#YouMadeItHappen: How Alzheimer’s Research UK is thanking supporters for a record year

Alzheimer’s Research UK runners at the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon

Guest Bloggers | 11 October 2019

For #YouMadeItHappen day, Lucy Squance, Director of Supporter-led Fundraising at Alzheimer’s Research UK, explains how the charity is using the day to thank their supporters for fuelling a record-breaking year. She reflects on the progress that their supporters made possible during the last financial year and some of the ways in which her team is working to keep supporters engaged.

In 2018/19, our supporters enabled us to fund more pioneering dementia research than ever before. Our scientists made more than 200 important discoveries during the year, including publishing the biggest ever map of a brain with Alzheimer’s and the development of a machine learning tool that can identify the form and stage of Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia from brain scans alone. 

Voluntary donations, which account for 95% of our income, have grown by 122% over the past four financial years – a clear sign that support for dementia research is at an all-time high. It’s hugely encouraging to see more and more people joining us as we work together to overcome dementia, but this growth in support also underlines a heartbreaking truth: today, more than half of us know someone affected by dementia.

So how do we try to inspire our wonderful supporters and engage more people with the real value that their generous time and money can have in powering dementia research?

A message of hope

Dementia is caused by physical diseases that affect the brain, and history has shown that through research, diseases can be overcome. Look at the incredible progress we’ve made in treating cancer and HIV – there’s no reason why we can’t see the same life-changing developments for people with dementia.

This message of hope underpins all of our communications with supporters, including last year’s Make Breakthroughs Possible campaign. This was our most ambitious awareness campaign yet, and we were delighted that we reached more than 19 million people in the weeks following its launch and started countless conversations about the progress being made through research.

And as Charity of the Year for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon alongside Alzheimer’s Society, we used the opportunity to raise awareness that dementia is not an inevitable part of getting older. A whole host of celebrities with personal connections to dementia, including Candice Brown, Scott Mitchell and Dame Barbara Windsor, lent their support to our joint Dementia Revolution campaign, helping it become one of our most talked about campaigns of all time. And our amazing ‘Revolutionaries’ who took on the iconic route raised an incredible £4 million for the UK Dementia Research Institute, making it the most successful London Marathon Charity of the Year partnership yet.

A personal approach to supporter care

Every year, we’re amazed by the number of people who choose to donate, fundraise and volunteer for us. 2018/19 was no exception with over 42,000 people now making monthly donations, 11,000 people taking on a wide variety of fundraising challenges and more than 1,000 people giving their time.

As more people choose to support our work, we’ve invested in growing our Supporter-led Fundraising team, ensuring that we do our best to offer tailored support and get to know everyone who goes out of their way to support us.

Last year we aimed to ‘surprise and delight’ as many supporters as possible by filming personalised video messages, organising Facebook Live Q&As, offering training support and sending thank you letters from our Chief Executive. And we like to add personal touches where possible – we recently sent bath salts to a supporter struggling with a sore back ahead of their skydive and a woolly hat to a man doing a sponsored head shave! This allows us to embed the #YouMadeItHappen approach of thanking supporters, volunteers, and donors year round.

We also coordinated our charity-wide ‘Thanking day’ in December. This is a special day that gives everyone, including our Directors and Chief Executive, the chance to call or write Christmas cards to supporters to thank them for their incredible efforts during the year.

By understanding an individual’s motivations, offering encouragement along the way, and reporting back on the progress that they’re making possible, we hope that many of our supporters will become life-long advocates for dementia research.

Keeping things fresh

To attract as many new supporters as possible and to encourage fundraisers to support us again and again, we must offer a wide variety of ways in which people can engage with the charity.

That’s why we continue to build on our portfolio of events, introducing several new challenges in 2018/19 including the ARUK Explorer Hike, a 26-mile trek across the Peak District to mark World Alzheimer’s Day, and our new virtual event; ‘Swimming Down Dementia’. This event, like the established ‘Running Down Dementia’, gives fundraisers the freedom to design their own challenge, choosing when and where they cover their chosen distance.

And we built on our fantastic partnership with parkrun UK, introducing ‘Give it Your Best’, a challenge that gives parkrunners the opportunity to turn the minutes and seconds of their best parkrun time into pounds and pence to fund crucial research.

Finally, we’re always keen to listen to our supporters and change the way we work based on their feedback, with a simple but important example being our introduction of running vests made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.

#YouMadeItHappen

So today we are wishing a heartfelt thank you to everyone who chooses to support Alzheimer’s Research UK. You really are helping fuel important progress towards a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.

In return, we promise to make the best use of every donation we receive, to continue to seek new ways to engage people with dementia research and to keep our supporters up-to-date with the impact that their hard work is having.

There’s still a long way to go, but we know that with supporters as amazing as ours, we will make breakthroughs possible.

Lucy Squance is Director of Supporter-led Fundraising at Alzheimer’s Research UK

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