While for-profit companies began ramping up their email marketing efforts in early October to notify shoppers of upcoming promotions and seasonal releases, charities will be following suit in the coming weeks. Thanksgiving unofficially kicks off the charitable giving busy season that runs through Christmas and into year-end.
The message that charities will be overwhelmingly promoting is that in this season of gift giving, there is no greater gift than to give to those in need. Broadly speaking, this encompasses every charitable marketing campaign whether the goal is to increase cash contributions, volunteer hours, public displays of support, or in-kind donations.
So, what do marketers working with charitable organizations need to know this holiday season?
Do: Create a marketing plan
Don’t: Avoid online advertising
Just like a for-profit business, a charitable organization MUST create a marketing plan. Identify your target audience and understand the motivation behind their support. This is often a much more nuanced perspective than many charities realize. Interact with supporters to find out what they care about and why they care. The perspective that you gain will likely surprise you!
Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals for your efforts. Use these goals as a compass for your strategic roadmap – determining where you want to go and how to get there successfully.
Identify which channels you will use to promote your charity and connect with supporters. Do not be afraid to invest in paid marketing channels simply because of the cost. Evaluate the projected effectiveness of various channels and look for grants and other publicly available money to fund these marketing activities.
Do: Stay in the public eye (for the right reasons)
Don’t: Miss out on local opportunities
Partner strategically with adjacent organizations to gain access to publicity opportunities. Sponsoring local events and being included in local publications is a great way to get your cause in front of a new audience. Local, national, and even international charities and special-interest groups can provide additional audiences for your message.
Do: Target aspirational goals
Don’t: Use guilt or shame
The age of guilt is gone. No one can forget the ASPCA commercials featuring malnourished, despondent dogs with Sarah McLachlan crooning sappily in the background. But that style of advertising has seen its day come and go. Charities now realize that true success comes when you can align your organization’s purpose with your audience’s aspirational goals. While guilt or shame may result in an obligatory one-off donation, fostering a real connection provides the kind of ongoing support that sustains organizations indefinitely.
Do: Regularly communicate
Don’t: Annoy supporters
Many charities only reach out when they need something like a year-end donation or a pledge for an upcoming building project. This is quickest way to turn off supporters. Always treat people like they are more than a donation. Keep them informed and make them feel valued year-round. Keep them abreast of the good that you are doing to reaffirm their commitment to the organization through regular correspondence.
Do not, however, overwhelm them. Remember that while your supporters value your work, they have other passions, commitments, and responsibilities to juggle. Bombarding them with emails and calls will not yield greater support. In fact, it may annoy them to the point of driving them away. Even the most zealous supporters appreciate their space and may go elsewhere if they are continually inconvenienced by your constant communications.
Do: Make it easy to get involved and show your support
Don’t: Just ask for money
Charities need more than cash to further their causes, which is why supporter involvement is so important. Give people a way to volunteer their time, show their support on social media channels, get involved with local events, and invite like-minded friends to participate as well. Cash donations will naturally follow after supporters form these kinds of deeper connections.
Do: Build loyalty and advocacy
Don’t: Let involvement end with a single donation
Foster loyalty by connecting your supporters with the results that their generous support has helped to accomplish. Any organization can get some individual donations, but the most successful organizations are the ones that can transition first-time contributors into regular contributors. Building ongoing support provides is a first step toward creating organic advocacy for the cause. Create a community of passionate supporters and they will continue to grow the overall supporter base on your behalf.
Do: Highlight results
Don’t Overlook the power of video
The ultimate goal of supporting a charity is to drive change. Keep supporters passionate about your cause by showing them the results. Fostering connection is key to maintaining support. Make supporters feel like they are a part of something important – something greater than themselves.
Lean on the data, but do not overlook the human element either. Use interviews, quotes, and short biographies to connect supporters to the work you do. Profile people that have benefitted the most from the organization’s efforts to give a face to the work you do. Don’t forget to use video to create an emotional connection with supporters.
Types of Supporters
Do: Identify and reward top supporters
Don’t: Treat all supporters equally
Obviously, you should treat your top contributors differently than the rest of your supporter base to keep donations flowing but remember to think past simple dollar amounts when segmenting supporters into tiers. Top supporters may be defined by how long they have been contributing, how often they contribute, whether they give of their time as well as money, or how much influence they have in their respective communities. Once you have this list of supporters finalized, decide how you will reward your most important brand evangelists and community influencers. Rewards can be gifts, experiences, exclusive content, public recognition, or some other perk to thank them for their loyalty.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and two children and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!