Brand Health Check: The Salvation Army

Article excerpt

The staunchly traditional charity is struggling to attract donations ahead of more fashionable causes. Ed Kemp reports.

While many charities have changed with the times, The Salvation Army's evolution since its foundation by William Booth in 1878 has been rather less marked.

To this day, Salvationists, more affectionately known as members of the Sally Army, adhere rigidly to the principles laid down by its founder Drinking and gambling are forbidden, as is smoking because Booth regarded tobacco as 'injurious to health, a waste of money and a disagreeable thing to inflict on others'.

But these values are failing to chime with the public. Even donations to The Salvation Army from its own members, which make up nearly a tenth of total revenues, declined by 12% between 2005 and 2006 to pounds 20m, while legacy funds shrank by 6% to pounds 35m. This has led the charity to address its fundraising issues; last month it hired Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw to handle its pounds 6m direct marketing account.

The Salvation Army provides a wide range of social welfare services, spanning homelessness centres, drug rehabilitation programmes, medical facilities, schools and emergency relief for the victims of extraordinary events, such as the recent floods and the London bombings on 7 July 2005. Central to its work remains persuading people of all ages to become 'God's disciples'. But at a time when mainstream religious following is on the wane in the UK, the church and registered charity is finding it increasingly difficult to fill its coffers.

In recent years, The Salvation Army has managed to generate revenue through the widescale sale of property and grants for its social work. Indeed, last year the organisation enjoyed an increase in total income to pounds 236m, up from pounds 207m in 2005. According to the charity's 2005/06 annual report, the disposal of assets and 'other income' accounted for 20% of revenues, while a quarter was raised through social services. Just last month, The Salvation Army sold its citadel in Newark, Nottingham for pounds 400,000, but continued reliance on this revenue stream is clearly unsustainable.

We asked The Team client partner Viv Wilcock, who has worked with charities including the British Red Cross and Shelter, and WDMP board director Gina Larter, whose clients have included the Royal British Legion, what The Salvation Army can do to get its donation boxes rattling again.

DIAGNOSIS 1 - VIV WILCOCK CLIENT PARTNER, THE TEAM

The good work of The Salvation Army is hidden behind layers of history and reams of archaic language which fails to deliver a clear and compelling proposition.

My lasting impression of the charity is of uniformed brass bands playing at Christmas. It is an almost impossible leap of faith for the uninitiated to see it as being, as it states, 'responsible for monitoring the safe storage and fair distribution of thousands of tonnes of . …