The rules of engagement have changed
The key challenge for charity marketing today lies in balancing the need stand out from the pack, whilst complying with ever more strict data protection and fundraising rules.
In recent years, members of the public have expressed frustration over the lack of control many feel over how, and how often, they are approached with fundraising requests. We’ve all heard the story of the Olive Cooke, the 92 year old who committed suicide because of charities pursuing her for money. Charity marketing is implicated, with organisations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children and the Alzheimer’s Society insisting that their actions were not to blame for Olive’s death. But many of her family have accused the charities of exploiting the poppy seller, with allegations that she was receiving over 260 begging letters a month
Managing charity marketing and communications
Whilst perhaps Olive Cooke presents an extreme example, the Fundraising Regulator is acutely aware of the need to manage the situation carefully. The regulator is guided by the principle that it should be as simple as possible for individuals to manage their communications with fundraisers, and to prevent this type of scenario. In response to concerns, the regulator has developed a system to ensure people can register their contact preferences more easily with charities.
With the creation of the Fundraising Preference Service or FPS (planned launch in 2017), people will have the ability to opt out – and this will affect not just the general public, but also those people that have actively engaged your charity’s fundraising campaigns, but perhaps not opted in.
For those that already have a highly engaged supporter database, this is unlikely to prove a significant problem. Yet for those who rely on email and direct marketing to purchase databases and lukewarm data, there is a need to tighten up significantly on the way they market to their supporters.
We recently met up with Gillian McKay, Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector at the ICAEW (Institute Of Chartered Accountants In England And Wales), who had this to say:
“It’s never been more important that charities stand out with a message that will really engage supporters. These new rules that are coming in within the sector will have most impact on those that have not invested in, or understood, the rules of engagement. Charity marketing will only get harder“
Changes to the rules on data handling
Data protection rules are tightening up across the board, and charities are not the only sector under the spotlight. If we had chosen to remain in the European Union, brands and charities alike would now have less than two years to make sure they are compliant with the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was due to come into place in May 2018.
But does Brexit change this? “Those businesses who have yet to prepare for GDPR – and are hoping that Brexit will mean they don’t have to – are the ones likely to be caught out,” says Frank Jennings, a partner at Wallace LLP.
Any organisation with operations in the EU as well as the UK will certainly comply with the new rules. If nothing else, it will be impossible for compliance teams to manage multiple data standards within the same organisation – brands and non-profits alike. And the deadline for compliance with the new GDPR rules will come around before the deadlines for completing Brexit’s Article 50. With this in mind, complacency is not really an option.
The rules around the Fundraising Preference Service muddy the waters slightly, not least because charities will have to pay for the privilege of membership (albeit the proposed pricing will be proportionate). Gillian McKay’s view on this is clear. “Lots of charities already have very good levels of engagement. In general their budgets are smaller, and their accountability greater than in the commercial sector. While they won’t be able to change the rules, they can certainly prepare for the changes.”
The first thing organisations that do not have this engagement level should do is raise awareness. According to John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal, at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA),
“Brands need to make sure everyone knows what is going on and the rules coming in and how they currently process their data. That can be an eye opener for lots of people.When the regulations come into effect brands will not get their doors kicked down straight away. But if you can show you spent two years doing what you could do comply that will be very helpful.”
The RNLI has taken a proactive approach, announcing in 2015 that it would switch to an opt-in model. Jayne Clarke, the charity’s head of marketing, says the move has showed her how important being ahead is and how long getting everyone in place can take. You can read more about this in this article, taken from Marketing Week: The RNLI on why it has become the first charity to switch to opt-in comms.
It’s all about the message
Since we launched in September 2014, the team at BH&P have worked on the principle “Idea everything, Media anything” – the premise that only with a big, bold, gutsy creative idea behind your marketing, will you actually change peoples’ behaviour.
Gillian McKay from the ICAEW echoed this principle, “those third sector organisations that are investing now – in systems, preparation and getting their message really clear – will see minimum impact. But the reality is that smaller charities may have neither the resources nor the expertise to prepare for the change, and some will struggle as the rules are tightened up”.
Gillian went on to explain that for those organisations without the internal resources, it will be vital that they choose to work with third parties that can help them articulate their point of difference, and that are doing everything possible to be compliant.
In recent years, many charities have turned away from fundraising emails and direct mail, and are increasingly looking to inbound activity and social media for both awareness and fundraising campaigns.
Make the most of Google for Non-profits
Google offers advertising grants of up to US$10,000 per month to charities and some other not-for-profit organisations, as well as a free, enriched version of YouTube.
BH&P runs inbound campaigns for a number of non-profits, including the national charity Crimestoppers, using the Google Ad Grant. For Crimestoppers, as well as generating a significant uplift in anonymous reporting, test programmes allow us to set realistic KPIs and benchmarks for future campaigns. Whilst the ad grant can be used only for search advertising, this is nonetheless a valuable way for charities to both maximise learnings and create supporter engagement with specific issues, whilst leaving their own media budgets untouched.
BH&P rolled out the launch campaign for stayenergysafe.co.uk, on behalf of Crimestoppers in September 2016. The Google Search campaign is currently running at a cost per click of 76p and clickthru rate (CTR) of 5.25% (that’s a 300% uplift compared to Google’s own benchmark for the charity sector). The associated Facebook campaign has also exceeded benchmark targets with a cost per click of 20p, and a CTR of 1.04% (more than 200% better than Facebook’s benchmark of 0.33%).
Micro-lending organisation, Kiva, shares its message using Google’s marketing tools to drive qualified online traffic to its website, and to fund loans that can improve thousands of lives in dozens of countries around the world. They use Google AdWords to raise awareness for their organisation and drive traffic to their website. They also leverage Google Maps as a visual way for donors to see the footprint of Kiva loans. Kiva recently ran a contest on YouTube inviting the community to create and upload videos to describe the value of what Kiva is offering.
The power of social media for charity marketing
Social media offers numerous opportunities for charities to create engagement with their supporters, to make more people aware of the work they do. Seth Godin describes social media as “the greatest shift of our generation”, and those charities that embrace this will be well-placed to thrive over the next few years.
A good example of a successful social media campaign is the #NTChallenge by the National Trust.
National Trust was one of the very first charities to connect with their audience effectively via Instagram. With more than 400 million people uploading 80 million photos a day, Instagram is now much more than the home of a thousand self-obsessed #selfies – it’s changed the way people around the world communicate, discover and travel. It’s become a powerful branding tool.
With the #NTChallenge, National Trust asked followers to upload photos of National Trust protected buildings, landscapes and coastlines, choosing one winning image each week. Their Instagram following is now over 154,000, proving that the #NTChallenge was a great way to celebrate their existing community whilst also attracting new supporters. At the time of writing, Instagram has 35,756 posts with the tag #ntchallenge (though with the aside that you should choose your hashtag carefully – some of these are definitely more Nike than National Trust – #ntc is a Nike challenge tagged in 432,345 posts).
People in 2017 expect to self-select the brands and messages they wish to engage with – and this is a trend that is set to continue. Social media and search marketing will become ever more important as they support this shift, and charities would be wise to embrace the change.
A final word
Whilst it is true that some organisations may lose valuable existing members when new rules on data protection come in to place, those that are both creative and diligent now, with high levels of supporter engagement, will see little change.
Social media and inbound charity marketing will continue to offer new and exciting opportunities to engage with supporters. But for many, the biggest challenge will remain in converting awareness and engagement into tangible and financial support.
What is clear is that rules around data handling will continue to be tightened – in and outside of the EU – and that charities as well as commercial businesses all need to be aware of the potential impact, and plan accordingly.
All figures correct at time of publishing, 16/01/17.
To find out more about BH&P’s creative solutions for non-profits, get in touch.
You can also sign up to receive updates from the fundraising regulator on the launch of the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) via this link.