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Thursday, 24 September 2020


Why charities need to take a fresh approach to marketing

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FOR charities, up and down the country the impact of COVID-19 has been huge. Outdated models of marketing are no longer effective and seem to be failing to secure much-needed donations, sponsorships and corporate support.

Phil Webb is managing director of Investors in Community, an online giving platform that connects businesses with charities. Here, Phil explains why he’s calling for charities to reconsider how they market themselves to firms, exploring how the old model – of simply asking for money – is no longer resonating with businesses.

It might not come as a surprise that the UK’s top 100 charities attract one-third of voluntary public donations, all benefitting from extensive marketing budgets, strong corporate ties and longstanding relationships with consumers. But, considering there are nearly 170,000 charities officially registered with The Charity Commission, these findings highlight a real issue within the sector – and one that needs addressing fast.

Of course, many charities are still reeling from the impact of COVID-19. The temporary closure of shops, cancellation of nearly all fundraising events and a significant reduction in corporate donations hit the sector hard, with many private enterprises being forced to suspend vital CSR initiatives as staff were furloughed or asked to work from home.

With budgets tightening and businesses looking to cut ‘unnecessary’ expenditure wherever possible, many experts believe the days of charities simply asking for money is well and truly over. Now, charities need to take a more strategic and pragmatic approach to marketing if they are to re-engage businesses and secure future funding.

In an increasingly transactional world, return on investment (ROI) is hugely important and if a specific event or initiative can be pinpointed to making a positive impact on the bottom line, it’s likely the board will continue to back it. More and more businesses are labelling ‘giving’ as a currency – something that they can utilise in their own recruitment, staff engagement, tendering and marketing activity.

Interestingly many of the large corporates, who often give hundreds of thousands to charity every year, are unable to clearly quantify how this money was spent or the impact it had on the local community. This lack of focus has sadly led to a culture whereby the charities able to shout the loudest or with the biggest marketing budgets will continue to triumph – but now is the time to change this.

When reconsidering your marketing strategy, it’s important to highlight how your charity could help a business. This could either be the ‘feel-good factor’, providing a positive PR story, improving staff engagement or perhaps a much needed ‘tick’ on a tender document or impact statement. All four of these are integral to a successful business – remember they need you as much as you need them.

It’s important to remember that no matter the size, charities offer a way for people to change the world and this is a powerful message for a business to convey. When developing your marketing strategy, remember to ask yourself what are the needs of the beneficiaries and how might these needs have evolved. For example, if a private enterprise is looking to support a specific cause or struggling to shrug off an outdated image, why not approach them and ask if they’d like to work in partnership with you?

The charities able to adapt their proposition in this way will undoubtedly thrive over the next few years, as businesses scramble to promote themselves and outshine competitors.

The Investors in Community platform is completely free of charge for charities and community organisations, allowing them to upload specific projects, clearly demonstrate the true value of a corporate donation and promote their invaluable work.

The COVID-19 pandemic shone a light on our nation’s fantastic community spirit, but as we head towards what’s predicted to be one of the deepest recessions on record it’s crucial charities look to develop robust and proactive marketing strategies if they are to survive the post-pandemic era.

You can find out more about the Investors in Community platform here.

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