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Charities must wake up to online

Written by Louise | 13-Jul-2010 13:59:59

Mintel research about to be released (British Lifestyles Report 2009) indicates that 71% of people have cut spending, and of those 71%, 32% have cut back on charity donations. The report also shows that in the last year peoples’ concern about national or international issues such as child abuse, the environment, drug abuse or crime have all reduced as people worry more about their own job, financial situation and the economy. This is the year that charities really have to start using the web as the major channel for supporter recruitment and reaching those people who need to access their services, or suffer serious economic hardship.  

Traditional supporter recruitment tools of cold mailing and door drops are now returning such low numbers of donations that they are becoming harder to justify. Many charities rely on an older supporter base that has falling incomes (due to plummeting interest rates) and so is less able to offer financial support.  Recruiting new supporters is now more important than ever, but comes at a time when many charities are at a loss to know how to reach a younger audience with disposable income.

Many UK based charities want to build the awareness of their work within a new audience and their web strategy should play a crucial role in this task.  New, engaging ad formats and methods of measurement are being developed all the time. Boundary pushing advertisers like, our own Client, Barnardo’s ran the first HD, full screen ad on The Guardian and Fat Boy Slim is measuring the success of his latest campaign in “interactions” instead of click throughs.  The growth of rich media ads that allow you to submit forms within the ad, without navigating to a separate web site, will help with the assessment of the success of awareness building campaigns and increase engagement.

Facebook has announced that they are lifting the maximum number of friends a page can have with the express aim of allowing charities and celebrities to communicate with as many people as they want to.  This strategy change, designed to compete with the popularity of Twitter, will enable charities to host dynamic engaging content to keep supporters up to date and encourage their interaction and engagement.   

Designing a digital strategy that gets the best out of dwindling budgets needs to take account of how best to engage, inform and involve users or potential supporters, how to measure their interaction with all web activity and the impact all aspects of a web strategy have on people online.  

Trafficking awareness activity is as important as trafficking paid search campaigns.  It enables an advertiser to make sure their activity is live and sends users to the right place.  At its most sophisticated, it can make it possible to see which ads a user is exposed to and exactly how they interact with it, and then crucially allow you to attribute a value to this interaction.

The UK’s larger charities are visibly embracing the web with well constructed web sites that take the user in one click to a donation page, information on what they do or how to get help.  Other charities are still relying on design agencies to build web sites who don’t understand the importance of a short, efficient user journey that makes it as easy as possible for a user to find what they need.

Like never before, a charity’s awareness, recruitment and communication strategy needs to recognise that the individual will decide how they want to interact with the charity and all ages and demographics are now choosing and using the web.  Consequently, it is crucial to make sure a digital communication strategy is engaging, innovative, relevant, tracked and at the heart of everything a charity does if the charity is to continue to raise awareness of its brand, generate donations or volunteers, and strengthen its brand values.