Raising funds with a record-breaking virtual tea party

The Brief

With lockdown coming into force in the UK, Guide Dogs decided to adapt their community fundraising work and host their first virtual tea party for National Tea Day on 21st April.  

The public were invited to come together online to support Guide Dogs. A host of celebrity supporters got on board to help spread the word about the event, raise funds, and smash the Guinness World Record attempt for the largest number of people attending a tea party online.  

Virtual tea party guests were asked to donate the equivalent of the price of a cup of tea to Guide Dogs.  

To be part of the Guinness World Record attempt, supporters had to share a selfie enjoying their favourite cup of tea between 3pm and 4pm on National Tea Day, 21st April 2020.  

Insights and Approach

We were clear that online media interest in this type of story would hinge on demonstrating social media traction, and so it was important that a buzz was building on social media in advance 

Our strategy was also based on our insight that the world record attempt was unlikely to generate coverage in itself, only becoming news after the record was achieved.  Our aim therefore was to drive participation before the record attempt and high profile celebrity involvement was critical to our success. 

Our strategy had four phases: 

  1. Pre-launch: Gathering video content and celebrity images for social media. 
  2. Media launch: Extensive media outreach to national online and broadcast media, centering around the participation of well-liked British celebrities.  
  3. On the day: Celebrity dog lover Martin Clunes did a live television interview with Good Morning Britain surrounded by his dogs encouraging people to join. 
  4. Post-event: Barley carried out more media outreach immediately after the event showcasing famous faces who supported. 

The Outcome

The virtual tea party raised a phenomenal £44,107. This was a fantastic outcome for Guide Dogs, particularly given their tea party community fundraising work raised £60,000 in the whole of 2019. 

A total of 4,021 people shared a selfie in the allotted hour, smashing the Guinness World Record.  

We secured 368 items of coverage with opportunities to see/hear of just over 598 million, exceeding our total H1 2020 coverage target of 300 articles in just one campaign. 50 items were national coverage, again exceeding our H1 2020 national coverage KPI by 20 articles. 




funds raised from this one event


people shared a selfie in the allotted hour


pieces of coverage

The virtual tea party was a first for Guide Dogs, designed as a much needed replacement for fundraising events while the country is in lockdown. Barley provided excellent advice and support, and we were delighted with the unprecedented level of coverage they generated. It helped us raise awareness of Guide Dogs and smash the Guinness World Record. Importantly, we’ve raised over £44,000 of funds from this one event for our vital support to people with sight loss – that’s three quarters of the fundraising we’d normal expect from a whole year of real-life tea parties.

Pam White | National Community Fundraising Campaigns Manager, Guide Dogs UK