Digital Marketing Tips for Charities

Times are tough for all of us and not least charities in a recession.  Charities are working harder than ever to justify investment in marketing but at times like these they have the much to gain from an intelligent and innovative use of digital marketing.  Here are some ideas for getting an edge online…

Be social!

It seems that virtually every charity has a presence on social media and why not?  It costs nothing to start a Facebook page or Twitter account.  It’s what you do with it that counts.  Before people decide to support a charity they need to not only agree with cause but feel some trust and connection with the charity itself.  Social media campaigns should encourage ENGAGEMENT and INTERACTION.  Compare these two Facebook posts:

“We have helped 50,000 children get access to education in Africa.”

“Tell us your favourite thing about the work we do?”

The first post, although a powerful statement, could be termed a marketing message.  Will it generate interaction or lots of ‘likes’?  The second post, being a question, is far more likely to generate valuable feedback about the motivations of supporters and get conversations started – that leads to engagement.  There is a place for both approaches but it pays to build a smaller engaged audience rather than large disengaged ones because engaged audiences are more likely to visit your site and donate.

Share your brand

In the charity sector it is crucial to have a strong and trusted brand that also translates into the digital environment.  Understandably, charities are very protective of their brands but should brands be ‘fixed’ by marketers or given the chance to evolve?  Consumers are beginning influence how brands are perceived and this may apply to charities too.  For example, if prospective or existing supporters start feeding back on the specific projects they want a charity to support or say they want to receive news and information in new formats there may be advantages to letting your online community influence the future direction of your brand.  A strong brand listens and is not afraid to evolve.

Keep active!

Until relatively recently many charities main method of communication with supporters was a six monthly newsletter about all the great work they have been doing.  Some provide quite glossy and professional publications, which have on occasions lead to cries of ‘they spend all my money on marketing!’  Charities have to communicate but the digital world allows that communication to be ongoing.  Charities have to invest time in posting relevant, high quality content frequently.  Who would donate to a charity if their website and social media presence has not been updated for 6 months?  The great news is that this can now be done for relatively little cost.  Time is the key investment!

Talk talk

FACT 1:  People love to watch short films about things that interest them (Youtube!)

FACT 2:  The internet offers a free distribution channel

For the first time charities have the opportunity to produce video content or audio in the form of podcasts at relatively low cost.  These could be a valuable tool in gaining attention and communicating the hard work that the charity is achieving on the ground yet many charities have yet to take full advantage.

This is about more than just producing good content.  That content needs to be found easily by existing and potential donors.  That means having an SEO and link building strategy to drive traffic.  It’s also important to not view this as simply broadcast media.  Include a call to action, encourage interaction and record the number of views as well as how many people share the content.  Great content could generate a viral campaigns that spread your message far beyond your core audience.

Measure success

This might sound obvious.  Clearly, charities should track their ROI for all of their digital and offline channels. It’s important to know where new donors first heard about you and track their lifetime value against those different channels.  Building a solid and loyal base of donors takes time so rather than just looking at short term revenue generation digital marketers should clearly define how they will measure success and look into the key metrics now easily available including:

  • Mentions of your brand online e.g. using Buzz Metrics
  • Search engine rankings for your website, micro-sites, blogs etc.
  • Inbound links i.e. how many other sites are linking to your content
  • Web analytics – unique visitors, page impressions, time spent on your site etc.
  • Social media metrics e.g. Tweetdeck

These are just a few tips but the most important tip of all is to have a clear and defined marketing plan for digital marketing activity which is also integrated with offline activity.  Charities who plan in this way can use digital marketing to help them through tough times while keep their marketing budgets in check.


About marketingtruth

An experienced marketing manager making the transition from traditional media to the wide world of digital. Linkedin profile: My linkedin profile.

Posted on May 11, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. A very interesting & relevant post. Charities are in a difficult position during a recession when less money is coming in but the demand for their services is increasing.

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