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4 Key Ways To Improve Your Digital Charity Marketing

31st May 2021

With the news that 49% of charities lack basic digital skills, organisations risk being left behind in their bid to boost fundraising. With young people particularly receptive to charity appeals through school fundraisers and societies, skipping the digital generation could hamper fundraising for years to come. Here then are just a few suggestions on how charity marketing can integrate new technology and boost fundraising efforts in order to engage people across the spectrum.

Find new ways to make donating easier

The best ploy for encouraging donations may be to make them easier. There has been a trend over the last few years in making payments easier, from ‘one click’ purchases on e-commerce websites to the use of near field communication (NFC) for contactless card and phone payments. Significant potential exists to implement similar ideas for charity donations. Many people want to donate to charities but are reluctant to do so monthly or weekly, in case they forget or run out of funds. Enabling instant payments remotely in select locations could rectify this.

Imagine for instance that every time you pay by contactless or tap through a train turnstile, 5p goes straight to a charity of your choice. Similar tech is already being implemented in the form of digital collection boxes, with a corresponding app sending a donation when you tap your phone on the box. This cleverly gets around the need for a temperamental, expensive payment terminal by completing the transaction over the phone’s internet connection. Similarly, apps already exist which donate a portion of their ad revenue or other income to charity. One example is Charity Miles, which uses the phone’s pedometer to track how far you’ve walked, and donates to the charity of your choice based on this.

Partnerships between charity marketing departments and technology companies could produce more of these innovative solutions, leveraging the convenience and power of mobile technology to create easier ways to support a good cause. Shelter Scotland’s recent ‘Hackathon’, where coders come together to create prototypes of software in a short time period, has led to a web service which directs people to shelters based on dynamic factors including their current location.

Don’t be afraid to latch onto viral trends

In larger institutions, charity marketing departments can be slow to react to internet trends. Campaigns can have obvious sensitivities to tone and content, and the planning and vetting of communications leads to only the biggest events being mentioned. But allowing for a bit more deference when it comes to light hearted content online can work wonders. The internet has a new favourite trend every week, and tapping into this conversation can serve any brand well. With the inbuilt goodwill attached to charities this becomes less dangerous and even more endearing.

Viral sensations and ‘memes’ – in jokes usually accompanied by an image and text – are the stock and trade of blogs and social media for young people. Deploying someone to keep abreast of these can allow you to tap into the zeitgeist frequently on issues of little controversy, promoting the brand and offsetting difficult issue with levity.

Executive decisions should be made on which ones to pursue; Harambe the gorilla for instance has been a particularly controversial subject of internet fame, and would hardly suit an animal charity. But aping viral videos or maintaining a presence on platforms like Tumblr, where content is highly shareable and already geared towards emotive issues, can create huge exposure and will be seen as novel and endearing.

Sometimes games and apps can present opportunities for very natural tie-ins. The emergence of Pokemon go was a boon to many businesses, and charities were included in this. Some found themselves designated as ‘Pokestops’ in the game, attracting hoards of players to huddle outside collecting experience.

Some posted welcome signs or offered special deals for Pokemon players, while one canny canine shelter in the US provided dogs for people to walk as they played. Linking directly to a commercial brand or service is obviously a tricky area, but harmless trends that carry a broad cultural appeal can be brilliant opportunities to get creative.

Partner with young digital talent

YouTube has been around for over a decade now, yet many people of a certain age are still largely baffled by the platform. What started as a convenient way to share videos of pets and family mishaps is now a bonafide media ecosystem, hosting hundreds of global superstars. While fashion tutorials or playing video games might not seem the most obvious grounds for a partnership, it’s hard to ignore YouTubers’ audience numbers. The biggest stars clock in at several million views for each video, with more subscribers than the most watched TV shows.

It’s also an extremely personal platform, well suited to the message of charities. And unlike other forms of sponsorship and advertising which are seen by YouTube audiences as ‘selling out’, a charity campaign will be much more warmly received and more likely to be watched. With more free time than many celebrities and a fairly low average age, many stars feel lucky to have experienced their success and are natural philanthropists. Youtuber Markiplier (above) is well-known online for dying his hair bright pink as an incentive for charity donations, raising over $200,000 during one charity ‘livestream’.

YouTube’s biggest name PewDiePie (Brighton resident Felix Kjellberg) has worked with Save the Children, partnering on a $250,000 crowdfunding campaign for Save the Children and making several personal donations. British YouTuber Stampylongnose, whose Minecraft-based channel is extremely popular with kids, has also worked with several children’s charities. And charity gaming livestreams have long been a popular phenomenon on YouTube and Amazon’s Twitch.tv, with the weeklong Games Done Quick appeal raising $2.5 million for Doctors Without Borders/MSF over the last two years.

Get creative with integrated charity marketing

While digital is very much the focus of many charity marketing efforts, the reality is that we consume media across numerous platforms. And as any marketer knows, different platforms have different strengths. The key to successful charity marketing across all of these is coming up with different ways to present the same message to potentially different audiences, all while ensuring a smooth and conjoined user experience.

This doesn’t have to be particularly complicated. One novel approach employed in a joint campaign between CALM and Lynx analysed social media traffic for trending topics. These trivial or silly issues were then pushed on billboards, mobile and online, in order to make the point that suicide and mental health issues were under-discussed. This use of big data and social listening techniques allows for responsive but unified campaigns, tapping into things people are talking about and can directly relate to.

On the other end of the spectrum, the capabilities of different platforms allow for wildly different approaches. Computers and mobile devices allow for apps or games to be developed with a broader message or resonance. The game This War of Mine addressed the horrors of modern conflict through the eyes of civilians, donating a large portion of its sales to the charity War Child. This kind of interactive approach can be combined with a series of ‘vlogs’ and a more traditional media campaign to attack issues from different angles. Video content could be more uplifting, while a poster campaign might be more emotive.

It also provides an opportunity to drive greater public engagement. A TV spot might direct people to a series of documentary videos on YouTube, and an app might provide a button to send a magazine or fundraising pack to your address with more information. This approach offers both greater ubiquity and a sense of helping beyond donating, which can be a removed process. Making this kind of passive help feel more like activism promises to be a major element of future charity marketing.

Gooey Digital
31st May 2021

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