APOPO: Raising Funds and training rats to save lives!


Raising funds is important for many causes and the team at APOPO have attacked the fundraising front with a very well planned approach – and it shows! Within the first 24 hours of launch, three out of four “RatWear” campaigns had already reached their selling goal!


How was APOPO able to achieve this? Paul Delbar, APOPO’s public fundraising manager, has kindly agreed to provide insight on how his team prepared for this fundraising campaign as well as some of the successful promotional methods they are currently using.

To begin, please tell us more about APOPO and your amazing HeroRATs.
Our mission is to leverage the exceptionally strong sense of smell of the African Giant Pouched rats for humanitarian purposes. We breed and train them to detect the TNT that is a key component of landmines and all kinds of ammunition, so we can find and remove them from the land. When we are done, the land is once more available for the local communities to grow food, graze cattle or to let children play.

But we can also train them to recognize tuberculosis, and increase the speed and accuracy of detecting this widespread disease. Detection is important, because every TB patient can infect 10 – 15 other people every year when he or she is not treated.

Why did you decide to use Fabrily for this fundraising campaign?
We regularly received requests for merchandising, but as we are a global organization with a limited staff, we did not want to handle fulfillment and sales ourselves. There are many different partners and as many different business models available, but the campaign model Fabrily uses appealed to us, as did the level of shipping cost across the globe.

How did your team develop the idea for the “RatWear” campaigns? Do you plan to offer more merchandise to your supporters in the future?
We are keen to maintain a strong brand image, and the concept of a HeroRAT-branded line of apparel was fairly logical for us. Calling it RatWear (and BratWear for the junior line) makes it easy to catch the concept of the campaigns: APOPO-branded apparel relating to our work, covering both the fun part and the deeper issue with slogans. We plan to run more campaigns on a regular basis, run design contests and involve our audience to pick the best ones, while maintaining a recurring base set of designs people will always be able to buy.

Can you tell us how you prepared for your Fabrily campaign?
When it comes to deciding on tee designs, everyone becomes an expert. We felt it was best to ask the audience, so Robin Toal, our social media guru, set up a Facebook poll where we asked people to give feedback on three types of designs: case-related slogans, arty designs or fun designs. In two days time, we had hundreds of people voting and telling us what they liked, and provide very useful feedback in the process. Because of the strong feedback, we launched the campaign on Facebook only – yes, we do have an email list, but the people who voted get ‘first pick’.

Were there any specific actions you took during campaign preparation and promotion that you feel helped you to achieve your campaign goals so quickly?
You could say that asking people for input created some form of expectation, and we followed through within weeks. We also limited the choice of designs, because we had no real idea how many people would actually order. Our final designs are close to the ones we asked input on, but they were adapted based on the feedback we got. The main success factor is that we have a crazy, engaged, enthusiastic Facebook supports crowd!


APOPO displayed their fundraising items on their website with eye-catching images and text which linked to their campaign store

How has your campaigning experience been thus far?
Once designing the tees is done, the fun usually stops. From that point, it’s debating design file specs, arguing prices, passing user complaints on … usually. In this case, our Fabrily rep (Kate) was always only a Skype-call away, and whatever the question we asked, the answer came within minutes. That makes all the difference – being able to leave the operational side to people who know their business, let you run yours and provide advice and input where needed (even to keep you from doing the wrong thing). So yes, the experience was very positive. 

Can you offer any advice to other organizations and individuals looking to raise funds and awareness through Fabrily?
We’re still at the beginning of our journey with Fabrily, but a few things are quite clear already. First of all, ask your audience what they want, and deliver that. Second, run a trial as we did, and get real numbers on what volume is realistic. That helps decide how often you can run a new campaign. Third, use Fabrily as more than simply a logistics partner – we got some real good advice on what works and what does not, how to position a campaign.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
We sold 130 tees, hoodies and onesies in less than a week, using only Facebook as a promotional tool. That’s way more than we expected, but we could not have managed the promotion effort and the Facebook interaction if we had had to also keep an eye on the fulfillment. I’m glad we chose Fabrily as a partner, and I’m looking forward to new campaigns, new Fabrily features and more sales!

The Fabrily Team would like to extend a big “thank you” to Paul and his team at APOPO for providing insight and advice on their campaigning experience. To learn more about this wonderful organization please visit their website and connect with APOPO on Facebook and Twitter. You can reserve your own “RatWear” item too – visit their Fabrily campaign store today!




  1. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely
    long)so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I haad written annd say, I’m thoroughly enjoying yur
    blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new
    to everything. Do you have any recommendations foor rookie
    blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

    1. Hi Shellac,

      Not sure what happened with your other comment. I’m really glad you are enjoying the blog. That’s a tough question you’ve asked there, but I would just say try and know who exactly it is you are writing for, and create content that is compelling for them.

      I hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s