What Charities Can Do To Be More Effective

Marketing Beat asked for my comment on “why you think charity campaign effectiveness is so low, and what agencies and charities can do to boost the effectiveness of their ad campaigns and thus the amount of donations“.

Below are the 11 tips and stand-out examples I offered to improve how effective charities can be.

Charity Transparency

Charities and their advertising campaigns slowly became disconnected from the general public over the last decade. There are many reasons for this, the ways we want to support causes, the way we choose to support people and their stories over directly to a charity or not for profit, there are many factors; their mission doesn’t necessarily match our own, we do not always have the money to hand to donate and increasingly, more importantly, the transparency over where charities actually spent their money donated to them. 

Creative & Transparent Connections: Charities need to connect to the audience in more creative and transparent ways. Historically charities have not offered transparency on where the funds are spent and often this leads to questions on where donated money goes to. 

Being connected with the audience and supporting them enables charities to story tell in new ways and provides opportunities for donors to return and donate again as they have seen their money go to good use in a way that resonates with the donor. 

Showing how your money (however big or small the amount) has been spent and in the hundreds of ways, you have helped people will be the first way people will want to share and push charity messaging. A simple thank you without an ask is going to be incredibly powerful. 

Build Better Platform Relationships

Big fundraising and campaign pages bring big awareness for movements and powerful personal stories, but not always awareness for the charity. 

There have been some amazing and powerful stand-out stories, worldwide movements like the ice bucket challenge (above), acts from Captain Tom throughout the various lockdowns, and most recently the incredible story of Dame Deborah James Bowel Babe are incredible humans do incredible things and the charity is often not directly connected. 

These examples show as humans we want to support people, not forms and not pages, we really connect with the person in the story. 

This is a core learning for charities, put people first and centre and then place the charity messaging. Help people connect to more people, help them know they are supporting people in need.  

People Over Pages

Something many overlook within the industry is;

people donate to people, not pages’. 

A people-first approach is always imperative and the fundraising page story is for those who are unaware or might want to know more about the person they have been asked to support.  

Learn From Peer-To-Peer Crowdfunding

Although the majority of (peer-to-peer) crowdfunding pages are for very specific people, they are most often connecting to something they are going through or a situation that requires instant and direct action. 

Many are fortunate they have friends and family to step up, (not only to create the crowdfunding pages but to also handle the fundraising and then spend the money wisely while keeping everyone updated) donate to their friends, family or colleagues in need. 

This is sadly often connected to a series of illnesses or injuries, this is where charities can learn from the messaging, the connections and support from the friends and family lead to organic ongoing relationships.

This is a sensitive area for many involved, however, if charities, social networks and platforms build better relationships there is so much more potential positive impact to be had. 

Community events and teams are other popular ways people use crowdfunding pages and these are important communities doing important work others just are not.

Charities should learn how to embrace and support peer-to-peer crowdfunding pages. 

(Below is an example of how modern-day crowdfunding is driving people and communities to support each other over having to rely on institutions and governments)

Be Innovative

Something many charities struggle with is being innovative or showing how they leverage technology to encourage different behaviours or other ways you can interact and support charities. 

This can be hard as you have to market and advertise to the “early market”, the innovators and early adopters who make up a much smaller number of potential donors, however, these are trendsetters who will want to support in new ways. Show off more innovation and other tech-forward ways of supporting their favourite causes. 

Many potential supporters will appreciate how charities are looking to connect and use technology as a connection point and story tell more effectively.

It is important to note: Charities are often leading the way with tech, but it is often not seen or only seen by a tiny percentage of potential supporters.

Storytell More Effectively

Storytelling is an overused word in Marketing and businesses however storytelling is a vital component in helping the general public to connect to the incredible work the charities are doing and the thousands of people they help a year. 

Telling powerful stories has always worked with large TV events, with the move towards personalised screens and mobile-first users it is important these incredible stories are told in different ways and on different formats. 

One potential idea: Charities have the option to work with a streaming service for a show or a mini-series would be something that would raise awareness, would build an army of supporters and help to connect with potential donors rather than have to build up an annual event. 

Old “Ask” Ads Aren’t Working

The ad market is flooded with ‘asks’, asking for more money, more donations, and more time. Pair this with consumers are hit with more ads than ever before and often the most powerful ads are lost in a sea of content within social media feeds and emails etc. In the near future, there will have to be a step-change in how ads are created and what asks are included. 

So many social media channels remove the link or CTA to take action on another website or platform, there will have to be smarter and other ways to connect with ads that don’t feel like ads. 

Bigger Vision: Something I pitched five years ago was to become the default donate button within social media feeds, a big vision but something that could have leveraged our technology and 16 years of providing this service to thousands of charities and tens of millions of fundraisers.

It would have connected giving to that large social network and would have kept users on their site (time, engagement and ability to serve ads are social networks’ big goals) while fulfilling more donations, in seamless ways.

Hero and Superhero 

Something that was apparent when I was part of the leadership team at the platform was the relationship between the fundraiser/the page creator (the hero) and supporting their superhero who was in need. 

The hero would do it to help out their superhero (their friend in need) and bring a number of other (friends and family members) hero’s donating to support that superhero in need. For a lot of the time, these were superheroes who needed special treatment, their homes changed for health reasons or for specialist care to be paid for. 

Charities have the ability to make and support many more heroes and superheroes by helping them to tell their stories, amplifying these powerful stories and being part of a bigger moment or movement. 

There is often a lack of collaboration between social networks, platforms and charities and there are a lot of opportunities to help more heroes and superheroes and ultimately remove the need for so many pages creating more breakthrough drugs and improving healthcare. 

The magic is in how friends and family band together and it centres around their superhero (not always directly related to the charity) not always about the illness or thing they are experiencing.

Unfortunately, this can be difficult to scale, however, when you are passionate and it is your friend or family member in need you will do everything possible to spread the word far and wide and help them gain more support. 

With technology improvements and understanding of large data sets, these tech improvements are going to be key in enhancing life experiences. 

Removing ‘Ask Fatigue’  

Charities obviously require donations, the number of asks from charities, platforms such as JustGiving, GoFundMe, social media platforms and corporate partners never relent. 

We are asked for money at every turn and although this is what is desperately needed by charities there are other ways donors could support and remove the ask for more money. 

Reducing the need for big events (marathons, 10k’s, triathlons) and creating experiences for donors to get involved is something that would help to remove some of the associated barriers to fundraising and actively wanting to donate money on your own time and schedule. 

There are a number of local activations that could work with smaller challenges in the local high street or large shopping centres that removes the need for street teams asking for long sign-ups and demand for event fundraising.

Active Support

When attempting to address some of these problems while leading the Growth efforts, we looked at how we could support offline giving as an online-first platform, we created QR codes back in 2018 for every new and existing page, and we build a custom platform for every fundraising page, every crowdfunder, every charity campaign and every charity.

These QR codes could have been added to posters, added onto charity shop windows or printed on training t-shirts to get the word out and be organic in the ask. Imagine sitting in your car in a traffic jam and knowing you wanted to support the local charity shop but it was never an easy time, you could scan a code and support.

Rather than having to remember a long URL you could show your QR code and gain more supporters. These solutions can be built relatively quickly with a small growth team or growth advisory service.

There are other areas that can be organically optimised to maximise efficiency but also to build trust and connection. The checkout is something that is rarely optimised and is the key part of transactions. When you look at these parts of charities and business donation flows yes they are optimised, however, they are not optimised to help to build connection or further trust and transparency, something to ponder if you are working on this or developing out solutions.

Impact Not Larger Asks

Currently, there are larger asks with every campaign, starting at £30, for the majority of people who want to support that is a lot of money and will put potential donors off donating as these are often seen as the minimum amounts to donate. 

Reframing the ask is vital to help people support with the money they might have available to them. 

The CRM campaigns (including the SMS, WhatsApp messages and Emails) from charities are almost always ask-based, asking for more donations and asking for more frequent donations.

This is something that should be optimised and led with thanking and how many others are helping to make a difference.

Make the donors feel great for supporting causes and if that feel-good come across there are many more ways to unlock more donations. 

Improving direct relationships and removing another ask is going to be key to building longer and better relationships with supporters and donors. 

Creating a way to support local and national and international stories without having to donate large sums of money is key to gaining more donations, smaller average donations work when there are more people feeling they can support with the amount of money they have to donate.  

If you would like to discuss any of these points or want to understand how you can problem solve within the space, get in touch below.

Why was I relevant to add a comment? I worked in the third sector for six years, leading EMEA’s largest crowdfunding platform (raising over £300m for great personal and community causes) and sitting on the largest platforms leadership team. (we raised over £455m every year for charities)
I have deep knowledge of what can change to improve charities’ ability to connect with potential and existing donors and many lessons learned from helping to build the Product and shape Marketing campaigns.

Helpful Resources

If you are fundraising and need some tips, here are my fundraising and crowdfunding tips I wrote.

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