Mike Essex

How Charities Can Better Use Online Marketing to Improve Donations

15th Mar 2011 SEO Blog 5 minutes to read

Comic Relief LogoRed Nose Day is nearly upon us in the UK, and once again Comic Relief have done an amazing job of raising awareness and getting everyone geared up to donate on the 18th March 2011. But what about other charities?

This article explores some of the online marketing ideas they could employ to improve donations by learning lessons from Comic Relief, as well as other successful charity drives in recent years. From viral marketing, to event marketing, and even traditional link building I’ll take a look at what can be done.

Go Viral
The main strength that Comic Relief have with Red Nose Day is the buy in from other BBC properties. Any attempt they make to raise money is given celebrity backing, and promoted across BBC TV, Radio and Online. This allows the fundraising activities to go viral very quickly. So from the Red Nose Desert Trek, David Walliams’ 24 Hour Panel Quiz and Let’s Dance for Comic Relief, it’s likely you’ve come across one of the fund raising activities.

Comic Relief 24 Hour PanelComic Relief 24 Hour Panel People

So how can other charities hope to emulate this without the backing of the BBC? Well thanks to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook we are more connected online than ever. You don’t need a TV station to post a video to millions, or a radio station to share your details. All charities need is to ensure they are active on these networks and are putting out good content. Comic Relief get exposure because they have achieved remarkable things, but any of the above challenges could have been attempted by any of the major charities, and promoted in these ways.

Have an Event
The one day event of Red Nose Day is a great way of collecting together the fund raising that has occurred over the preceding months and reminding everyone to donate. This works fantastically as it is a natural climax to the entire event. It leaves you feeling a lot like this Futurama clip. You are being encouraged to donate every day before hand and then on the night itself it seems like if you don’t donate then you’ll miss your chance. Of course this isn’t true, but donating on the day makes you feel a part of a movement and this all helps to increase the total donations.

race for life

Cancer Research UK do this even better than Red Nose Day by having a regular event in the form of Race for Life. What makes this better is that people are grouped by their local town and that events occur frequently throughout the year. This leads to a more constant stream of donations, by creating a sequence of smaller movements, which also end with an event that calls for donations.

An event like this is great online fodder, and Race for Life is a classic example of making people feel special. Race for Life is only open to girls, which gives it an air of exclusivity and encourages people to bond together and work towards raising as much as they can. As for how they raise this money, sites like Just Giving have made it really easy to email your friends and get donations. The online platforms are already in place for people to do this, you just need to make an event and generate the interest.

Build Partnerships, Build Links
In February 2011 Paypal and Oxfam announced a one month partnership. During this time Paypal would pay all of the running costs of Oxfam, making every penny that was earned during that month go 100% to good causes. Aside from the charitable benefits, Oxfam also gained temporary access to the entire Paypal mailing list, who were sent an email asking them to donate. Oxfam then had the chance to reach an audience that would normally be untouchable.

100% Giving

Paypal also added donate buttons to their website, and paid for a national advertising campaign. All of this was excellent exposure for Oxfam for the month. Whilst the Paypal website has now reverted back to normal as if nothing ever happened, there are still echoes of the campaign online that will help donations continue. For example, all of the positive press that was generated online will remain, many of which have links back to the Oxfam website. These links from strong news publications will continue to strengthen their domain for the future.

Other charities have partnered with companies but not to this extent, and they are missing out on link building opportunities. If a company donates to a charity they should be given a badge to display on their company website. This badge could identify them as a partner of the charity, and will include a link back to the charity website. The charity gets a link, and the company has an accreditation that makes them feel good about themselves. Every company who has a Co2 neutral website is given a badge from Co2 Neutral Website.com and this is an example of such a badge in action.

Better use of PPC
Jonathon Grapsas shares an excellent insight in to how charities can better use PPC in his blog post Google AdWords for Charities including asking people to sign up for a mailing list rather than to donate. You will then collect details of people who are not yet keen on donating but who are aware of your brand. Over time through effective email marketing you can then turn them in to donors.

Google grantsAnother factor to consider is Google Grants. If you are a charity and aren’t using this channel then you’re throwing money away. Google give free AdWords advertising to selected charitable organisations, and through the Grants program you can put your name forward. Advertisers are given $329 per day as a starting figure and can apply for more if they can justify the spend.

Having a free budget doesn’t mean guaranteed number one placements, and a search for ‘donate to charity’ shows a page filled with advertisers, all competing for the best positions. This is a shame as it shows a lot of charities are just bidding on ‘charity’ and leaving the money to waste. In fact a search for ‘charitable donation’ shows no PPC adverts at all. A completely missed opportunity for people who are keen to donate.

When salaries for fundraising managers at charities can reach over £70,000 it’s important these individuals are able to effectively use online marketing to spread brand awareness. The above ideas are a start, and can easily snowball charity awareness in the public eye if used correctly.

I’m ending this post with a challenge. I challenge anyone in the marketing industry, or charity sectors to give away one golden tip below. Think of it as a donation that will help the charity industry grow and optimise better.

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