Even the most battle-hardened charity marketers would have to admit it hasn’t been an easy few years for the third sector. A number of high-profile issues have hit the media while GDPR has brought its own challenges as organisations seek to re-permission their donor databases.
Yet these difficulties also offer charities a chance to look again at their models . Hannah Williams, head of account management at WPN Chameleon, is keen to focus on modernising the approach to fundraising. She states: “The biggest challenge is what works as a fundraising model for each charity. As part of this conversation, organisations need help to understand how individual channels fit into a wider communications strategy.”
Hannah cites the evolution of TV as a direct response channel. She continues: “In the past, many charities found success in putting a phone number in a TV ad. Over time, however, as lives get busier people didn’t necessarily want to sit on a call waiting to be connected. Volumes started to drop.”
Marketers then hit upon response via text - SMS and Premium SMS (PSMS) - as a mechanic allowing donors to express their interest or donate, then and wait for a call back, rather than having to make time to phone a charity. While the technique was useful for many organisations, particularly disaster relief funds needing urgent donations, this medium came under fire, too.
“But it still works,” maintains Hannah. “All parties can benefit. The donor is often expecting a call and we’ve heard many instances of them telling charity staff they remember the ad’s storyline or the music used. The human touch in the process is key. Donors are better informed, particularly if the information given is clearer and more concise than TV ads have time to convey. Call centre staff are empathetic and grateful for being given the opportunity to talk about the charity’s cause and how the donation will help.”
While GDPR has afforded many businesses – not just charities – an opportunity to keep in touch, and in many cases get back in touch, with people on their database, it’s also created uncertainty about the correct use of legitimate interest (LI).
The Direct Marketing Association (UK) and Information Commissioner’s Office have backed the use of LI as a legal basis for direct marketing, including TPS-screened telephone contact.
However, many charities remain reluctant to employ it in their fundraising efforts. That’s why the agency believes charities need to consider fundraising ‘in the round’ to be as confident as possible about their campaigns.
“Charities won’t fix everything looking at one step on its own,” explains Hannah. “It’s not just about getting an ad out. Understanding the brief in the context of the full donor journey is crucial. Once someone has seen a TV ad, will they text expecting a call back, or do they want to continue the conversation by researching and engaging online?”
She adds: “It comes down to the direction the charity wants to take with its campaigns, then building the model around how it needs to engage with supporters at every step along the way. Only then can we decide the best solution for fundraising today.”
The agreed approach will determine whether the charity should take a shorter- or longer-term view of measuring results. For example, if search marketing is central to the model, wider factors such as SEO, PPC and retargeting come into play. The donor journey will naturally be longer than a PSMS call back campaign.
“It’s about finding the right model to give the TV ad or other creative the greatest chance of success,” says Hannah. “Seeing all these components come together into a successful strategy takes a lot of hard work, but the results are ultimately rewarding and bring new hope to charities in what we all know are tricky times.”