What to consider when marketing for charities.
Charities are a competitive sector. The public perception of charities is sharper and potentially more critical than ever. Charities are also desperately needed yet face shrinking financial resources as the nation tightens its purse strings.
Here, Senior Communications Executive Jude Peppis looks back at her decade of experience in charity communications to look at the key considerations of marketing for charities.
Long for Longevity
Converting someone into a regular charity donor rather than someone who drops a few pennies in a bucket does not happen overnight. It takes time, a spark of an emotional reaction and, of course, money. So, how do you change that tube advert featuring your latest campaign into something hard-hitting rather than white noise? Shock tactics, usually. The RSPCA are well-known for their hard-hitting campaigns on animal welfare, which largely reflect much of what the charity does at the front line. I spent two years in the RSPCA national press office and I was dumbfounded by the types of animal cruelty they were regularly faced with.
“The real way to secure ROI when marketing for charities is to recruit long-term donors”
The real way to secure ROI when marketing for charities is to recruit long-term donors who set up a regular direct debit. This can happen by changing those who, for example, respond to a text-to-donate campaign into regular givers. Research has shown that conversion rates through this method can be as high as 20%. In addition, a monthly donor can be worth up to £700 over the lifetime of a relationship with a specific charity. Although it takes cash to get a campaign like this off the ground, it can be worthwhile marketing for charities in the long term.
Budget, budget, budget
Some charities have surprisingly large marketing budgets and huge teams to spend them. This is totally justifiable when charities need the money to drive back into their core activities. But, charities have to be accountable for every penny they spend. Therefore, the money available for marketing and communications at other charities can be exceptionally tight. This makes the job even tougher when up against those who have big budgets at their disposal, as well as those in the corporate sector, who are all competing for attention in a crowded media space.
“I know this from my own experience”
I looked after the digital marketing for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. During a time when cats were ruling the internet and featuring in ad campaigns such as O2’s Be More Dog, I worked on Battersea’s Cat Takeover campaign. The campaign was a bid to boost cat rehoming rates at a time when the charity was overrun with unwanted moggies. It worked – the charity rehomed more cats than dogs for the first time in its 154-year history. The digital communications I looked after for the campaign even won a CIPR award for the Best Use of Social Media, which recognised its innovative approach on virtually no budget at all.
But, this is not the norm – far from it when it comes to marketing for charities. Charity budgets are open to the scrutiny of both the public who donate that money, internal boards and regulators such as the Charity Commission. Marketing for charities needs to have a clear ROI to avoid criticism for wasting precious financial resources.
Balance is key
There’s been a huge amount of controversy in the press about marketing for charities with people being bombarded with direct marketing. There’s also been a backlash about door to door and street collections. The public is beginning to see charities as more and more corporate – and this is not always a good thing. Although GDPR will go a long way to tightening up how anyone, including charities, can use people’s data, things can still go wrong. Teams throughout a fundraising department from those who look after street collections to those who oversee direct mail, need to have a joined-up approach to ensure people are not being bombarded, even if they have given permission to use their data. Marketing for charities will not deliver donations if it is seen as a nuisance and a waste of money.
Marketing for charities is not a one-size-fits-all policy, even when it comes from the same charity. Having said that, there needs to be a synergy between all that goes out to ensure brand consistency. This is one challenge I faced when I was in the marketing team at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Lots of different people of all ages and backgrounds like pets. So, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home was speaking to a lot of different people. It’s likely that those different groups will all like to receive their information in a different way, with a different tone of voice, or even at different times of the day. So, the marketing team carried out extensive research to discover what audiences the charity was really talking to. It wasn’t a small task but it was definitely worth its weight in gold as ROI shot up. Battersea wasn’t unique with this either. Research has shown that email marketing campaigns which segment audiences based on interest can enjoy 74.53% higher click rates than non-segmented campaigns. That’s nothing for a wet nose to sniff at.
Research has shown that email marketing campaigns which segment audiences based on interest can enjoy 74.53% higher click rates than non-segmented campaigns. That’s nothing for a wet nose to sniff at. Click To Tweet
Keep it simple
A common complaint charities receive is that there is a lack of knowledge about what different charities in the same sector do. For example, Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK are separate organisations which specialise in very different fields of oncology. So, define your USP and keep it at the heart of everything you do when it comes to marketing for charities. Stay to the point and base everything around those key messages which will make you stand out in the crowd. Ensure that they strike a chord with the people who are going to donate their time and/or money to you over your closest competitors.
“In an age where not-for-profit organisations are arguably struggling more than ever, marketing for charities needs to be effective to say the least.”
This ranges from the most popular charities such as UNICEF right down to local organisations such as St Michael’s Hospice here in Basingstoke. Know your audience, engage with them and understand their priorities and, hopefully, you will grow your much-needed network of supporters so the organisation can keep helping the cause it is dedicated to.
The team here at The Typeface Group can help you with your marketing campaigns whether you are a company or a charity of any shape or size. Contact us to find out how we can rejuvenate your marketing.
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