2021 was the Dandelion Support Network’s 10th anniversary and most challenging year – both experiences lead to a new fundraising initiative.

Two facts about the pandemic: babies continued to be born and already challenging circumstances got even worse for many families experiencing disadvantage. For a broad range of reasons – including family violence, illness and disability, and job loss – some families find it difficult to provide their babies and children will all the material essentials they need for a safe start. 

Thank goodness then for organisations such as NSW-based Dandelion Support Network, who accept, sort and safety check children’s new and preloved clothes and nursery items (such as cots, prams and car seats) for families in need. This material aid is distributed to families via partnerships with hospitals and support agencies.  

In the 2020/21 financial year, Dandelion’s team of five staff and 60 volunteers partnered with 612 social workers at 207 social welfare agencies and hospitals across 35 Local Government Areas to support 1957 families. But last year’s significant numbers represented a decline in the number of people the charity could help. With lockdowns and travel restrictions putting a dent in both the number of supporters who could drop off donations, and the amount of home visits support agencies could undertake, the number of families Dandelion were able to help between October 2020 to September 2021, compared to October 2019 to September 2020, decreased by 23%.  

Not only was 2021 significant because of COVID-19 and the challenges it presented, but it was also Dandelion’s 10th birthday. The organisation wanted to do something special to recognise this milestone, as well as raise vital funds to support their work, with demand growing as families emerged from lockdown having experienced profound social isolation.  

What they decided upon was Dandelion Day, a fundraiser held during the last two weeks of November that encouraged supporters to host a baby shower at home, in the workplace, at school, or within a community group. Participants were asked to come together (virtually or in-person if restrictions allowed) and make a gift of money and/or material aid.  

The campaign was hosted on Raisely and organisers could access helpful resources in the virtual event kit. Any financial support or donated nursery items, preloved or new, generated by the event would go directly to help families in need throughout Greater Sydney and the Illawarra. 

We asked Gabrielle Humphreys, Operations and Volunteer Manager at the Dandelion Support Network to tell us more.  

Gabrielle, what was the thinking behind Dandelion Day? Was there a gap in the market for a campaign like this and why was the campaign proposition the right fit for your audience and mission?
We wanted to celebrate our 10th birthday by launching a new annual fundraising event that would work in a COVID landscape. We wanted to raise awareness of the amazing work we do and ensure we had funding and donations to support vulnerable families in Christmas 2021 and beyond. We also needed a flexible campaign that could work in multiple scenarios of lockdown restrictions, as well as secure physical nursery, and financial, donations. 

Did the campaign return the results you were hoping for? 
Dandelion Day 2021 has raised $19,000 to date [against a target of $30,000], encouraged community donations of over 12,000 new and preloved nursery items and spread some true joy throughout the community. Baby showers were hosted in local businesses, community organisations, childcare centres and backyards. In the spirit of 2021, there were virtual baby showers as well as in-person get togethers.   

The event may have raised $19,000 [note this is more than shown on the Raisely page due to offline donations], however that wasn’t the whole story. The campaign directly prompted a corporate raffle that raised an additional $15,000. It also led to a spike in our Christmas Toy Drive and increased engagement through our social media.   

It allowed us to share our story on our 10th birthday with a significant online presence, social media reach and press coverage. As a grassroots nonprofit with no recurrent government funding, we rely wholly on the generosity of our community and Dandelion Day will allow us to continue to support vulnerable families as we start a new year navigating COVID. The campaign helped us work towards our vision that all babies and children have access to nursery items essential for their safety, wellbeing, and development. 

Was hosting a baby shower the main call to action for the campaign? How many baby showers took place and how much of the final fundraising result did they account for (versus general donations to the campaign)?
Hosting a baby shower was definitely the main call to action. We had 20 registered baby showers, however we know that we had more collection days than that from the informal gatherings and call outs we’ve seen. It is worth pointing out that it was still a time when people were hesitant to meet in groups and rules were ever-changing. The baby showers predominantly facilitated donations of nursery items both new and preloved. We also had amazing community partners, such as Little Party Hire who rented a community hall to host an event and [community service] KCS was a donation site for a whole week, securing a full van and carload of donations, as well as hosting their own baby shower.

A van stacked high with donations made at Dandelion Day baby showers.

How did you find the balance of asking for both financial and material aid donations? Do you think they cannibalised each other? Did you see an increase in the amount of material aid donated? 
We saw a significant increase in the material items donated, a significant increase in enquiries from the community and an increase in awareness of our service and the items we receive. Well in excess of our goal of 12,000 items were donated to us we actually had to hire a storage unit. Next year we will look at coordinating corporate and community volunteer working bees to help us process, sort and clean the items.  

A volunteer with some of the 12,000 items of material aid donated because of Dandelion Day.

What channels did you use to promote the campaign?
Instagram, Facebook, local mums’ groups, local Facebook groups and, thanks to incredible support from Vu Consulting, we secured coverage in the media and event listing pages.  

Which channels worked best?
Facebook worked best for reach and Instagram worked best for calls to action.  

How much did you spend on the campaign (including paid advertising)?
We were lucky enough to have the pro bono support of Vu Consulting (PR) and Graphe Design (graphic design), so our spend was minimal. 

What were your learnings from the campaign – will you run the campaign again in 2022 and, if so, what will you do differently next time?
We will definitely run the campaign again because it was a joyful way to connect with our community and to support vulnerable families post lockdown. This year we will run the campaign for a full month in November to make it easier for community groups to participate.  

 We will also host our own baby shower to facilitate maximum community engagement. One of the biggest learnings is the knowledge that even in the most difficult of years, it is possible to launch new initiatives. It also confirmed the impact of setting up multiple [material aid] donation sites through community partners. We had done this previously, but it had become a casualty of COVID.  

To understand the impact of the campaign and your work, how many families did you help in November and December? 
In November and December 2021, we worked with 242 social workers from 121 social welfare agencies and hospitals to support 412 families and a total of 819 children. 35% of these families were experiencing domestic violence. Sadly, as we were just emerging from lockdown, half of the families we helped were experiencing severe isolation and a lack of support. 

To watch coverage of the campaign on the TODAY show, click here 

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