Donkey delight as sanctuary’s pandemic plan wins award


The Donkey Sanctuary residents were able to bring a "donkey fix" to their fans during the Covid-19 lockdown.

An innovative event to bring donkeys into people’s homes during the Covid-19 lockdown has won a leading charity a prestigious UK Social Media Award.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s “Sanctuary From Your Sofa” campaign brought donkeys ‘virtually’ into people’s homes during lockdown. Such was its popularity it scooped the Best Audience Engagement Campaign from the UK Social Media Awards, which aim to celebrate the best in UK social media communications and reward the individuals, companies and organisations using online platforms to communicate in fresh and innovative ways.

Because of the Covid-19 lockdown, all six UK premises of The Donkey Sanctuary were temporally closed to the public. The charity knew how much its supporters were missing the donkeys and the tranquillity of the sanctuaries themselves. This environment was exactly the break people needed from the anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic. The charity decided if the public couldn’t come to the sanctuary, then the sanctuary would come to them, and “Sanctuary From Your Sofa” was born.

The event consisted of six 30-minute live broadcasts from the sanctuary’s international headquarters in Sidmouth, Devon, via Facebook.

The charity's residents were able to bring a "donkey fix" to their fans during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The charity’s residents were able to bring a “donkey fix” to their fans during the Covid-19 lockdown. © The Donkey Sanctuary

It gave people the opportunity to “visit” the charity’s main herd of resident donkeys and be shown how the charity’s dedicated grooms were continuing to provide the highest level of care during the coronavirus lockdown. The feel-good event offered audiences the chance to get their donkey fix.

The viewing stats of The Donkey Sanctuary’s virtual event on Easter Sunday, “Sanctuary From Your Sofa”, makes for impressive reading. The total reach was 1.1 million people; 440,000 viewers, 41,000 total engagements and 8300 comments – from Hawaii to New Zealand.

This meant audiences watched 347,000 minutes of live donkey interaction on the day – equivalent to 232 days.

Most impressively, during a time when many parts of the charity sector were struggling with fundraising because of the lockdown, the award-winning event helped The Donkey Sanctuary to achieve a +110% year-on-year increase in online revenue on the event day.

“Sanctuary From Your Sofa” was also a finalist in two other categories: Most Impactful Social Media Innovation and the Best Low Budget Campaign.

Cheryl Martin, Director of Brand & Communications at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Bringing donkeys into people’s living rooms was a key objective of our digital strategy this year, before anyone ever uttered the word ‘lockdown’, and we’re all delighted with the success of our ‘Sanctuary From Your Sofa’.

“We were up against some big-hitting brands and agencies across the three categories, including Samsung and the NHS England Covid-19 campaign: ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’. So, for us to have won is incredible and we couldn’t be more proud.”

Easter Sunday’s event was The Donkey Sanctuary’s first-ever interactive virtual visitor experience.


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