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Research from the Charities Aid Foundation has shown that 58% of 18 to 24 year olds have expressed an interest in using their mobile devices to donate and that at present 62% of charities have yet to provide a means of donation via a mobile platform. Thinktank Respublica has estimated that by 2014 text donations could be worth up to £96m annually.
Charities which have engaged with mobile marketing have seen very pleasing results in the amounts and frequency of donations. Macmillan Cancer Support have reported that 11.5% of its revenue is achieved via its mobile site. Mobile marketing is also very economical compared to newspaper, magazine and television campaigns.
Most people have their mobile phones on their person during the day which provides an excellent opportunity for charities and fundraisers to interact with prospective donators to promote their causes. Mobile websites and mobile apps are now being provided by the larger charities, however smaller charities have not had the budget to develop these tools.
SMS (text) campaigns have been used by charities of all sizes and budgets and this medium is proving to be a very effective means of marketing and brand promotion. Charities can create a database of subscribers and interact with them using an SMS service. Some charities have added to their database by linking up with popular brands for competitions and giveaways which also provides positive publicity for both parties.
Advertising short codes on products and in popular places is also another tactic to attract subscribers using SMS. Also, an excellent opportunity exists to attract subscribers by including an opt-in option when people are completing Gift Aid forms.
Having created a willing subscriber database, charities can use SMS for marketing and promotional activities for:
• Informing about upcoming events.
• Linking to websites and social media.
• Using short codes for sponsored competitions and giveaways.
• Promoting charity places in marathons and other fundraising events.
• Announcing jobs and volunteer opportunities.
• Giving automated replies to thank subscribers for their donations.
The mobile marketing platform will continue to grow in the coming years and be an effective way to engage with the younger generation. Whether it’s an SMS campaign or a mobile application, this means of marketing and communication will be vital to compete successfully in the charity sector.
There are some important changes which charities need to carry out to improve their websites so as to maintain and increase giving. Charities are failing to make a real impact online and should focus on the motivations, emotional mind-sets, needs and expectations of their audience in order to provide a good user experience.
Each charity is different
Charity websites should be tailored appropriately for their specific audience, because each charity has its own primary objectives, personal vision and tactical activities to help raise awareness, depending on what it aims to achieve. For example, there are charities which focus on volunteering and campaigning whilst others may solely focus on support. It is critical to understand the strategy that drives the charity and then design an online user experience which augments the strategy.
Too much information
A significant number of charity websites place too much focus on the internal structure of the organisation and can often overload visitors with reams of unnecessary information. In reality, people are much more interested in reading about what the charity does, how well it does it and how the monetary donations will be spent.
Visitors to the website will be stunted by an over-abundance of content that neither empowers nor inspires anyone. This suggests that too much information will ultimately damage the site's credibility, which consequently directly influences the way the organisation projects itself as a charity.
Concise information about a charity's mission builds confidence and clarity about what the organisation supports. This insight will build the visitor's want to support the charity, giving them the knowledge about how they will be helping.
It is my view that charity websites should be better orientated around people. By providing potential donors or volunteers with an online experience that both meets and exceeds their expectations, they are more likely to spread the word of the charity, encourage others to visit the website and be inspired to support the charity again in the near future.
When online visitors go to the website of a well known charity brand, it is only natural that their expectations are higher and they automatically assume they will have a better online user experience due to the charity's reputation. When the experience is poor, this can be very disruptive and can often discourage online users from getting involved with the charity as the site is failing to engage with its audience. Therefore we need to research audience needs and expectations and ensure the site satisfies them.
The best way to think about design is to have a clear strategy that will indicate and measure the performance of the user experience. Websites which do not have a digital strategy tend to create novel and unfamiliar interaction design patterns that may not satisfy the user's need for confidence and trust.
Having a clear digital strategy gives visitors a sense of ecology. For example, when a visitor has completed the online process and has successfully made a donation, they feel good about themselves for doing a good deed. They will therefore be more receptive if they are asked to do something else relating to the charity (for example, considering volunteering) whereas if the website was complex and dull they are unlikely to participate in any further online activity. Thinking about the user experience as an ecology is a brilliant strategy for joining the dots together.
Communicating with your audience
A significant number of charity websites are inadequate as they are failing to make a positive impression, because they are not communicating or connecting with their audience. If they want to appeal to their audience's interests and provide a truly meaningful experience, it is essential that they know the demographics of those visiting the site. The central theme should be presented in a manner that is easy to follow by using vocabulary that is suited to the intellectual level of the charity's audience and is interesting enough to hold their attention.
For a charity to successfully build an audience-friendly website, its thoughts as an organisation must be communicated in a way that will convey exactly what it is trying to say. Charities should never be ambiguous or unclear when addressing the core messages because proper implementation of online material is key to creating a meaningful bond between the charity and its audience.
Charity websites should aim to present the information and content in a logical sequence so individuals can move from one idea to another as seamlessly as possible – making sure that at each step of the process the charity expresses the meaning of the content. This is how to build user engagement.
If charity websites are offering a bad user experience, visitors will abandon the site and the charity will lose out when visitors opt for another site which supports the same cause. The clearest way to stand out is to offer a really good user experience which may be seen as a champion of the cause. The charity is not eliminated from the visitor's choice because it is poorly communicating its proposition, which can all be traced back to the website's strategy.
Power of intrinsic motivation
In order to increase fundraising, charities need to work out what motivates people and should understand the emotional mind-set and the needs of its target audience. As human beings, I believe that we are more likely to give than to buy. This is down to intrinsic motivation, which drives people to do positive things like donate money to a worthy cause because they believe it is good and the right thing to do.
People want to donate and volunteer because they want to do something proactive and want to help solve a problem. As a result of this good feeling, people are more likely to use social media and word of mouth to pass on their good experiences and encourage others to visit the website.
New and returning visitors
Charities must differentiate between new visitors and those who are returning to the site. It is the responsibility of the website to educate and nurture the new visitor because the experience is new and unfamiliar and they therefore need to be constantly supported and reassured. Returning donors or volunteers are likely to be aware of how the money is being spent, but they may want to know about the charity's latest news such as new campaigns and fundraising ideas.
Easily recognisable design patterns
In order for websites to increase and optimise their online user experience, they should implement established interaction design patterns. It has become "the norm" for the organisation's logo to be situated at the top left hand side of the webpage which also acts as a direct link to the homepage whilst the footer information is located at the bottom of the website.
These are well known conventions that are simply expected by the online user and the sense of familiarity and know-how increases credibility and the level of trust. Charities should follow traditional design protocols because if the organisation decides to disrupt these design patterns, online visitors may have to guess their way through the website. Visitors will fail to experience online integrity and may question why the site is breaking away from traditional online conventions.
Design by committee
Design by committee is when websites do not centre on the experiential aspects of design but instead focus on the stylistic features which may be needlessly complex and banal and more often than not result in a poor return on investment. Websites need to support visitor expectations. Once a charity understands these expectations, it understands its audience and its motivations for visiting the website and can then craft a design around them resulting in a more meaningful user experience.
Test the site before launching
It is my view that charities' websites should always test the design before launching or relaunching the site to make sure that it fits expectation and behaviour. The website will deliver a better online experience because the charity is committing itself to delivering a better user experience. By testing the site and by taking quantitative and qualitative data, the charity can study the data to ensure any design hypotheses are correct and make any necessary changes prior to launch.
Charities must try and adapt their website structures to the message they want to portray. Only after they have selected the topic and have collected the proper content will they be fully equipped to plan the website structure.
Content should lead over design because it is not necessarily about different colours and fonts; it is about making the website accessible and relevant to its target audience. Whilst the "stylistic" aspects are vital they have to complement the content for the experience to be "believable". By testing the site before launching it, the charity can gain a real insight into which segments are more important and can effectively and truthfully act on what will be more influential in their design. Not testing the experience before launch is the equivalent of digital Russian roulette.
Mobile marketing has seen a massive growth recently as smartphones have become ever smarter and tablet devices have taken off. As a result the mobile communications channel has simultaneously developed to keep pace, and is now worth £203 million in the UK alone according to PwC and the Internet Advertising Bureau. The growth of this channel has massive implications for the charity sector as the current climate for many charities is not a fertile one, with many fighting for donations.
A recent report from the Charities Commission highlights that over a third of all funds donated to charity come from older demographics. Thus engaging with younger audiences through their chosen media rises dramatically in importance. Also a need to diversify in communications offerings also becomes paramount for those charities seeking to stand out and, importantly, to make it as easy as possible for consumers to give while on the move.
To this end, not for profit organisations of all sizes need to evaluate their mobile offerings in terms of how they fit into the marketing mix and can be optimised to reach target audiences, and in some cases this means building a mobile friendly solution from the ground up.
Building a mobile friendly site
First and foremost, a charity needs to make sure that its website is accessible to consumers on the move. There are two ways to approach web builds – the mobile specific site, and creating a website which is easily accessible through mobile browsers. In the case of many charities, marketing funds almost certainly do not stretch to designing two separate websites, so ensuring that the main site is also easily accessible through tablet or smartphone screens becomes essential.
As a general rule, image sizes should be limited to reduce load times over mobile connections, and lengthy text should also be kept to a minimum. The ideal is a simple, striking and effective homepage which is easily navigable to more details relating to user needs.
Making direct donation as simple as possible is key. Details on a simple SMS (Short Messaging Service) number to text to donate a set amount through mobile networks should be prominent as should any other quick donate details. According to Justgiving, 32% of its traffic comes to its site through mobile devices.
If possible, charities should also make sure they have access to the analytics to track where their site traffic is coming from. This will mean the charity can also assess how important mobile traffic already is to their inbound activity, and gauge if engagement with these donors should gain more from investment in the long run.
Moving into mobile
When seeking to engage with consumers through mobile channels, it is essential that charities also bear data protection regulation in mind before actively engaging. It is certainly true that "soft opt in" is the spirit of the governing rules for mobile. A consumer can be assumed to have opted in if they have provided their mobile details to an organisation through another interaction (such as a sale), and the organisation should provide simple and free of charge means to refuse or opt out of this communication channel.
However, best practice dictates that if engaging in MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) or SMS marketing, charities should actively seek that consumers opt in to the channel and actively agree to being communicated with through this means. Because in this way it is more likely that any spend on campaigns using this route will be most effective in delivering return on spend.
Gaining this acceptance from a consumer in terms of mobile phone access not only opens up another channel to marketers, it should act as a strong indicator that this individual is truly engaged with the charity, as they have opened up a personal contact mechanism for marketing use.
Integrating with other platforms
The good news for many charities new to mobile is that it can easily be added into other traditional marketing channels as a response mechanism. Ever since VAT was waived on SMS donations in 2009 and shortcodes were made available to charitable organisations around the country, adding the simple five digit code to communications has become well established throughout many charity advertising channels.
Vodaphone’s Just Text Giving partnership makes this functionality even more accessible by removing the administration and running costs for UK charities – every penny donated by text can go to the cause.
For those consumers with the suitable apps downloaded to their phones or with devices where functionality is now increasingly built in, QR (Quick Response) codes provide a quick access connection or direct response mechanism to a piece of direct mail which removes the hassle of typing in a personalised URL UUniform Resource Locator) for tracking purposes.
While an Econsultancy report released this summer shows how ubiquitous QR code use has become, revealing that half of all brands and marketing agencies in the UK had used the codes in their communications, only 12% of UK smartphone users had actively scanned a code, and their use is already becoming passé.
The development of technologies and platforms allows the codes to be embedded within images or image recognition technology such as Google Goggles. This means that the direct mail pack, leaflet or advert itself can be the direct mobile connection without needing to use space or redesign creative for what is, in effect, a rather unsightly pixellated barcode.
As mobile technology advances and developments integrate RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (Near Field Communication) technologies into new handsets, a personal handset can itself soon become a physical donation device allowing consumers the choice to use this method to donate when encountering street fundraisers.
Given concerns about handing out personal banking information to strangers on the street and while contactless payment technologies proliferate around the UK, many larger charities may find this a quick and easy way of raising funds and giving a shot in the arm to street fundraising activity. However, barriers may exist for smaller charities without the budgets to access the technology needed to collect these payments.
As spontaneity is a frequent driver of street fundraising, location-based mobile contact has the potential to pay dividends in creating context for a mobile campaign. Bluetooth, GPS linked devices and increasingly NFC technology provide the foundations for location-based communications, as long as mobile users have the functionality turned on. Also those charities with networks of physical sites, like shops, could find new ways to engage with donors through bespoke content over these devices.
However it is worth stressing that some form of engagement with a charity will likely already have taken place for this additional content to enhance an experience. It could be used to turn a browser into a regular donor or gain additional exposure for a specific campaign.
Equally location-based mobile engagement has been slower to take off for broader marketing campaigns, and the tactics employed in the wider space, such as discounting or vouchers, do not gel naturally with not for profit objectives. The key to this contact is context, and giving mobile users content which is relevant, targeted and appropriate.
Augmented reality and apps
The major development for mobile recently has been the explosion on the broader stage in augmented reality technologies. Apps which map older street scenes of London over current mobile camera views, and training devices which provide incentive to go running by delivering a virtual zombie hoard chasing the runner have brought new dimensions to mobile use which have resonated with mobile users, especially younger audiences.
Again, presently costs for entry for this tactic can be high, but equally the rewards of an AR (augmented reality) campaign taking off can be equally lucrative whether by greater awareness of an issue or of course direct donations. Those charities with pre-organised sponsored running events may wish to provide an added value incentive to those taking part by offering AR training apps to build greater engagement.
Once a website has been mobile optimised, charities with engaged donor bases can look to develop apps – which sit on their users’ phones until needed. In some cases these just build a direct link between a mobile device and the website. However the best apps are those which actively provide something of value or use – such as Diabetes UK’s blood sugar levels tracker.
Mobile phone users spend over half of their time on their phone using apps so this can be a great place to build donor engagement. Sadly, Apple’s ban through Appstore on listing apps which allow direct donation to a charity means that many charities may struggle to launch direct donation devices through this platform. However, other operating systems such as Blackberry and Android have no such restriction.
Mobile platform demographics
Considerations here should be ownership of the different mobile platforms – iPhone may enjoy good penetration among 25-54 year olds, but other operating systems including Nokia Samsung and HTC-Android are popular among older audiences, while Blackberry remains by far the lead choice for teens, according to Ofcom.
Ensuring the app really adds value beyond what can easily be found on the charity homepage is also a key consideration. The most successful charity apps here are those which encourage people to take action. For example, the iHobo app from youth homelessness charity DePaul UK involved phone users feeding a virtual homeless person and giving him a sleeping bag or money. It became exceptionally successful and shed invaluable light on the plight of the homeless in the UK.
In summary, mobile marketing is diversifying and recent developments mean that some form of mobile marketing is accessible to even the smallest charity. The key point to remember when considering the mobile strategy is that it should not stand in isolation. The true power and reach of mobile is achieved when it is extending and enhancing other marketing channels and organisation touchpoints to create a rounded donor experience which dovetails with the issue at the core of the charity.
"If possible, charities should…make sure they have access to the analytics to track where their site traffic is coming from."
"…location-based mobile contact has the potential to pay dividends in creating context for a mobile campaign."
Within the charity sector, direct mail is still the preferred method of communication. A recent study shows that along with email, direct mail is the favoured channel of communication within donors. 62% of charities compile direct mail campaigns. The secret of successful direct mail planning is to follow certain core principles, ensuring your campaign delivers long term donor value.
DONOR DATA IS YOUR MOST PRECIOUS COMMODITY. Whether planning your first direct mail campaign or your one hundredth, the donor data you hold provides your most precious commodity. It can reveal a wealth of information about your current donors and the key characteristics that they share.
Data holds the key to true donor insight. It is only by understanding who drives real long term value that charities ensure their marketing spend delivers the very best value for money and return on investment. The focus today is not so much on volume but much more on value.
The best way to understand your donors is to conduct regular profiling analysis using large data sources such as lifestyle or transactional databases. These rich data repositories provide insight into the core make-up of your donors from age, income and household composition to interests, hobbies, shopping patterns and attitudes to media. Profiling your donor base not only provides colour as to who your current donors are but it provides an invaluable insight into the types of people that you should be targeting.
GET YOUR MESSAGING RIGHT. Once the right target market has been identified, it is crucial to ensure that the creative messaging complements the audience. Charities have tried many creative methods in the past, but the most effective control packs will follow at least one of the following fundamental methods:.
1. Simplification and emotion – pulling at the heart strings with simple text and conveying prudent cost control through the use of cheaper paper stock.
2. Incentivisation – using "gifts" to try and tempt the recipient to support the charity – types of "gifts" include address labels, calendars, key rings, bookmarks or badges.
3. A raffle – an option to donate alongside entry into a raffle, either via participating in the raffle or donating as part of the raffle itself.
4. A low cash ask – that looks for high response through requesting £1-£3 cash donations with the aim to convert them to higher gifts or regular giving at a later stage.
Acquiring prospects straight onto a regular donation through direct mail is still a difficult approach as the lower response rate does not initially outweigh the high cost of the mailing. The main reason for this is that a one off cash gift is seen as an easier option for people to respond to, whereas a regular gift needs the donor to connect with the charity.
All charities want a strong message in the first communication which presents a real challenge for creative development. Making a regular giving approach work depends on the overall objectives of the charity; the strength of the brand and acceptable targets, but a cash acquisition approach is still the favoured method with the majority of charities.
SELECTING THE RIGHT DATA. Once you have profiled your data it is then possible to build up a picture of who you need to target. Agencies are able to use this information to provide recommendations of the types of data sources that will provide the most valuable prospects for your charity.
Invariably for charities, similar types of consumer often provide the best prospect audience. Consumers who already donate to charity will provide a like-minded and altruistic audience and will tend to be aged 60+, retired and have a relatively stable income. They will also tend to be keen purchasers through mail order and therefore responsive to direct mail.
Of course every charity is different and there will therefore be important subtle nuances within the data that profiling will help to identify. For example for some charities a younger, more affluent age group may prove to be a very responsive audience. These individuals are more likely to be motivated by the specific cause.
Combining an insight driven data approach with relevant creative messaging will help maximise the impact and appeal across each audience group.
DESIGN YOUR CAMPAIGN TO GET MAXIMUM LEARNING FOR THE FUTURE. You have established who your target market is, you have decided on the best creative approach and you know what data you are going to use to target the right prospects. Now you need to decide on what you want to learn from the campaign.
It is really important that you define what the objectives of the campaign are in order to maximise performance. Your choice of objective will dictate the structure of the campaign as it will fundamentally affect the approach you should adopt.
How will this change your approach?
NEW CONTROL. Structure your campaign around creative test cells and make sure they are statistically valid and equal in size so you can measure performance effectively. Limit data and selection testing and stick to core data sets. This will ensure the only variable is the creative.
NEW AUDIENCE GROUP. Use data lists and selections to test the responsiveness of different audience groups. ensure that you limit this only to a few creatives to minimise the total number of segments. The more creatives you have the more segments you require and potentially the less significantly valid your campaign will be.
CAMPAIGN GROWTH. Stick to one control creative and use data tests to allow you to try and expand your universe of data. Be flexible with the level of risk you are willing to accept in testing and expect the performance metric to drop as volumes increase.
IMPROVED CAMPAIGN PERFORMANCE. Look to consolidate or reduce volume to core performers and limit both data and creative testing. Tighten your selection criteria on the data and investigate whether cost savings can be made to improve overall ROI (not always achievable if reducing volumes) as economy of scales may be harder to achieve.
CONSOLIDATE SERVICES TO DRIVE DOWN COSTS. Costs will always play a big part within the success of a campaign and the more you can consolidate services to drive down costs the better. Many agencies provide a consolidated approach which includes data planning, data purchasing, data processing, print and postage, and which ensures costs are kept under control and pricing is competitive.
HOW THIS CAN WORK IN PRACTICE. Here is how Battersea Dogs and Cats Home undertook its first cold direct mail campaign in order to establish an acquisition programme and provide the charity with an effective channel of new donors. The above core principles were put to the test as follows:.
PROFILE. Battersea’s house file was first segmented into "pots" of data ranging from enquirers to donors to lapsed to supporters, and then this data was used to conduct a profiling analysis project. Using these profiles it was possible to define the right target audience to inform data selection and utilise this to identify the right prospects for a separate conversion telemarketing campaign.
MESSAGING. Based on the profile information and what Battersea Dogs and Cats Home knew about ITS supporters it was decided that an incentivised pack approach should be tested alongside a more traditional standard pack.
CAMPAIGN LEARNING. As this was the charity's first cold direct mail campaign it was essential that the charity gained as much learning as possible. Essentially the whole campaign was a test. A number of different data types would be selected to provide maximum data learning and all data would be split evenly across the different packs. Gender and geographical selections were also made in order to measure whether these variables would affect response.
DATA SELECTION. The focus was put on charity donors and mail order buyers and the profile analysis was used to select lookalike prospects from a number of large lifestyle and transactional files.
LOW COST. It was possible to negotiate very low cost test rates and obtain consolidated data processing and analysis.
RESULTS. The campaign broke all campaign targets with a 27% increase in response and generated 24% more income than forecast.
"The best way to understand your donors is to conduct regular profiling analysis using large data sources such as lifestyle or transactional databases."
"All charities want a strong message in the first communication, which presents a real challenge for creative development."
"Once you have profiled your data it is then possible to build up a picture of who you need to target."
With such a heightened degree of sensitivity among consumers, it should be straightforward to make an argument for more investment into data governance and data management. But with charity funds under greater pressure than ever, winning that investment is far from easy.
What the industry watchdog’s research reveals are three key areas as a basis for that business case: data quality, targeting and permission. In terms of the challenge these represent, they are (in order) easy, moderate and difficult. The value of each of these to a charity is (also in order) moderate, high and very high.
Data quality ought to be a standard component of good data management already, but often does not get the support it really needs. Charity marketers can simply view it as a campaign related activity, cleaning and suppressing data just before an appeal is to be made.
This does offer a straightforward, linear argument for spending extra money to remove inaccurate or out of date records. After all, if you are producing a mail pack at £1 per item, spending 20p to suppress an address that has been moved out of makes an immediate saving of 80p. Multiply by your campaign volume and, as they say, you do the maths.
But this can become an endless cycle in which poor quality data stays on a database and has to be suppressed each time. Run five such campaigns in a year and the cost saving is neutralised by the cost of the suppression.
Instead, a case needs to be built for ongoing data hygiene which permanently flags deceaseds and goneaways. The costs may be higher at a typical 35p per flag, but payback comes on the third campaign. It also aligns data quality with consumer expectations of how their personal information is managed (not to mention keeping the data compliant with the Data Protection Act).
The end goal of this new process should also be to keep in contact with lapsed or dormant supporters by tracking them to a new address. Third party data sources exist to provide this service. But it does demand consideration of a challenging data governance issue – should you cleanse a database of supporter names from which you are still getting donations?
This might seem unlikely, but it happens. Suppression processing can throw up matches to deceased files, yet the charity still gets a regular monthly direct debit payment from them. A variety of reasons explain this – joint accounts, respecting a deceased person’s wishes. Only by having a mature governance discussion and establishing policies can this conundrum be resolved.
Targeting is well understood within charity marketing as a driver of incremental benefit from campaigns. Using demographic and lifestyle indicators can create real uplift from mailings that easily offsets the cost – anything achieving a 1:1 payback will be worth investing in.
Less frequently tested is the number of appeals necessary to gain a donation or pledge. Yet as the FRSB has found, over-frequent campaigns are annoying to the consumer, probably because they appear wasteful. Arguing for a test cell which can be used to identify whether frequency makes a difference could transform the cost base of marketing, especially in multi-channel campaigns if it emerges that direct mail could be used as the closer at the end of a programme, rather than as a multi-stage contact route in its own right.
Most challenging and yet most valuable of all is permission. You may not need direct consent for direct mail – it operates under an opt-out regime – but that does not mean supporters’ wishes and preferences can simply be ignored.
These days, consumers are providing constant feedback on their views, not least through social media, and may change their minds at different stages about the channels they want to use. All of this needs to be considered when modelling whether a cause truly has a supporter’s permission to contact them or not.
Building the business case for strategic investment into data governance and data management is complex. But get it right and there is ongoing payback. Get it wrong and it becomes a pain.
Charities, particularly smaller local ones, voluntary and community groups need to be able to generate interest in their activities and achievements so that they will gain support and donations. This is even more of a challenge as funding streams become ever more difficult to obtain. A website is invaluable in providing the solution but the amount of information available for developing one (much of it from organisations with some kind of self-interest) can be confusing especially to people who lack the technical know-how.
So, where do you start? We have put together a straight forward set of guidelines which will help you develop your charity's website. They will work if you are briefing an outside website builder or building your own site using a self-build programme. You need to manage the content and look of your site as cost effectively as possible and without having a degree in IT. The first contact many potential donors/supporters have with your organisation will be your website which operates as your window to the world. It goes without saying that it should be well designed and user friendly. It should look professional to act as a showcase for your organisation. The content must be informative, easily accessible and inspiring.
Ideally, you should be able to work on pages in a draft published state. This will give you the ability to work on individual pages, save the content and come back to them later. Coupled with a preview facility this ensures that you can make sure you are happy with the look and content before you make your page live. Subsequently, you need to be able to edit pages quickly and easily even though they are live. Once you have your layout with your content in place you will need to be able to use simple formatting styles such as headings, italics, bold type and be able to create links to other material and websites. For many organisations the ability to embed YouTube videos may be an additional requirement.
You will want to upload good quality images and manage the content without the added pressure of worrying/stressing about the technical stuff. If you have the ability to update and review your online material, visitors will be encouraged to return to your site. You will be able to sustain their interest and keep their curiosity aroused. The aim is to enter into a dialogue with your stakeholders at various levels. New information, clearly available which is interesting and relevant to your supporters and clients will make sure they keep returning to your site.
If you need to attract funding you must stand out from the crowd of other organisations fighting for the same pot of money. A way to do this is to have a website tailored to your needs which allows you to fully manage the content, letting you quickly respond to events that have an impact on your area of charitable activity, making you the recognised information point. At the same time it should look professional and, one way or the other, you should have full technical support for the minimum cost. This may sound like a dream but it can become a reality.
But the problem even now is that many charities are still using social media in a superficial way and are not measuring results as effectively as they could be. Also, social media is only one part of online engagement. Charities may struggle to convert people on social media if their website is a brochure site with little interactivity.
INSTANT ATTRACTION. Social media is about engagement, not spam. There are people talking about topics related to your charity all over the web, all the time. These are warm prospective supporters, already actively engaged in the topics your charity cares about.
Topics on Twitter are found using the hashtag (#), so your charity should be finding the hashtags for the relevant topics and engaging with the people contributing to these conversations and cultivating interest in your cause. The true power of Twitter is tapping into pre-existing communities in this way, not just building a flock of followers.
MEANINGFUL ACTION. Social media is great for initial interactions, but it is not a transaction tool. This is where your website should take over. I am not talking about the typical charity website, either – a glorified brochure with a naively hopeful donate button. Websites should be interactive and enable you to track interactions for all the ways that people provide you with value.
LEVERAGING ADVOCATES. The real value for charities is the work done for them by their online supporters, or "advocates". The advocates of a specific charity create a virtuous circle by spreading goodwill towards the cause "virally" through their online networks. This allows charities to increase the responsibilities of supporters and outsource more of the problems and pressures. Supporters find the solution.
BUILDING A COMMUNITY. Look at the example of Dyslexia Action, a charity which used advocates on the supporter journey to help to grow voluntary support. Dyslexia Action had been trying to address negative comments about people with dyslexia across social media platforms.
So it was decided to flip the issue on its head to provoke debate. The charity stated: "Dyslexics are cheats because they get extra time in exams." It worked, people started commenting. If people comment, they care, so next the charity needed to build a connection with these people.
The itsme.org.uk website was constructed so people could leave post-it notes, video clips or pictures about their experiences of dyslexia and how it affected their lives. It quickly became a community of contributors who were committed to their cause.
Once Dyslexia Action knew they cared, the charity established a connection with them by enabling them to share their experiences with others by posting a post-it note to the site or coming to an event – which constitutes action. It was only then that they encouraged people to become advocates. Over the past year, new advocates have coordinated a world record breaking game of hide and seek and persuaded Molly from The Saturdays to come to an annual dinner.
Through web and social media, the charity is tackling problems that it couldn't before. The aim was to reach out to 10% of the population with dyslexia. It is well on its way, at one point notching around 10,000 visitors per second. The charity's success has been attained through building a thriving online community of passionate people, not big advertising budgets.
MAKING MULTI-CHANNEL WORK. It is clear how social media can reduce the cost of communicating with supporters. It can be used to coordinate communities, so the supporters can support each other, spreading infectious inspiration. The impact people have now is through their networks. Current systems of donations data capture are archaic. We should be capturing downstream donations: the ripple effect created by a supporter, who was just a drop in your database, but has created a tidal wave of support.
Engaging with social websites
CRISTIAN CUSSEN of social website company NING comments: Charities have always been at the heart of the British public. So it came as a surprise to many when research by nfpSynergy found that public trust in charities was falling rapidly. Given this, and the tough economic times, it is more important than ever for charities to maintain a transparent and honest image to engage with a wider audience. Charities also may need to rethink their online strategy if they want to survive in today's climate.
Charities understand their responsibility to keep their supporters informed and it is because of this that they were some of the first in line when social media became a mainstream consideration. This same shift is happening again, as many charities are choosing to provide social websites.
CITIZEN POWER PETERBOROUGH is an organisation dedicated to improving the lifestyle of those in the area, from helping addicts fight their cravings to starting various arts projects around the city. Their Ning powered social website enables members to easily gain access to help and information and see how the organisation helps others. It is a platform with various organisations or people presenting access to their own websites or member pages, all with the facility for posting comments.
Platforms such as these are able to provide dedicated websites putting social at their core, allowing charities to build an actively engaged member base who feel like a larger part of the organisation. A fundamental advantage to this is that many members feel more able to give their time as well as, or instead of, money.
TOWARDS TRANSITION GLASGOW, for example, set out to clean up the Scottish metropolis. When they started a dedicated social website, members began creating smaller satellite volunteer groups each with their own individual projects. Moving into the online world allowed the organisation and its members to make a difference.
The vast majority of charities have integrated social media into their marketing plans. However, many still do not understand how they can use social media, and social websites, effectively. Done right, social media can be a powerful tool for bringing value to your charity and keeping your organisation close to the heart of the public.