (professionals aged 40-65) and were seeking digital content that they could identify with on a personal level and share with their networks.

Through the #SheInspiresMe campaign, we aimed to speak to them directly. The campaign’s message is rooted in the inspirational stories of the women we serve in some of the world’s most dangerous places, and the remarkable contributions they make to their families and communities. Often invisible and unheard, their achievements go unrecognised – yet they create a “ripple effect” of positive change. We felt that younger feminists would identify with this, and be able to draw connections with the women who had made a difference in their own lives. This gave us a strong, interactive and personal call to action, asking people to share the women who inspired them, and create a “ripple effect” of inspiration. The campaign had four key aims:

  1. Brand-building Women for Women International, under the #SheInspiresMe banner
  2. Creating media opportunities, targeting mainstream titles
  3. Building relationships with new celebrities and influencers who could be authentic spokespeople for our work
  4. Collecting marketable data from our key target audience to build our database

We also realised that the themes of the campaign would resonate strongly with our current donor base, and could support the two main objectives of our UK office: to raise funds for our work with women survivors of war and to raise their voices.

Key messaging

In January 2016, we officially launched the campaign with a film about Fatuma (pictured) – a genocide survivor in Rwanda who tells a hard-hitting, first-hand account of how she turned her life around after enduring horrific ordeals. The key message of the film was that, despite inequality, poverty and violence, our target audience could make a difference: “YOU can inspire hope, courage, passion.” People were asked to sign up to support the campaign by giving us their email address. The film produced a very positive reaction, and reached over 3.9 million people. It was produced as a gift in kind from an agency with which we had never worked before.

The next key moment of the campaign was International Women’s Day on 8 March 2016. Using this hook to engage brand partners and promote the campaign to their audiences, we asked people to pay tribute to the woman who most inspires them on social media using #SheInspiresMe. We conducted an innovative social sharing campaign, with skincare brand Elemis donating £1 per social media post tagging #SheInspiresMe and @ELEMIS. This raised £5,000 through social shares as people nominated their most inspiring female role model, and as a result of this activity, the hashtag was picked up and promoted by Twitter.

Through the continued digital activity, we have grown our email list by 12 per cent in two years and seen impressive growth on our social media. Since January 2016, we have grown our following on Instagram by 412 per cent, and achieved a 212 per cent year-on-year increase in engagements on Twitter.

The response on social media inspired us to take a step further and develop the #SheInspiresMe Sessions, an opportunity to deepen our content marketing activity. We hosted two live streamed events with panellists of influencers and bloggers focused on campaign-relevant themes – sexual violence and mental health. This enabled us to promote the Women for Women International brand to new groups made up of the audiences of the panellists and others interested in these topics.

Expanding scope

Over the course of 2016, we continued to expand the scope of the #SheInspiresMe sub-brand to encompass special events and corporate partnerships – our two largest areas of unrestricted fundraising and priorities for growth.

We first introduced the campaign’s theme via the 2015 #SheInspiresMe Art Gala. This was our most successful event to date, raising over £820,000.

We then introduced a new event to our portfolio that year – the #SheInspiresMe Lunch. The concept was to create a more informal, intimate event than a traditional gala, where guests hear from an inspiring female speaker with firsthand experience of working in women’s rights or related fields.

Our first speaker in 2016 was photojournalist Lynsey Addario, whose work focuses on conflicts and human rights issues. This event has grown significantly year on year, with income of £57,000 in 2015, £72,000 in 2016, and £94,000 in 2017. It offers an ROI of 1:4.

Our supporters in the fashion industry proposed another #SheInspiresMe event – a unique, high-fashion experience accessible to a mass audience. The result was what The Telegraph called “the chicest Car Boot Sale in the world” – held at Brewer Street Car Park in Soho, with a £10 entry price. Booters included fashionistas such as Laura Bailey and Hikari Yokoyama, among others.

In 2016 the event raised over £70,000. The following year revenue doubled to £160,000, while maintaining a high ROI and attended by more than 1,200 people.

Corporate engagement

The campaign creative, a gift in kind from a world-leading agency, gave us more visual and messaging options in addition to our existing logo and branding, while still being intrinsically part of the same brand family. This not only appealed to younger audiences, but also to existing and new corporate partners.

In the corporate sphere, we launched a range of #SheInspiresMe branded products with key partners, including a Monica Vinader bracelet that raised £50,000 and a limitededition version of Elemis’s best-selling face cream. Another corporate partner, L.K.Bennett, co-designed a range of shoes with women graduates of our programme in Kosovo, who hand-embroidered the decorations for the ballet pumps. One hundred per cent of the sales proceeds were donated to Women for Women International.

Before launching this campaign, we had a small corporate partnership programme, which raised £60,000 in 2015. Using the campaign as a hook, we were able to significantly scale up our work with existing partners and also recruit new partners to work with us. As a result, we increased our corporate income by 320 per cent between 2015 and 2016. For 2018, we are predicting corporate income close to £400,000 – a 543 per cent increase since launching the campaign.

Through digital and social activations, the #SheInspiresMe campaign has driven growth in our more traditional media work – last year we secured 287 pieces of coverage in a range of publications including The Guardian, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

We also managed to recruit two celebrity patrons, who have become committed spokespeople for our work. These were Dame Helen Mirren and Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner, who eventually visited Rwanda to see our work in the field and wrote a blog about it.

So what’s next? In the first two full years of activity, the #SheInspiresMe campaign has delivered notable results against our objectives. We have consistently harnessed the campaign’s message to build our brand profile, gain mainstream media coverage and interest new audiences in our work. In 2018, we are planning a brand new #SheInspiresMe event, so watch this space.

Shivonne Graham is the director of fundraising and marketing at Women for Women International (UK) – @shivgraham

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