Working together since:


Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international humanitarian organisation providing medical care in over 70 countries. Fundraising income is key to the delivery of medical care by MSF teams around the world that saves people’s lives in conflict zones, natural disasters and epidemics.

We have worked with MSF for over a decade, accelerating their growth, building their pipeline and overall profit. Our approach and strategy have needed to adapt in response to a changing economic landscape in order to meet our clients’ long-term objectives. These shifts which have also affected charity giving behaviours, mean that our job is to evolve our approaches and demonstrate the value of advertising media as both an effective and efficient way of delivering reliable income growth.



Our strategy for growth was twofold. Firstly, a continued focus on the “business as usual” donor audience complemented by the deployment of an “agreed emergency framework” which outlined our emergency activation approach to maximise on response as soon as an emergency was announced.

Business as usual strategy

Operating fundraising business as usual requires the delivery of a steady and growing stream of regular givers (RG) who donate now and over the long term. This required an insightful audience diagnosis, before implementing a carefully prescribed media approach to improve the ongoing health of MSF’s RG recruitment.

We found during audience insight research that for MSF’s donor base this was crucial knowledge for sharpening the focus of MSF’s RG fundraising advertising. With further research tools we were able to overlay insight into the target audience’s media consumption behaviour. Based on this we used a range of channels including AV, press (both off the page and inserts), radio and door drops.

We used both our own proprietary attribution tools in the short term and then econometrics modelling to give MSF confidence in the relative returns of different media and the optimal budget allocation to maximise overall ROI.

We have delivered success based on our approach to audience insight, identifying a new demographic with characteristics which could be motivated effectively by informative advertising to become committed givers. Our effective campaign infrastructure and measurement refined donor journeys by respecting donors’ data privacy and maximised conversion.

 Agreed Emergency Framework

When we began working with MSF, one of our first recommendations was to implement an ‘Agreed Emergency Framework’. This outlined our emergency activation approach to maximise on response as soon as an emergency was announced. Experience had taught MSF that there were lots of factors outside of its control which also impacted results. These trickier, more nuanced elements were linked to the level of public awareness in the emergency crisis, its news coverage, where in the world it was happening and how long it was likely to last. Our team had to create a quick, workable triage on which to base important decisions around media spend levels, phasing of spend and media selection.

By identifying key data indicators of how the public and media were responding to an emergency and combining this with MSF’s ‘on the ground’ knowledge, three different types of emergency media approach were applied: Emerging Crises, Rapid Crises and Global Medical Emergencies.

Emergency processes and frameworks can only thrive if there is a collaborative team in place to interpret, act and implement them. There were two standout award winning* “campaigns which yielded excellent results for MSF:

  • The Covid-19 appeal whereby MSF needed the funds to provide urgent care during the pandemic. In under two weeks, MSF, MI Media and Crafted worked tirelessly to bring to market a full funnel strategy, from awareness to conversion across 14 media channels – including newly affordable channels as the market and consumption patterns shifted. Agility was key for this to work and, along with the NHS, MSF was the first Covid-19 appeal live on TV. We also employed live planning around big news developments.
  • During the Ebola disease medical disaster, funds were needed imminently to fight the spread of the disease. We put together a tactical media strategy to make the greatest impact. With proactive planning, close monitoring of search trends and close collaboration with MSF’s PR team, we were able to piggyback on the news agenda for fundraising. We launched our biggest pushes at critical moments when crisis awareness peaked and when help was most needed. Our agile approach proved highly valuable with TV delivering an ROI of £5.70 and contributing much needed funds.


Accelerating Growth

Over the past decade we have helped MSF UK to more than double its annual fundraising income which resulted in us being awarded an IPA Effectiveness Award.

This has been powered by audience insight, evidence-based decision making and close collaboration between client and agency specialists. Our audience-centric strategy has been fundamental to delivering sustainable income growth. Then, when dealing with emergencies, our agile approach and close collaboration between client and trusted specialist partners has proven to drive big impact and record-breaking results.

Business as usual

MSF’s business as usual results have been built on the firm foundations of improved audience understanding, evolved media and messaging, improved marketing infrastructure and enhanced measurement. In over a decade we have helped MSF UK to more than double its annual fundraising income from £9.8m in 2011 to £23.2m by end of financial year December the incremental net income driven over this period is over £265m.

Emergency results

The success of our emergency appeals is most clearly seen through the increase in cash giving. Our Covid-19 pandemic appeal was one of our most unique collaborations. We had to turnaround an emergency campaign with a £4m fundraising target during a never-experienced-before lockdown, while adapting to new ways of working and an incredibly fast-changing media landscape. Despite the challenges, the Coronavirus Crisis Appeal results were outstanding. 2020 was their record year for fundraising income with the Covid campaign driving 77% of incremental income. The £4m fundraising target for Covid-19 was exceeded by 55%. The Coronavirus Crisis Appeal best illustrates how our strategy of quick effective triage using key data, combined with a highly collaborative approach works to deliver an effective media strategy that will accelerate growth.

We have given MSF the confidence that through increased investment it can continue to grow whilst maintaining efficiencies. The level of growth over the last 10 years has been transformative for MSF UK and through capturing all important learnings along the way we believe has scope to be continued well into the future.

Accelerating Growth