These are challenging times, with charities projecting an average loss of 48% to their voluntary income. With events and public fundraising off the menu for now, it’s time to think laterally – and innovate. As a health and charity communications agency, we’ve been working across many digital fundraising campaigns over the last couple of months and wanted to share what we’ve learned with you.
1. Make it virtual
If your event is cancelled, can you repurpose it as a digital fundraising activity? Compassion in World Farming turned a planned bake-off into a fun virtual cooking competition with participants uploading photos of their creations to be judged on Facebook by celebrity ambassadors. Which brings us to…
2. Use your celebs
Celebrity ambassadors and patrons may have more time on their hands than usual, and could help by hosting a virtual event or online auction or featuring in a promotional video. We’re very grateful to Michaela Strachan and Nick Baker for helping us recruit participants for ‘Naturehood’, an online platform by Earthwatch which enables people to take part in local activities to enhance biodiversity and nature near them.
Heartfelt support from a celebrity championing your cause can work powerfully for smaller charities who are struggling to get onto their audience’s radar. These types of videos also have lots of potential for organic reach, which can help maximise your budget. Try not to feel hampered by limited production options – there’s plenty of virtue to be found in a rough and ready self-recorded message from your ambassador. However, do make sure your videos still have clearly defined calls to action – a guiding script is vital.
3. Show your relevance
If your charity’s work is linked to Covid-19, now’s the time to remind people. We created an animated banner ad for the UK Sepsis Trust to demonstrate the connection between Covid-19 and sepsis and show that they could support survivors of both.
Likewise, if your charity is finding things extra difficult because of the crisis, clearly articulate the challenges to your supporters. Health charities who are supporting vulnerable patient populations have had to invest in new technologies to keep carrying out their vital work. This all comes at a cost, that many supporters may not be aware of, but will be sympathetic to.
4. Make it healthy
With gyms closed and 5ks temporarily cancelled, lots of people will be receptive to doing a fundraising run, cycle, weight-lift or other sporting challenge for you… at home.
Virtual ‘team’ runs also have the added value of helping your supporters feel connected to your community. It’s important to remember that many individuals will be processing the disappointment of not being able to take part in physical challenges they’ve been training months for. Make sure your digital communications engage empathetically and enthusiastically with your audience and present them with further opportunities to get involved.
Both Samaritans and the UK Sepsis Trust (UKST) have risen to this challenge and come up with the Samarathon and Cycle for Sepsis respectively.
5. Go social
Test some ad propositions on social media. As a low cost, low risk activity, it’s an ideal way to generate leads at a time when your marketing budget may well be smaller than usual.
In recent months, we’ve helped many clients reach new audiences using our Social Media Labs testing programme. Instead of taking a gamble with your marketing and media budgets, you can quickly test different creative routes on different audiences, then refine your approach until you find the combination that works for you.
6. Know your audience
It’s really important to know your audience, especially if you’re planning to ‘go social’. You may have some existing insight on who your supporters are - but testing on social is the perfect opportunity to gain more insight and play with different targeting strategies. These insights can be taken offline too, and used to inform more costly fundraising activity in the future, such as DRTV or large DM campaigns.
7. Be blunt - and emotional
The need currently facing your charity and its recipients is probably greater now than at any time in recent years. So tell it how it is in your social ads and emails. If lifesaving research is under threat, or people/animals may starve to death, state it boldly. (Third Sector reports that in a recession, people on middling and lower incomes actually give MORE. Go figure.)
We saw this approach work well with the petition and fundraising campaign we created and ran for Action Medical Research, who are raising money for vital research into how Covid-19 affects children.
8. Use data & statistics
To demonstrate the ‘need’ in a fundraising campaign, using evidence and hard-hitting statistics really helps to put things into perspective for potential supporters. It’s even better if you can make this personal and show the impact that your work can have on individuals, or families - as well as the ‘bigger picture’.
9. Harness the mood
The pandemic has brought out the best in many people, with a renewed sense of care for others in their community. Christian Aid tapped into this successfully with the message, ‘when I needed a neighbour, were you there?’
10. Use moving pictures
You may not be able to film, but you can still repurpose old footage or stills to tell the story behind your cause in a short video or animated infographic. Anything with motion has a far higher pick up rate on social media, so it’s definitely worth while reviewing existing footage to see what stories you can tell with the means at hand.
During the lockdown, we worked with CLIC Sargent to produce a DRTV ad using archive footage and our partners Middlechild Productions to create this piece.
11. Optimise the giving experience on your website:
Can you make it easier? Can you offer ways for people who can’t necessarily give money to contribute, e.g. by signing a petition?
Landing page drop off is the bane of many digital fundraising campaigns, so it pays to test your pages forensically. The key thing is to make your landing pages as straightforward and emotionally powerful as possible. The more donors have to click, the more opportunities you have to lose your audience.
It’s also worth taking a step back and making sure your landing pages look authentic, crisp and professional. This is especially important for charities with lower brand awareness, as audiences who know you less well are more hesitant when making donations. Spend time on design to avoid hampering the effectiveness of your campaign in the long term.
Before planning your next digital fundraising campaign, have a quick think about what makes you donate, personally.
Cash asks are typically a fast, emotional trigger. For them to work effectively, you have to present your audience with an unignorable emotional need and give them an opportunity to be a part of the solution – in as few steps as possible.
A regular gift symbolises an ongoing commitment to the change people want to see in the world. What does your work mean to your audience, on an aspirational level? Your job as digital fundraisers is to emotively articulate the urgent need and your unique solution, and to bring your audience into your vision. Fundraising is harder now, but in many ways our audiences are more willing to give. You just need to find them and engage them with the right message.
About 11 London
11 London is an advertising and communications agency, based in West London. We work in the areas of health and humanity - with organisations, brands or products that improve or prolong life. To learn more about 11 London, please contact: