Really knowing your target audiences

Following GDPR, a Local Giving study found that fewer than half of local charities surveyed felt that they would still exist in 5 years’ time, and a poll of 1,000 members of the public shows that 57% of people are likely to ask a charity to delete all the personal information they have on them.

The way charities choose to build their relationships with donors and beneficiaries has never been more important. So with GDPR now in effect, charities are being forced to rethink their promotional tactics and find new ways to engage donors.

Small fish in big pond

When you’re a smaller charity, standing out can be a challenge; ask anyone to name a handful of charities and the big boys – like Cancer Research, Save the Children, and Macmillan Cancer Support - immediately come front of mind.

Larger charities benefit from dedicated skilled personnel and impressive budgets to run extensive advertising campaigns and trial new initiatives. As a smaller charity, you’re forced to find new, innovative ways to “box clever” and win donors' share of voice/mind.

One way to stand out in the crowded charity market is using your existing data to understand where you can make improvements that have a quick and dramatic impact. For example, in the above poll, it was discovered that 80% of the public would like the option to make anonymous online donations – a simple change which could make a huge difference to your charity.

But how do you get the insight to know what changes to make?

Focus on conversion optimisation

Chances are you’re already using a number of promotional tools (e.g. website, email marketing systems and social media platforms) that produce vast quantities of usage data (e.g. visitor journey, click-through rates, post impressions). But keeping on top of your digital marketing performance can be difficult, especially if it’s not your full-time job.

So why chase more data when you’re not making the most of what’s already there? The idea behind “conversion optimisation” is all about making your promotional tools work harder for you.

Applying simple business intelligence (BI) tools, you can instantly gain access to the fascinating insight that determines how to better engage your existing donors, potential volunteers and beneficiaries. For example:

  • Tracking one-off donations and then running a campaign to convert them to regular givers.
  • Tracking traffic sources to the website to ascertain the highest donor sources - organic search, paid search, links from other sites, affiliates, social media, email newsletters, direct traffic.
  • Tracking user journeys through the site against goals and looking where to optimise to drive donations.
  • Analysing the lifetime value of a donor to ascertain a cost per acquisition, which in turn tells you how much it is worth spending to acquire the prospect donor.
  • Understanding which landing pages drive the most donations, and which were visited prior to a donation.
  • Are prospects actually looking at the Donate Now button? Heat maps will indicate the click behaviour and quickly tell you if you need reconfigure your page layout.

And don’t be fooled into thinking you need complex enterprise tools that command high fees, lock you into long term contracts and require a huge implementation. Many BI tools are designed specifically for smaller organisations - and for charities are free or very cost effective - while a lot of the time they give you access to the professionals who can support you in your next steps.

Applying BI to charities

Typically, BI tools are seen as reserved for the private sector. But the reality is that every organisation collects data - revenue reports, website analytics and simple feedback, which you can use to help you make better decisions on how to best engage donors, volunteers and beneficiaries.

Through BI, you will have the power to use real intelligence to amend your promotional efforts to maximum effect, rather than relying on gut feeling. When you choose to apply BI to your data, your charity benefits from being able to connect its donations to traffic sources and campaigns.

This means you know where to allocate budget and resource based on your most successful marketing activities. Furthermore, it allows you insight into how people are using your website (e.g. donations tool vs educational aid for beneficiaries), so you know how to enhance it and encourage deeper interaction.

Let’s consider your website. As the “shop front” for your charity it’s a core sales and marketing tool. Applying a simple BI tool, like a heat map, can show you exactly where people are physically staring on your webpage. When you know this, you know where to place the important “call to action” buttons that drive visitors to find information, make donations or sign up to volunteer.

Furthermore, by determining what devices people are using to browse your website and when users attempt to make a donation on mobile, you can make the experience frictionless. For example, introducing PayPal as a mobile means to donate.

Dawn of the digital dashboard

Imagine if you had a centralised location for all the key promotional metrics in your charity, such as website hits, conversions, email campaign integration and search engine performance.

Then apply a behavioural layer that provides on-page heatmapping to highlight how visitors engage with your website, what gets clicked and what is ignored.

Finally, add the business wrapper, integrating GANTT (tasks against timings) charts, performance targets and financial data.

Instantly you have a clear overview of everything that is happening in your charity and can quickly identify the flawed steps in a process or opportunities to take advantage of. They’re small changes but they can have a big impact. By applying a BI dashboard to your charity, you will have the tools to easily keep on top of your digital marketing performance, and extend that insight into other areas of your charity, without needing to work overtime or without it being at the expense of your day to day operations.

Making BI work

But while BI doesn't have to be a complex process, BI alone isn’t enough. Yes, the insight shows you where the challenges lie, but it doesn’t tell you how to overcome them.

Once you have this valuable data, the secret to success is adding a touch of creativity, because when data and creativity join hands, your promotional efforts could become the next “Ice Bucket Challenge”.

But creativity doesn’t have to involve crazy ideas that fall outside the brand you’ve worked so hard to build. Creativity is about thinking differently to give you the best possible chance to engage your target audience.

For example, if the data is showing you that 80% of people visit your website through a smartphone, you need to use some creative flair to ensure the best mobile experience, ensuring your site is responsive, accessible and with simple, straightforward content that commands action.

Perhaps the data is showing you that the majority of your social traffic is directed from Facebook. So, what’s the point in investing your valuable time and resource into creating videos for YouTube or scheduling daily Tweets? Maximise the opportunity you have; create or re-purpose content that speaks to your audience on Facebook. Make sure you have the “donate” button in pride of place on your group page. Consider investing into some pay per click advertising on the social platform to capture new people and drive them through to your website.

Optimising the donation process

However, maybe the data is showing you that people are happy to donate online, but then immediately leave your website. Why? Put yourself in their shoes and consider the user experience. Once they’ve donated their hard-earned cash, have you asked them to do anything else? Or have you just said “thank you!”.

If a visitor is happy to donate, it’s not a crazy assumption that they might be happy to donate regularly, be open to signing up to take part in a sponsored something, or want to tell their friends about your charity. Have you given them these options?

Then consider, what do you actually know about this person? What skills do they posses that your charity needs, and that they may be willing to give, either as an individual volunteer, or through pro bono work through their organisation. Guiding your donors through to additional webpages about volunteering opportunities deepens their engagement, and converts them to a loyal supporter.

Time to get smarter

It’s time to stop thinking of GDPR as negative and consider it an opportunity to get smarter about how you engage donors, volunteers and beneficiaries. It’s time to stop the email blasts that get caught in a SPAM folder, never to see the light of day, and optimise what you already have.

BI tools exist to help you understand what that data is telling you, and apply intelligence and logic to turn your data sets into meaningful information that drive actionable insight to help your charity achieve more.

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