Ian Bruce: How charities can use marketing effectively in times of crisis 

05 May 2020 Voices

Professor Ian Bruce provides five tips on how charities can utilise marketing to effectively overcome obstacles presented by Covid-19, and how more traditional charities can embrace digital channels to help generate income during these uncertain times. 

Consider your values and skills

According to the Charity Digital Skills report 2019, more than half of charities still don’t have a digital strategy, suggesting more needs to be done to get charities up to speed with the latest digital trends and skills. There are a wide range of options online to help charities upskill, including online training courses.

Taking the time to learn new digital skills will help you feel more in control and give you the confidence to accelerate communications and donations digitally. For example, For Good Causes, a UK based fin tech company, have launched a new scheme to transform the way people donate to charity, allowing them to convert their customer loyalty points and rewards into a digital monetary donation, a new currency for fundraising.

Use the power of social media

Social media is particularly helpful for smaller charities with limited internal resources. While it is a great way to efficiently reach audiences, Facebook and Twitter charge for building a relationship with supporters. This can be a challenge for charities which may struggle to assure a board of trustees that the investment is worthwhile. Effective charity marketing campaigns drive high response rates, and now it is easy to donate on the go. PayPal, Donate Now and wonderful.org mean you’re only a click away from making a donation. 

Global shared campaigns can amplify causes, through platforms such as #GivingTuesday and The Big Give. These platforms support a collective action – donating – within a specified time period. Shared donations give people a chance to champion a cause and to share the moment with like-minded individuals. 

Recently, video sharing platform, Tik-Tok rolled out a new in-app donation feature which users can include in their videos to raise money. The British Red Cross and Help Musicians are the first UK charity beneficiaries to be given dedicated donation stickers to help raise funds.

Understand your audience 

In order to navigate a crisis, you will need an effective marketing strategy that considers your target audience and the media they consume. The more customer insights you have, the better understanding you will have in delivering meaningful messages. Platforms such as Google Analytics enable you to see who is visiting your website, and help you establish what your audience demographic looks like and what interest them. This will help you tailor specific messages and potentially more enhanced resources for different subsections of your audiences.

Resonate with storytelling

Authentic storytelling is essential, as it provides your audience with an accurate view of your ethos and the cause that you stand by. Engaging your audience involves more than simply asking for donations, as your audience can help you spread the word and breathe extra energy into your campaign. Your audience becomes your voice, helping to bring your message to life, so keeping them engaged is vital if they are to stay committed to your cause.

Clear communication 

Charities with a strong cause and passionate employees will benefit from positive internal communications, but this can also cloud decisions. It’s critical that communications to both employees and your audience are frequent, timely and open. Trust is essential in uncertain times and without open communication, potential donations could be stalled. To limit this, it is important to provide regular updates via email and social media to reassure your audience that your charity continues to remain resilient. 

Discussing the need for clear communication, Shakuntla Joshi, committee member of CIM’s charity and social marketing group said: “Encourage teams to have regular virtual updates, formal or informal, to discuss latest developments and guidance and find ways to solve or counter operations during the lockdown.

“Record these discussions to retain ideas for future reference and focus on what can be offered and communicate (via email, website, social media and other channels) in a timely way. As an example, whilst it may not be possible for a bike company to offer workshops, given the requirements for social distancing, the same offering to families would work. Retain profits by timely communications, offering goods/services at a later stage.

“Communicate offerings that can now take place via phone, in a socially distant way, via Zoom and other channels.”

Professor Ian Bruce, chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s charity and social marketing group

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