After running numerous other city- and county-based Twitter Hours, we knew that there were not many that focused purely on charities. Therefore, we founded @CharityHourUK to allow charities, supporters, and volunteers to interact, build relationships, and share both knowledge and advice throughout the Charity sector.
Our Twitter Hours all follow the same format – with a different topic each time the hours run and five questions asked throughout the hour to ensure that we can form a discussion around the topic.
We write the questions following this structure: “Q1 – What is your best bit of Charity fundraising advice? #CharityHour” then people usually answer with the same structure, for example, “A1 – I’ve found that social media helps really get the word out #CharityHour”.
We really want our Twitter Hours to be like little mini communities, so we love hearing feedback, tips, advice, and any knowledge that will help our participants with anything charity related!
20 Digital Marketing Tips for Charities
Charities do fantastic work in our society – without them, many people would struggle due to a lack of much-needed support. But, of course, charities need support too, in the form of donations and volunteers.
Luckily, the British public are an altruistic lot. According to a recent survey, in 2014/15, 75% of people had donated to charity in the four weeks prior to being surveyed. 14% of those people had donated over £50 in that four-week period, showing that it’s not all coppers in a collection tin either. And it’s not just financial backing that the public has to offer: in 2014/15, 47% of English people volunteered at least once a month – that’s nearly half!
So how can charities get themselves known and harness the generosity of our society to benefit their causes? In the digital age, online presence is key; not only in promoting your charity, but in engaging with the public.
But where to start? Don’t worry – here we have 20 fantastic, easily-achievable digital marketing tips for charities which will help you to build a loyal base of supporters online. We have grouped these tips by which area of marketing they relate to. The first group looks at the one thing you MUST get right before starting with any other digital marketing – your website.
It doesn’t matter what else you do to raise your digital profile – if your website is cluttered or hard to navigate, you won’t convert online interest into supporters, as visitors will just give up on it. Here are some tips to ensure that your online visitors stick around long enough to get involved.
#1 Make it mobile-friendly
Last year, Ofcom declared that we are a ‘smartphone society’. 66% of the UK population now owns a smartphone, and 33% of internet users see their smartphone as the most important device for browsing online, compared to 22% in the previous year.
What does this mean for you? Simple – the number of people looking at websites on their phone is rising. If your website is not compatible with mobile devices, you are cutting off a considerable chunk of your potential audience.
When designing (or redesigning) your website, create a mobile-compatible site too – this way, smartphone users will stay on your site rather than give up in frustration.
#2 Keep it simple
Another way of making the browsing experience better for the ‘smartphone society’ is to avoid clutter on your website. Make the navigation clear and easy to use, cut down on distractions like adverts and news feeds, and keep your copy brief and to the point.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It can be hard though, especially if your organisation has several departments or campaigns vying for space on the homepage. But the website user is all-important – if the website is not appealing to them, nobody will get any attention. Put the user first when designing your site, and make sure they are able to find everything they need without too many clicks or distractions.
#3 Use quality content
Once you’ve got the design right, ensure your content is going to grab attention. Whether it’s images, video, audio, or text, your content drives engagement.
A brilliant way to hook in a visitor to your site is through stories – and charities tend to have lots of these. A story will always appeal to a reader, and can elicit an emotional reaction that could encourage the reader to become a supporter. You could feature stories from employees, volunteers, and beneficiaries of your charity – anything that shows how you are changing lives. Scope used stories to great effect in their 100 Stories campaign in 2015.
A bonus of using stories on your site is that they can also give hope to people in similar situations and encourage them to use your services – giving you the opportunity to help even more!
#4 Review and adapt
Once you’ve spent time and money getting your website right, it can be tempting to leave it as it is and just update the content. But things change so rapidly online, you need to keep reviewing your site’s performance to make sure it is still effective.
You can do this is by using Google Analytics, which can be installed by your web designer. This will tell you which pages on your website are the most visited – these are the key pages to focus on, should be easy to find and use, and will contain all the information you need potential supporters to know.
You can also find out where your traffic is coming from and how many visitors leave your site straight away (or ‘bounce’). Then you can determine which traffic sources are the most fruitful and need the most attention.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation – basically ensuring search engines like Google list your website when certain phrases are searched for, and getting as far up those search results as possible. If you’ve followed our tips so far, you’re partway there – well-structured websites with high quality content generally do well in the rankings. But there are a few other ‘tricks’ you can use to climb up the Google ladder.
#5 Bring in keywords
It seems obvious, but it’s a point so many websites miss – if your copy doesn’t include the words and phrases people are searching for, your site won’t rank well in search results. So when you’re writing your content, think about what people might search for online to find websites like yours, and try to include these words or phrases in your text.
Google Analytics can help you with this, as can Webmaster Tools, which your web designer can also download for you. The former can tell you what visitors to your site searched for in Google, while the latter will tell you which keywords are most prominent on your website. This way, you can see if what you are publishing matches what people are looking for.
Do not undermine the quality of your content to incorporate keywords, though – search engines can spot this a mile off, and ‘spammy’ content filled with keywords will just push you down the rankings, and annoy visitors!
#6 Stay up-to-date
This tip is twofold. Firstly, it is important to keep your website updated, as search engines like fresh content. This will also help you to stay relevant – if you’re talking about topics which are currently in the news, you’re more likely to be found by people searching for these topics.
Secondly, you need to make sure that when updating your website, you don’t leave any dead links. The more links that bring back the dreaded ‘404 Page Not Found’, the lower your rankings will be. So when removing a page, make sure the old link redirects to the relevant new page.
#7 Build your backlinks
Backlinks are simply links to your website on other websites. If a search engine can see that your website crops up on other well-respected sites, then that tells it that you are reliable and important enough to rank well.
This is where charities have an advantage over commercial companies. By their nature, businesses are in competition and so less willing to help out other businesses with a backlink. However, charities are more likely to work together for the greater good, and so will happily include a link or two on their website.
If you have a network of charities you are in contact with, ask them to include a link to your site on theirs – and offer to do the same in return. You could also ask public sector organisations you work with, and even local businesses. And make sure any press coverage includes a link to your website too.
#8 Make sharing simple
A great way to boost both your traffic and your search rankings is to create content people will want to share – and enable them to share it! You can include buttons on your pages which allow readers to share the page by e-mail or on various social media platforms with just one click.
You might be asking, if readers are sharing the link directly with their contacts, what does this have to do with SEO? Well, the more visitors you get to your site, the higher up the rankings you will climb, whether or not they found your site through a search engine. So this tactic boosts your traffic in two ways – what more could you want?!
#9 Use PPC
PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click. This is where companies bid on particular keywords which are commonly searched for, and Google places a link for the winning bidders at the top of their search results. While SEO is still very important, PPC is a handy shortcut to the top of the search pages!
You’re probably thinking that anything involving bidding could get expensive, but don’t worry, this doesn’t have to cost you a penny! Google Ad Grants will give eligible charities $10,000 (£7,000) a month to spend on their AdWords service.
Barnado’s Ireland are a charity who have benefitted from Google Ad Grants – they started using the service in 2007, and AdWords now accounts for over a quarter of the visitors to their site.
Facebook and Twitter
Social networking sites are becoming increasingly influential on people’s online activity. Half of the UK population are now on Facebook, and about a third are on Twitter, so you can’t afford to neglect these platforms. They have great versatility and can be a goldmine for charities seeking new supporters. Let’s look first at what you can do on the biggest social media platform, Facebook.
#10 Get a Facebook page
Facebook pages allow organisations and individuals to engage with a wide audience on the site. They are an easy way to share updates on what you’re doing, along with information, links, and images that are relevant to both what you do and to your supporters.
Facebook pages are tricky to use well, however. Facebook doesn’t automatically show everything you post to everyone who ‘likes’ your page. How many people see a post depends on various factors, including how regularly you update your page, how many people interact with the page generally, and how many people interact with specific posts. Get it wrong and your ‘reach’ (the proportion of users who see your posts) could be as low as 1 or 2% of your total ‘likers’.
To tackle this, post regularly – at least 3 times a week, preferably more, and post things that people are likely to ‘like’, comment on, and share. Asking questions is a good way to get engagement, as is sharing useful or topical links.
#11 Create and share great images
Images do well on Facebook – they catch the eye, are easily shared, and can stir emotions in the viewer.
It’s surprisingly easy to create attention-grabbing images – websites like Canva can help you generate them if you’re not a whizz at graphic design. You could use pictures of beneficiaries, volunteers, or events combined with a quote or call to action to show what you’re doing. Statistics can also make good images for sharing on Facebook.
One very powerful use of image can be seen in UNICEF Sweden’s 2013 campaign, in which an image of a child being vaccinated was paired with the line, “Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.” Designed to remind their likers that charities still need donations, the image and accompanying videos were shared widely and had such an impact that the money raised funded vaccinations for over 600,000 children.
#12 Like, and work with, other pages
As a Facebook page, you can also like other pages which are relevant to your work. This has the benefit of allowing you to easily keep up-to-date with what other organisations are doing, and can also allow for cross-promotion if you create a dialogue with those pages.
A great example of this locally is the collaboration between St George’s Crypt in Leeds and the Facebook page Humans of Leeds. This page posts images of Leeds residents with accompanying quotes, and ran a week-long campaign focussed on the service users and employees at St George’s Crypt. The response to the posts was overwhelming and gave great publicity to the work of the charity and how they change lives.
#13 Get your likers contributing
Remember back in tip 3 we talked about using stories to capture the interest of potential supporters? Facebook is a great way of sourcing these stories as you can ask your likers to share their experiences with your charity. They can do this by posting directly to your Wall, or by using a hashtag you create for your campaign. You can then share the best of these stories easily without having to write a word yourself!
Another way to get likers involved is through challenges – but proceed with caution here. An interesting example is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014. Originally started to benefit the ALS Association in America, it raised a huge $115 million for this charity – but was also adopted by other charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, who promoted their own version of the challenge. Also, not everyone who took the challenge donated to charity. So while a viral challenge may seem like a good way to raise awareness and funds, it should be handled very carefully.
#14 Get following on Twitter
The other major social media platform in the UK is Twitter, and is another great digital marketing resource for charities. When setting up an account, make sure you choose an accurate username and an image that is easily identifiable with your charity, describe yourself clearly in your bio, and include a website link.
The next thing to do is to follow other accounts. Start with charities and organisations you are already in contact with, and then add others that you are interested in or who complement your work. You can use the Search function to find people talking about topics or areas your work relates to and follow them if appropriate.
One advantage of Twitter is that users are notified when another user follows them, so everyone you follow will be directed to your account. It’s a brilliant way to get noticed by other organisations and potential supporters.
#15 Create dialogue
Once you’ve started following people and read their tweets to see what people are talking about, get talking yourself. You can tweet updates and links just like on Facebook, but try to fit everything into the 140-character limit. Spreading an update over more than one tweet is not ideal, as it is harder for others to re-tweet or reply to.
Once people start replying to your tweets, reply back. If somebody re-tweets you, thank them. This is basic Twitter courtesy which shows other users that you are interactive and worth both following and engaging with.
Look at the tweets of users you are following and reply to whatever is relevant or interesting to you. The more conversations you have on Twitter, the more followers you will get and the more interested they will be in your work.
#16 Embrace hashtags
Hashtags are useful for so many things. Looking at trending hashtags will give you an idea of what people are currently talking about. You can also use them to find other users talking about issues which are relevant to you, and enter into a dialogue with them.
Using a popular hashtag in your tweet can be tricky to pull off but if done well, it can reap benefits. Having collaborated with Eastenders on their storyline about character Stacey’s postnatal depression, charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis tweeted using the hashtags #Eastenders and #Stacey to draw viewers’ attention to their work and give them details of how to donate.
You can also create your own hashtags, as many larger charities do to promote campaigns. For instance, in February 2015 Age UK launched their #notbymyselfie campaign, encouraging Twitter followers to spend time with an elderly person and tweet a photo of them together. However, smaller charities may find it harder to gain momentum with self-created hashtags, so sticking to existing ones may be more fruitful, as long as you don’t hijack other charities’ campaigns.
Other ways to get noticed
We’ve looked at how to create a great website, get it ranking high in search results, and promote your charity through Facebook and Twitter – so what else is there to do? Believe it or not, there are still more ways of getting your message out through digital marketing.
#17 Use other social networking sites
We’ve covered the big two but there are lots of social media platforms you could use to market your charity. Flickr and Instagram are great for sharing images and can be used in conjunction with Facebook and Twitter too. YouTube can be used for videos and audio slideshows to show the human side of your organisation. LinkedIn is good for connecting with businesses and can be really useful for PR, marketing and recruitment. And Pinterest is perfect for collating useful information, images, and articles relating to your work.
While Facebook and Twitter are probably still the two social media platforms to focus your efforts on, many businesses now have a multi-platform approach to their digital marketing which could pay off for small charities too.
#18 E-mail your supporters
Away from the world of social media, let’s not forget the power of the humble e-mail. There are still more people with an e-mail address than with a social network account, and e-mail gives you direct access to a personal online space in a way that social media doesn’t.
You can embed a newsletter sign-up form on your website as well as sending it out via Facebook and Twitter to collect e-mail addresses. People who sign up tend to be actively interested in your charity, so are more likely to donate their money or time to you. Use regular e-mail newsletters to inform them about current campaigns, events, and ways to get involved. Include links and buttons with clear calls to action to allow readers to support your work with just a few clicks.
A couple of bonus tips for fundraisers…
We’ve focused on charities so far, but many would struggle without fundraisers, so it’s important to help them too! Here are some ideas for fundraisers to publicise their efforts.
#19 Promote your event online
Whether it’s a simple coffee morning, a race, or even a full-on gala day, there are lots of ways to find attendees for your charity event online.
First, create a website for your event. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy –a simple blog or micro-site will do. The important thing is to create a unified online presence for your event with clear information.
Next, use social media to promote your event. Create a Facebook page about the event and share it on your timeline, asking friends to share as well. Also, create a Facebook event and invite your local friends to it – and set the event either to Public, or to allow invitees to invite their friends too. By having both, the event will send regular reminders to those who sign up, and the page can be used to continue conversations afterwards.
You can also promote the event via Twitter by creating a special hashtag and tweeting local influencers and potential attendees. Include a link to your site or Facebook page in every tweet so people can get more information.
You can use your site, Facebook page, and Twitter feed to post regular updates on preparations for the event, including how many people have signed up. This will create a buzz around the event and show that other people are getting involved, encouraging others to do so as well.
#20 Using social media to gain sponsorship
If your fundraising is an individual effort, such as a skydive or marathon, you can still leverage digital marketing skills to boost the number of sponsors you get.
As with charities, a story is important in encouraging people to sponsor you. Most fundraisers support a particular charity for a special reason, and sharing that reason with your potential sponsors will help them to see the importance of what you are doing. JustGiving has a great guide on writing a compelling story for your fundraising page.
When spreading the word on social media, don’t just post a link to your fundraising page. Create a Facebook page to share with friends and family, and post updates on your preparations and training. And of course, the more your likers interact with your posts, the more people will see them and the more sponsors you could get!
You can also use the JustGiving Facebook app. This allows people to sponsor you without leaving the site, and they can also share that they have donated to encourage others to do so.
As with events, you can use Twitter to publicise your fundraising efforts through a special hashtag, and through tweeting people who can spread the word. Celebrities get inundated with re-tweet requests for fundraising activities, but tweeting the charity you are fundraising for or other interested parties may be more fruitful. As with Facebook, updates on your preparations, including photos and videos, will capture the interest of your followers and encourage them to donate.
There are so many ways charities can use digital marketing to their advantage – these 20 tips have only scratched the surface! But by following them, your charity could gain many new supporters and become more visible in the community too, allowing you to help more people.
We love all of the interaction that happens during our Charity Hour! The community that we have built deserves some recognition so find some of the great charities who have joined in below to add your website.
About Harrison Mann
Harrison Mann is a Bradford digital marketing agency, working with a variety of clients around the city. Initially offering web design Bradford services, we have since grown to offer a range of SEO, PPC, Content, and social media marketing services for our clients. Each service that we offer contributes to our primary goal – increasing your revenue. That is our sole aim and objective. If you’d like to discuss your digital marketing needs with us, contact us for a free informal discussion.