At a time when fundraising in the sector is becoming increasingly difficult, digital is offering an increasingly effective channel.
Now, as the digital fundraising sector is reaching a level of maturity, despite the constantly changing technical and cultural landscape, clear best practices are starting to emerge. This is the first of a series of blogs that upriseUP intend to publish to help pass on our learnings.
Here we are looking at the initial strategies needed for success in digital. These are the things that need to be in place before even starting to plan the detail of what activity will run on what channel.
In many instances these could also be thought of as mindsets, but they highlight common processes and systems, that benefit campaigns. Put simply, when we have seen these methodologies come together, they deliver successful online campaigns. Without them many digital fundraising campaigns fail.
The main strategic factors we would like to cover are:
These blogs are written for people working in, or with an interest in, fundraising. Not necessarily digital or marketing. Therefore, there shouldn’t be any unexplained jargon. However, should you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you and find out how we could help. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Decide on Objectives
An apparently easy one to start off with, but it is surprising how often fundraising campaigns are planned and launched without clear specific goals in place. Tracking these goals is then paramount to success – but we will come to that in the later section on Analytics.
For now, we have broken down the types of objectives that need to be clearly understood:
- What is the fundraising product?
- How will supporters be able to help?
- Are successful goal completions being tracked?
- What is the required ROI (Return On Investment)?
What is the fundraising product?
Never lump several needs into one campaign, such as “donate to our cause, buy from our shop and if you have time complete a challenge”. Unless this is formed around an exceptionally tight message, it simply does not work.
Supporters need a clear indication as to how they can help. You can provide alternatives if they need them, but make your primary goal clear.
How will supporters be able to help?
Be clear about how supporters will be able to help. If it is through online donations, ensure the site can support that. If you would prefer regular gifts rather than single donations, have a default regular giving ask on the landing page.
Are goal completions being tracked?
So important to have mechanisms in place to track your success against all types of visitors. We talk about this more under Analytics.
What is the required ROI (Return On Investment)?
It is essential to know what success looks like, especially if you are investing (financially or otherwise) in the campaign. Are you looking to build awareness or maximise on ROI? If there is a clear single donation ask, how much do you need to see as a return for every £100 you spend?
Know your Audience
Understand the audience that you are targeting as this will have a huge impact in how to target them and the message that you want to get across. Are they a ‘warm’ audience or ‘cold’, male or female, young or old?
Two practices that we run through with this are: research and creating personas.
Whatever did we do before Google? Research your sector (medical research, children, mental health, animals etc) and audiences against the online channels you are considering. A couple of good places to start are:
Once you are tracking your web traffic effectively, Google Analytics (Universal) will be able to provide you with all sorts of demographic data on who is doing what.
Your can conduct your own surveys incredibly cheaply now to get real audience insights. And the data available can make a massive difference to a campaign’s bottom line. We’d recommend starting with Google Surveys: www.google.com/analytics/surveys
So long as it is well maintained, your own database of supporter information should be able to give you real nuggets as to the type of person that fits your sympathetic supporter profile.
Understand what issues people are concerned with, any seasonality trends that go along with them and also the language they use by knowing the popularity of search queries in Google: trends.google.co.uk
It is exceptionally powerful to either measure yourself against what has gone before, but also against other charities in the same field. CharityComms organise a particularly good one for medium to large charities.
Utilising personas is an extremely effective exercise at the beginning of a digital marketing campaign. It helps organisations consider their target audiences by considering the type of person – or people that they are marketing too.
Personas should be built by first researching the audience types that will likely make a contribution to that organisation. This information can then be collected and used to give texture to an example of a particular person, detailing:
- Their demographic information
- Their interests and beliefs
- What their average day is like
- What they are concerned about
- How they would like to be involved
- What kind of messaging would speak to them
- Their Digital Media habits
Answers to questions like this provide insight into which creative should be used on which channel, and what time of day.
Once marketing campaigns are launched they need to be adapted to the results, but really considering the audience forces marketers into a conducting useful research which will usually provide insights into an effective starting point for the initial plan.
Examples of personas that we have created are:
Integrate with Existing Activity
It is important that Digital doesn’t become separated from the organisation’s overall marketing and communications.
Typically, across all fundraising campaigns, the most effective place to start is with people who have already shown an interest in the organisation. This could be members, past donors, challenge event supporters or beneficiaries. Therefore, the real risk is that a disjointed approach across different channels, each focusing on a different campaign will generate mixed messaging issues with the most important of audience. In turn this can lead to a disengagement with the charity brand as a whole.
It’s not just about risk. In many instances there are a number of powerful opportunities when ensuring synergy between on and off- line.
These are the main aspects we check to ensure a synergy with offline fundraising:
Quite simply, is the same campaign or a similar one running offline? If so:
- There needs to be a consistent look and feel across the two.
- All messaging should be double-checked to ensure that nothing is conflicting between on and off-line
- Offline resources should be able to refer to online counterparts, such as web copy, social media pages, and anything else that is appropriate
- Also, visa-versa, is there a ‘Guide to our work’ or similar publication that would make a good e-book?
It takes time to research, draft, check and ‘polish’ good content. Often this is done for offline brochures and leaflets, but is not done for websites. Our belief is that users considering becoming involved in the fundraising efforts of a charity are very eager to understand that charity and the need it is engaged with helping. They want to read about it! – and having a place where content (already written for offline activities) can sit is a significant opportunity.
Its not just about the written word. Photos, graphics, infographics and the brand guidelines themselves can all be share. In fact, many image ads for digital display advertising will take photos and other images and generate banner formats from them in a way that suits the page they are on – automatically. This not only reduces the cost involves but helps generate a connection between on and offline.
Map the Supporter Engagement Journey
Messaging and channel selection will likely vary considerably depending on the engagement journey an organisation is aiming to achieve.
For a quick appeal campaign, where there is an urgent need, paid search campaigns, such as advertising on Google may yield the quickest return at the most effective ROI. This might be especially effective for an international Disaster Relief Campaign such as the British Red Cross. This would effectively bring in traffic further down the funnel, at a time when they are more likely to donate – but there are only ever a limited number of those people.
However, some brands are built over time from continued strong messaging in the right places. The WWF might show impactful videos and banner ads (display) to a targeted audience and over time ask them to sponsor an animal, leading to strong regular giving momentum.
Often a variety of channels are used together, the available quick return, high ROI traffic that paid search can deliver is limited, and at this point a wider brand awareness campaign supports the charity’s efforts.
Automated marketing is poised to make a significant impact to the charity sector. We are already seeing great advancements in other sectors – and in charities in the USA. There is real potential for it to be used to build engagement for potential contributors to charities in the UK, and we expect to see significant increase in the usage of Automated in the UK charity sector in 2018.
Automated marketing relies on good content and useful online resources that users will be willing to sign-up for.
Funnel showing simplified user journeys from our Automated Marketing activity
Once the user signs up to a mailing list, organisations are then able to build a relationship with newsletters, requests to sign a petition, and other communications which engage with those users. Also, this messaging and the engagement journey the user takes can be automated by systems pre-set that are designed to move users to act by understanding their interests and engaging with those interests effectively.
The Product Experience
Crucial to the success of the campaign is the product itself and how it is sold.
It might be a great idea, or a very current appeal campaign. It might also be pretty standard as a concept – regular giving online donations, run the London Marathon. The setup of the landing page, and the journey you take the user on, is crucial. Converting people is dependent on a good product presented well.
This is not content on UX, (User experience), or CRO, (Conversion Rate Optimisation), although watch this space for something along those lines too. For now, however, here are common considerations that can significantly maximise on the conversions delivered from the traffic a site achieves:
Detail the need
Be very clear about what the situation is that you need help to resolve. Give details as to the scale of the problem but also focus in on individual stories.
Detail the solution
Be clear about what your charity is doing to help. Demonstrate to the audience that you have an ethos and a system that is working to tremendous effect. Also show them that you have a plan – that with their help can ensure that the organisation goes on to provide continued support, maybe at a greater scale.
Bring the story to life with engaging media
Video, sound, photos and other images really do speak to audiences in ways that text can never reach. They are especially important at speaking to audiences on an emotional level which is our goal.
Have clear call to action
It’s simple stuff, but you need to let the user know what you want them to do – in a way that they can identify if they only look at the landing page (or subsequent journey pages) for a couple of seconds.
-And make the call to action easy to follow!
Very important this one. Many potential supporters will drop out if you make their journey too cumbersome. Give alternative payment options and make them easy. Make any forms simple and with as few fields to complete as possible. And please, wherever possible try to avoid asking users to print a form and post it back to you!
Test and Learn – an Agile Approach
Launch, test, learn and adapt is a basic tenant of effective digital strategies. Long gone are the fixed yearly budgets, basically a re-hash of the previous year. Now there are myriad changing external factors such as technology, consumer habits and competitor activity. And our campaigns need to change and adapt appropriately.
Not only that, but there are infinite different targeting combinations out there – and we effectively track and evaluate each one, so why wouldn’t we have fun, continuously trial different approaches and learn from the results we get.
Any long-term planning should always contain a healthy contingency budget. Build as much flexibility into things as possible. After launch, all elements need to be tested. What copy works, what audiences perform well – what messaging do they respond to?
All this is needed so that plans can be revised on the fly. And this extends to budgets too. If a definite ROI has been set, are targets being met? – Should budgets be lowered (or increased)?
All of this relies on good quality data. And that is the subject of our next blog – Analytics and data analysis.