Best Overall Short-Term Marketing Initiative 2022

The limited time only, social media and PR driven ‘Safe-Night-a-thon’ event has enabled WOMEN’S REFUGE to provide a record number of Safe Nights for many suffering from domestic violence.

Now is the winter of our content

Women’s Refuge is a haven for those suffering from domestic violence, and its work in eliminating New Zealand’s unacceptable rates of family violence depends to some extent on donations given in its two annual public appeals – summer and winter. 

Typically focused on traditional street appeals, Women’s Refuge raises significantly more in summer, with winter appeals usually bringing in only a third of that raised in summer. The organisation needed winter 2021 to make a bigger impact and win the hearts and wallets of more Kiwis to its cause. With family violence significantly impacted by both seasonality and Covid, winter donations had to match summer, driven by a campaign that got people to take notice of the new ‘Safe Nights’ brand.

Despite a growing epidemic of violence over the past decade, with referrals more than doubling but only representing the tip of iceberg, there has been an increase in charity fatigue. Individual giving flatlined since 2016, becoming more concentrated in fewer, more generous individuals. 

Facing these challenges, those at Women’s Refuge had been swimming frantically to keep their heads above water but struggled to attract enough new donors to keep pace with the growing numbers of women and children at risk. 

What was needed was a change of tack, to flip the typical charity narrative on its head. Instead of accosting a disinterested public with confronting victim imagery or testimonials from those ‘saved’, Women’s Refuge decided to take a more positive and upbeat approach. A practical solution to empower prospective donors with a sense of agency was introduced, focusing on the transformational difference even a small donation would make to someone else’s life, while providing complete transparency about how the money was used. 

The ‘Safe Nights’ campaign is a memorable and motivating promise, reframing Women’s Refuge as an accommodation provider enabling Kiwis to find another family, a safe place to stay. 

For the winter appeal, Women’s Refuge developed a charity auction fit for an Aotearoa living through Covid. The ‘Safe-Night-a-thon’ was a limited, time only, social media and PR driven event, where for just $20 (the cost of a Safe Night) every New Zealander could put themselves in the running to win their choice of 11 money-can’t-buy experiences. Live for 10 days (from Friday August 6th to Sunday August 15th, 2021), it was a donation vehicle in its own right, and a way to build the profile of Women’s Refuge to kickstart the more traditional side to the annual winter appeal.

Women’s Refuge, with the help of the team at EightyOne, spent countless hours, both activating various contacts and cold calling, to create a portfolio of desirable and newsworthy experiences. Ensuring that the breadth of celebrities and partners on offer meant that anyone could find an experience (or more than one) for them (or their mum, dad, gran, kids, or mates) to enjoy.

In the end there were experiences like mini-golf with Dr Ashley Bloomfield and a private concert with the NZSO, to creating your own Whittakers’ flavour and a ride-along with Officers Minogue and O’Leary from Wellington Paranormal. 

In addition to being a prize, each experience was a mini content engine designed to promote the event and drive donations over 10 days, and another opportunity to get Safe Nights on people’s radar afterwards, by re-sharing the winners’ stories.

Being a charity, Women’s Refuge needed Safe-Night-a-thon to get maximum eyeballs across the country at minimal cost.

A video introducing each experience, directed people to a dedicated site to be ‘in it to win it’ by donating a Safe Night. The video, and accompanying social posts, were packaged up for each influential celebrity partner (including Karen Walker, Beauden Barrett, Benee, 7 Sharp’s Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells, to post to their followers on their own social channels during the 10-day event. In effect, each partner became another social channel to promote the event.

The newsworthiness of the experiences generated significant momentum for Safe-Night-a-thon in the media. The appeal launched as front-page news in the Dominion Post and on Newshub TV. It was also picked up by The Breeze and Magic, with DJs promoting the event on their own social channels, as well as featuring on major online news outlets (Stuff, Scoop, MSN). 

It is estimated this PR push got the message out to 500 thousand New Zealanders, representing an estimated media value of over $200,000 across 10 days.

Women’s Refuge emailed its database of supporters and previous Safe Night donors to prompt them to give again and developed a day-by-day social plan of shareable experience content to enable followers and advocates to spread the word.

A modest, paid social and digital (including VoD) budget was used to amplify earned and owned media, to further expand reach and retarget those who’d engaged with an experience but were yet to be in to win, and placements were negotiated across NZ Herald, Stuff, Facebook, YouTube, and TVNZ. 

The team also leveraged contextual targeting to increase relevance – for example targeting fashion and music on Trade Me with Karen Walker and Benee experiences respectively, as well as more specific targeting such as classical music lovers of NZSO with a NZSO experience on Facebook.

Post-event, momentum was maintained through sharing a short film of the winners’ experiences with celebrity participants through owned channels, with a call to action to donate to help more families on

Generous Kiwis helped exceed ambitious targets. The 10-day Safe-Night-a-thon itself raised 12,791 Safe Nights (2791 over target) – equivalent to $255,820.

A further $50,080 (2504 Safe Nights) was raised via during the month of August from people who wanted to support the cause but didn’t want to enter the competition – an 84 percent year-on-year increase through this channel.

The 2021 Winter Appeal was the best ever for Women’s Refuge, and a huge increase on that raised during the previous pre-Covid Winter Appeal, and significantly more than the previous Summer Appeal.

More importantly, Women’s Refuge funded an abundance of Safe Nights for women and children in need.  

Best Overall Short-Term and Not-for-Profit Marketing Initiative


National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges Inc

Marketing Initiative


Marketing Partner


Judges’ Comments

“Simple consistent messaging that has become a comms currency, with an execution that reached a wide audience/ mass market appeal and unique hooks. The judges were impressed by the cleverness of the creative and complexity of the execution, leveraging the audiences of the influencers involved. It has a platform that can be built on and leveraged annually. Importantly, they exceeded their goals with a 700 percent increase vs LY campaign and funded over 31,000 safe nights when NZ needed it most.”


(Not-for-Profit Short-term Marketing Initiative) Born Bred; Dementia Auckland; Motor Neurone Disease Association NZ

This article was originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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