1. Why you need to start with a strategy

“Without those specific details, your journey will be completely inefficient and there’s a huge possibility that you will end up at the wrong destination”

As with any sector, marketing for charities must start with a clear strategy. Your strategy provides a clear, long-term path to follow and ensures all of your marketing efforts are integrated and aligned with your overall objectives. 

While the main purpose of having a strategy is to create direction and structure, to ensure you are heading in the right direction, you need to first define a goal. To put things into perspective, let’s say your friend wanted you to collect them from an airport but they don’t know which airport, what time or even the day – you would say no, right? Without those specific details, your journey will be completely inefficient (in terms of both time and money) and there’s a huge possibility that you will end up at the wrong destination. Well, the same goes for marketing. 

Think of the airport as your ‘goals’ and the car your ‘content’; the tool that enables you to move forward and achieve what you set out to do. What’s missing? A map (or in keeping with the times, a sat-nav), something to give direction to your journey and guide everything you do. In business, this is your strategy. Your strategy will ensure all of your efforts are linked back to your goals in some way, keeping you on that path to success. 

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2. Situation analysis

“If you don’t have an understanding of what’s going on in your market, or more importantly, a clear understanding of your charity itself, you are going to be limiting the success of your marketing efforts”

If you don’t have an understanding of what’s going on in your market, or more importantly, a clear understanding of your charity itself, you are going to be limiting the success of your marketing efforts.

Stripping things back to the basics, the very first stage of your market research should be to complete an analysis of your charity. Be it your audience or employees, people need to be able to understand who you are, trust you and connect with you on a deeper level. From your values to why you exist, leave no stone unturned: more is more. At this stage, it’s useful to complete a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of your charity to identify any areas which need to be addressed and formulate a plan to leverage your strengths, make the most of your opportunities and mitigate your weaknesses

To identify threats and opportunities, you should complete an analysis of the charity sector itself. This will include looking at other charities and identifying what they are doing well and taking note of things you think are best to avoid. You should also look at broader market factors, such as political or technological changes, which may have an impact on your charity. To ensure you don’t overlook any areas, you may find it helpful to use the PESTLE framework which encourages you to identify political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental factors which may impact your charity in the future. An example of this could be an increase in virtual fundraisers as a result of COVID-19 or the possibility of the withdrawal of EU funding due to Brexit.

3. Getting to grips with your audience

“It’s useful to define audience personas for each group to ensure that your communications remain relevant and deliver the right message to each”

Of course, we mustn’t forget the people that matter most: your audience. They are the ones that will provide donations, offer support and drive awareness for your charity, so you must have a clear understanding of who they are so you can tailor your marketing to achieve optimal results. 

Marketing for charities tends to differ slightly from other organisations as you will typically target multiple audiences. For this reason, it’s useful to define audience personas for each group to ensure that your communications remain relevant and deliver the right message to each. For every group you will want to define:

  • Their role within your charity, for example volunteer or donor
  • Key demographic information, such as their age and location
  • Their interests and needs
  • Their likes and dislikes
  • Their preferred digital channels and habits. For example, is there a certain day or time they are most likely to be active on a particular social channel
  • Their motivations (think about what might draw them to your charity)

Once you’ve defined your audience personas, it’s good practice to validate your ideas with research. This can take the form of analytics (from your website and social media platforms), online searches to monitor key trends and behaviours associated with each group or simply speaking to your audience themselves. Naturally, as time goes on, people’s interests and preferences will change and evolve meaning your audience personas should, too. For this reason, you should ensure to regularly monitor and update each group to keep your communications relevant and maximise the impact of your campaigns.

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4. The bigger, the better (content marketing)

“Broaden your reach with the use of new channels and engage your audience by thinking outside the box”

In the words of Jim Collins: “Good is the enemy of great”. And he’s right. It’s no longer enough to have a simple blog and a nice Facebook page; to differentiate your charity and raise the awareness and donations you need, you have to be going above and beyond. Broaden your reach with the use of new channels and engage your audience by thinking outside the box. 

When it comes to content marketing for charities, you must ensure everything you post is relevant to your target audience, or else they won’t be interested – simple as that. To help ensure your content stays on track, it’s useful to devise 3-5 content pillars. These are the themes/subjects that resonate most with your audience and link back to your objectives in some way. Devising these pillars will create a clear framework for your content and will help you and your team consistently create high-quality, relevant content. 

Once you’ve got a clear idea of what content you need to create, you can manage and plan it using content calendars. Typically, these will include the type of content, the objective, when/where it needs to be posted, the budget (if any) and whether it has been approved by all relevant parties. Content calendars allow everyone within your charity to have a clear overview of your content and help to relieve stress and improve efficiency through planning and organisation.

For more tips on how to nail your content marketing, check out our ‘Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing’.

5. Reaching the right people with the right channels

“When it comes to choosing which channels you want to prioritise, you must consider your audience personas”

So, you’ve nailed your content, great! Now you need to get it seen by the right people, too. When it comes to choosing which channels you want to prioritise, you must consider your audience personas. At the end of the day, your marketing channels are a means of communication, so you need to ensure the people receiving your messages are those you want to reach. There are a range of digital channels, each with different purposes and audiences. Some of the key ones include:

  1. Your website – often the first point of contact, your website needs to create the right first impression. It should be easy to navigate, on-brand, regularly updated and most importantly, make the donation process simple and enjoyable for users.
  2. SEO – these days, almost everything begins with a Google search. This means, if your site isn’t ranking on the search engine results page (SERP), you will be missing out on a lot of opportunities. If this is the case for your charity, you will need to consider improving your SEO strategy. Typically, this will involve optimising on-page and off-page elements of your website. To learn more about how to improve your site’s ranking in the SERP, check out our ‘Ultimate Guide to SEO’ here.
  3. Social media – a powerful communication tool, social media allows you to build and maintain relationships with your target audience, extend your reach, drive traffic to your site, and most importantly, encourage donations.
  4. Email marketing – whether it’s building relationships, driving donations or promoting your fundraising activities, email marketing is a powerful (and free) communication tool that you need to be using. If you’re looking for advice on how to master your email marketing campaigns, take a look at our ‘Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing’ here.
  5. PPC (pay-per-click) advertising – as a charity, you could be entitled to free/ discounted access to advertising tools and be eligible to receive grants, such as the Google Ads Grant. PPC is a great way to reach new audiences, helping to raise awareness, drive traffic to your website and encourage donations. 

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6. Optimising your donations funnel

“When it comes to marketing for charities, more often than not, one of the most important goals will be to improve conversions and drive donations”

When it comes to marketing for charities, more often than not, one of the most important goals will be to improve conversions and drive donations – but how do you do it? Well, here are ten things you can do to help improve your conversion rate:

  1. Let them choose: while online payments are quick, easy and for most modern-day consumers, the preferred method of payment, it’s important to remember that not everyone shares the same view. For this reason, you should provide alternative donation options (such as the option to send a cheque) along with allowing your audience to choose exactly how much they want to donate and how often. An example of this could be offering the option of both a one-off payment or to set up a monthly direct debit.
  2. Have a clear call to action (CTA): make your donations buttons clear to the user by ensuring they are displayed prominently throughout your site, using persuasive language and eye catching colours to help motivate them to take action. But remember, you don’t want to confuse your audience, so keep your language clear and direct. 
  3. Optimise for mobile: over 80% of people use mobile devices to search the internet, meaning if you’re not thinking mobile-first, you will be posing a big threat to yourself.
  4. Consider your audience: if you really want to drive donations, you need to get into the minds of your audience. Think about what might motivate them to make a donation and why they’ve come to your website in the first place. 
  5. Keep things simple: while fancy designs and nice graphics are appreciated, if they prevent users from navigating your site efficiently, they are likely to get frustrated and leave. Equally, while you may find it useful to obtain as much detail about each donor as possible, they are unlikely to appreciate lengthy forms, so keep it basic. Keep the number of required fields to a minimum and never force them to create an account.
  6. Speed is key: a slow loading site will cause frustration and in a lot of cases, people will end up leaving your website before they’ve even thought about making a donation.
  7. More traffic equals more donations: it’s a no-brainer. If you’re getting more traffic to your site, there will be more opportunities for conversions which means more donations for your charity. 
  8. Show the value of their donation: a great way to drive donations is by showing exactly how they will be used and who will benefit from them. Add images to make your site more engaging and include real-world examples to bring some context to the situation. 
  9. It’s not all about the money: while financial donations are always great, it’s important to let your audience know there are other ways they can get involved.
  10. Keep them updated – follow up donations with a thank you email and (where appropriate) show donors exactly how/ who their contribution has helped.

7. Tracking your performance

“The only way to truly tell whether your marketing efforts have been successful is by looking at the numbers”

The only way to truly tell whether your marketing efforts have been successful is by looking at the numbers. One of the biggest advantages of digital marketing is the ability to gain in-depth performance feedback which enables you to evaluate what works well and identify areas that need to be improved moving forward. Your success should be measured against the goals set out within your marketing strategy using KPIs and SMART targets. 

Starting with SMART targets, these should be developed to help make the achievement of your overall objectives more realistic. Breaking it down, this means each of your targets should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. An example of this could be to achieve 120 fundraising event sign-ups by the end of May. Next, you will want to define a set of KPIs (key performance indicators) for each target. This will allow you to track your progress towards each and identify any areas that need particular attention. For each KPI, you should set a specific target. For example, for fundraising campaign emails you could set a target click-through rate (CTR) of 10%. 

When it comes to monitoring your KPIs, it’s all too easy to get caught up by vanity metrics and become obsessive over data that lacks any real significance to the achievement of your goals. To avoid this, when devising your KPIs and SMART targets, you should do so with your short and long-term strategic goals in mind. For more advice on how to effectively track the performance of your marketing, check out our ‘Ultimate Guide to KPIs and Reporting’ here.

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