Australia for UNHCR Supporting vulnerable refugees during COVID-19 and other disasters

Australia for UNHCR

A national partner of the UN Refugee Agency, Australia for UNHCR raises awareness and funds to support UNHCR’s global emergency response to the needs of refugees, displaced people and their host communities around the world.

Sparro is committed to the long-term project of modernising and maturing the agency’s digital marketing approach – designed to profitably extend and scale Australia for UNHCR’s life-changing (and life-saving) work.

In 2020, Australia for UNHCR (A4UNHCR) needed to reposition itself almost overnight in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we know, the pandemic came hot on the heels of Australia’s worst bushfire season on record – which had, naturally, become the focus for Aussies looking to offer their support by donating their time and money.

The scale and local nature of the catastrophe meant that, for several months, there was also little to no media reportage of international refugee crises – coverage which A4UNHCR relies on to position their causes front-of-mind and generate donations.

It was clearly an unprecedented situation where we had to be creative with budget and messaging.

We took a close analysis of data showing how market trends in donations and charitable-giving had changed YoY and over the course of the preceding few months. In doing so, we detected an opportunity to pivot the primary focus of A4UNHCR by adjusting its messaging strategy, tone and digital investment to be in tune with the development of the pandemic.

Here we shifted messaging on assets to educate audiences on the development and impact of COVID-19 towards the refugee crisis, emphasising urgency to appeal to the market and the real-world difference those donations could make.

Our ads provided timely updates on the COVID situation in our focus fundraising countries, calling out when cases were detected in individual refugee campaigns. We then quantified donation amounts directly to the focus group – explaining the impact of a $50 donation on supplying medical and hygiene equipment, for example.

As a result, ROAS for COVID-19 messaging performed up to 122% higher than the target ROAS and Australia for UNHCR saw an incremental increase of 60% in donations.



  • Positive digital response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Stay relevant in the Australian market when there is little/no media coverage on refugees, given major bushfire, political and health events (including COVID-19)


  • Shift messaging to emphasise COVID-19’s impact on refugee crisis
  • Create tactical campaigns across multiple integrated channels to gain immediate donations


  • 122% above A4UNHCR’s target ROAS with a completely new strategy and response
  • 60% incremental increase in donations

Finding value and growth in turbulent times

The Sparro team have been incredibly agile in responding and executing campaigns for Australia for UNHCR.

As we are an organization that responds to emergencies globally, having an agency that can provide this level of support is critical to our mandate. They have ensured we are first to market with our paid campaigns while ensuring the creative and targeting are not compromised.

The team has been providing timely market-level insights around the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-changing dynamic. These insights have helped us plan our activity better and make use of opportunities during the COVID crisis.

Our MoM performance has increased significantly and we finished the campaign 122% above target. This is a stellar result in the current economic environment.

Saman Kazmi
Digital Team Lead, Australia for UNHCR

The Result

above ROI target
donations from paid media
of refugees
Morris Bryant
Cameron Bryant
Sparro Digital Marketing Level 12, 35 Tumbalong Boulevard,
Haymarket, NSW Australia
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