By Kayleigh Alexandra
Charities have a harder job than most when it comes to their marketing. While most brands offer their customers something in return for their custom, charities have to appeal to their donors’ generosity to see donations — easier said than done.
Charities need to up their game to see results. As a consequence, their marketing campaigns are often creative, innovative, and truly inspiring. Here are four of the best (and what you can learn from them).
Recommended reading: Developing Your Nonprofit Narrative
Save The Children (UK)
Back in 2014, the UK-based charity Save The Children partnered with creative agency Don’t Panic to arguably create the most hard-hitting marketing campaign on this list. Titled If London Were Syria (or Most Shocking Second a Day on YouTube), the first ad followed the life of a London schoolgirl whose life is turned upside-down when a civil war erupts in the UK. Created to bring the plight of Syrian child refugees to an otherwise distant audience, the ad was followed up two years later by another video following the same girl as she continues to survive in a war-torn UK.
This ad campaign is powerful, heart-wrenching and, above all, relatable. It is this empathetic quality that makes the ads so effective by placing the viewer painfully in the little girl’s shoes.
What you can learn from it: charities often work with terrible events or situations that seem unimaginable to western audiences.
War, genocide, and even domestic issues such as homelessness are incomprehensible to most donors. But by making these things relatable to your audience, even by forcing them to painfully confront these issues as Save The Children did, you’ll create an effective and impactful marketing campaign.
Charity: water (USA)
Email marketing is typically a prosaic marketing channel. We get dozens if not more emails in our inboxes every day, so your audience’s attention span is a precious thing. But US-based charity:water recognized this obstacle and created an email marketing campaign that worked with it, rather than against it. When a new donor signs up to the project, they receive a regular automated email informing them exactly how their money is being spent.
And instead of dense reams of copy, the email is artfully arranged with a clear project timeline and bite-size text boxes to make the most of the reader’s dwindling attention span. The donor is presented with an understandable overview of where their donation is, so they can quickly move on to their other emails.
What you can learn from it: getting people to read marketing emails is a struggle. So instead of fighting against it, embrace it.
Get your recipients to open your email with compelling power words — this will grab them, but it won’t keep them hooked. Present the most vital information with headers, distinct text boxes, and relevant images. Stick to the 20/3 rule — 20 lines of text and three images are digestible, netting you a high click-through rate. Stuck for template inspiration? Use some free email marketing templates with clear, readable layouts to outline the most important information that matters to your recipients.
World Wildlife Fund (Denmark)
A selfie might not seem like the most obvious route for a charity marketing campaign. They are typically reserved for lighthearted holiday snaps and poses rather than hard-hitting causes. But the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) subverted the selfie in 2014 with their #LastSelfie campaign.
Danish Snapchat users were sent selfies featuring some of the world’s most endangered species: tigers, pandas, and gorillas, to name a few. The caption for each implored the recipient to prevent it from being their #lastselfie by asking them to donate via SMS, adopt an animal, or share the snap across social. By blending the selfie trend with a popular social platform, WWF reached a millennial audience with a viral campaign that met its monthly target in just three days — no small feat.
What you can learn from it: savvy use of social media is a surefire way to rapidly reach a wide audience.
The nature of social media fosters virality, and a clever, hard-hitting campaign cuts through the noise of a user’s feed.
Embrace everything that social media has to offer, but take it further. For example, you could create a series of targeted Facebook ads that pique your audience’s empathy. Start with a post that evokes curiosity, and then build on it to convey a wider message about your charity. Find some inspiration for yours right here.
For many of us, Down’s syndrome is a giant ‘other’. Unless we know someone with the condition, we have little real knowledge or awareness of what exactly the syndrome entails. We are informed by other sources, often to our detriment.
In 2014, Italian charity CoorDown sought to resolve this knowledge gap by releasing a video showing soon-to-be mothers what to expect if their child has Down’s.
Presented by 15 children and young adults from around the world with Down’s syndrome, the ad educates viewers about the skills, abilities, and talents that they have. It shows that being a parent to a child with Down’s is just as rewarding (and as much hard work) as being a parent to a child without it.
What you can learn from it: one of the most powerful marketing tools a charity has is education.
I mentioned earlier that many of the issues charities deal with are incomprehensible, and educating your audience is just another way to transcend that knowledge gap. The ad above was inspired by an expectant mother’s query, so why not use your own audience’s questions too? Identify what your target market struggles to understand about your cause, and explain it in an accessible format.
The four campaigns above are just a few examples of the innovative and hard-hitting marketing strategies that charities are capable of. Use them as inspiration and follow the tips above to create your own marketing campaign that nets you real results in 2019.
About the Author
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site that donates all of its web revenue to charities supporting startups, entrepreneurs, and other worthy causes. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.