Digital marketing for charities: A matter of trust.

There's a good chance you are reading this on an iPad or smartphone, probably while checking your email, tweeting, doing a spot of online shopping and getting the latest news updates. In other words, we are all living an increasingly digital, increasingly on-the-go world.

Digital marketing presents charities with a huge opportunity to engage audiences with their message and drive fundraising, whether it's through ads, blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook posts, email campaigns or Twitter hashtags. But new research suggests the undoubted potential of digital outreach for non-profits needs to be balanced against some pretty significant risks.

Now there is no shortage of self-proclaimed digital evangelists out there who will make the case for online and social media marketing being not only the best channel for engagement but perhaps the only one that really matters. And, to a certain extent, they have a point. For one thing, getting your story out there and building relationships with potential donors or beneficiaries on social media can be far more cost-effective than traditional marketing or advertising.

For another, embracing digital means going where your audience are already spending much of their time. In 2016, 82% of adults in the UK used the internet on a daily or almost daily basis, according to the Office for National Statistics. Seven out of 10 accessed the web on the go using a phone or tablet, making it the most popular method for going online. It stands to reason that people who can pay their bills, stream their favourite boxsets or order a takeaway almost instantly with just a few taps increasingly expect to be able to do other everyday tasks - such as donating to a charity - using the same channels.

There's no question that a digital marketing strategy, well executed, can reap tremendous rewards in terms of delivering your charity's message and, ultimately, raising the funds vital to carrying out your work.However, in an era of fake news and alternative facts, where social media remains a largely unregulated and unfiltered free-for-all, the risk of your carefully crafted digital marketing content landing next to potentially offensive or even hateful material is very real.

Indeed, a recent report from the CMO Council, How Brands Annoy Fans, found that despite social media being the source of the second highest volume of ads seen by people in the UK and the US, behind television, it is the least trusted of their five main "content spaces". Friends, TV, search engines and newspapers were all seen as more trustworthy sources. In fact, nearly two-thirds said they responded more positively to an ad run in one of their trusted media channels than the same ad in a channel they do not trust. Almost nine out of 10 (86%) expressed some level of concern about how easily they are directed or redirected to hateful or offensive content on social media. Perhaps most worryingly from a marketing point of view, 11% said they would not do business with a brand if their ad appeared near such content, while another 9% would become vocal critics of that brand.

When trust in a charity's "brand" is vital to fundraising, the potential consequences for non-profit organisations, whether they are taking their first tentative steps into the digital world or have been there a while, are clear. Trust is hard won, easily damaged and, once lost, even harder to regain.How, then, can charities do to prepare themselves as best they can for the digital frontier? 

Last year, the Charities Commission published a 12-point guide for trustees looking at making digital work.   The report, which was produced in cooperation with Grant Thornton and Zoe Amar Communications, covers areas such as organisational culture, reputation and fundraising. It poses several questions: How can digital help charities reach new audiences? What digital skills do staff already possess? How should they respond to criticism on social media channels or online forums? These are all important considerations and they all feed into the most important issue to address when setting out on the digital journey - the need for a well-planned strategy.

At its heart, this should set out your goals - whether that's increasing Likes, getting retweets, driving online traffic to your website or increasing donations - and, crucially, how you will measure your progress towards them. This will give you a starting point for engagement and marketing activity, as well as a framework for dealing with the potential pitfalls of the digital world.

It might sound obvious but it is surprising how many organisations, from small non-profits right up to major corporations, overlook the need for a sound plan in the race to become part of the digital revolution.

Don't come to regret your haste. Ultimately, a well-planned digital marketing strategy will give you the best tools for protecting trust in your brand and realising the enormous potential benefits of digital engagement for your work.

Written by Andrew Jowett, Freelance Writing Consultant : andymjowett@gmail.com

Inglis Consulting Group can help you navigate the digital landscape and successfully deliver your vision to online audiences. If you would like to discuss a digital media project with the team, please get in touch: jpi@inglis-cg.com

 

 

Do we need a dedicated charities minister?

Tracey Crouch has been named as the new minister for civil society - but the brief has been merged with her role as sports minister. Don’t we need a dedicated charities minister?

The importance of the charity and voluntary sector has arguably never been greater - nor the environment more challenging.

According to the NCVO, there are over 163,000 charities in the UK with an annual income of around £41.7bn. Nearly 21m people volunteer for a charity and in a typical month almost half of us - 44% - donate to one. Charities employ 827,000 people and add £12.2bn to the UK economy.

But it’s not just the size of the sector. Charities already supporting millions of people are facing ever-increasing demands as frontline public services are cut or rolled back, from libraries and food banks to housing, social care and mental health support.

Add to this the fact that Theresa May’s special adviser on charity policy, Charlotte Lawson, has decided to step down and there is surely an overwhelming case for a dedicated ministerial portfolio.

In her maiden speech to parliament, Crouch herself said that in attempting to tackle social challenges “charities find themselves too small to help; agencies find it too difficult and authorities find it too expensive.” The challenge has only increased in the intervening years.

It is not a question of Crouch’s commitment or ability. Many have welcomed her appointment and the strong relationships she has built with the sector through her work as sports minister. But there are also concerns that now, perhaps more than ever, charities need a strong voice within government.

Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of NAVCA, said: “Sport and charities are such major parts of our society. They deserve to have a dedicated minister.

“The fact that for the first time since 2006 there will not be a minister focused solely on our sector sends out the wrong signal.”

John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “Our sector has enjoyed a constructive relationship with the charities minister in the past and I look forward to building on that with the new minister in the coming months. Top of our list of shared priorities will be tackling divisions across society, ensuring that the Brexit deal delivers for charities and that our sector is able to continue providing vital support to millions of people in so many ways.

“However, the decision to merge the minister for civil society role with another portfolio is concerning, coming as it does on the back of the announcement that Number 10’s special adviser on charities will be leaving her post. The political uncertainty, division and social challenges we face mean that the country needs an increased role for charities, not a reduced one. It will be vital that this does not result in the voice of charities - and the needs of their beneficiaries - being neglected.”

Written by Andrew Jowett for Inglis Consulting Group.

Andrew is a Freelance journalist, if you like what you read, get in touch : andyjowett@hotmail.com or www.clippings.me/andyjowett

To find out how Inglis Consulting Group can help your charity achieve its fundraising goals and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow, get in touch.