Making Charities Ruthlessly Efficient



At Thirty Three Percent we have been lucky to work with some very cool charities in our first year and it’s been central to our values that we offer discounted work for charities, as the business was founded on giving back.


What we have found in that first year is that marketing is more critical to a charity’s growth than we might have realised, but also that charities have, at times been spending money on elements of marketing that were not the greatest use of valuable funds. A lot of these things are similar to mistakes made by a lot of SMEs who either don’t complete the basics because they see them as the domain of bigger brands.


Let’s have a look at the classic areas where charities, not for profits and other small businesses can often be more efficient with their time and money.



Channel Paralysis


Stop letting your agencies tell you that you need a TikTok strategy. Expensive Facebook Ad campaigns might not be the best move, but if you have a Social Media Agency, they likely recommend them.


The starting point for wastage is when an organisation doesn’t really understand its customer and as a result, has no focus or direction with their marketing. This manifests itself in mixed messaging and trying to be active on too many platforms, which can be a cost and time killer.


The channels you focus on and where you contribute time and money should be dictated by your strategy, not by agencies you work with or the skills of your marketing executive. Build a strategy starting with your customer. Who are they? This will inform where they usually hang out, places they consume information and where you are most likely to get their attention.


Too much time and money is wasted on channels that won’t give you a return on your investment and with every penny counting for charities, so this is not a mistake you can afford to make.



Bad Agency Spend


As James has written about before, wasted spend on agencies might actually be the fault of the company that briefs in the work rather than the agency. As so many agencies are keen to help and offer cheaper services for charities, they generally allow them to get away with less rigid processes, which magnifies the situation.


We’ve had a couple of experiences ourselves where we have come into a project that’s getting out of control and we can see that the charity has been offered really good support from an agency, but has left them to it. This has unfortunately led to the agency not really producing something that fits the charity’s values or their target audience.


Because a project has started and they don’t want to waste the work done, the charity is then spending money on getting the problem fixed, money for a project they didn’t originally plan to spend on.


The key here is to remember that any project, however cheaply someone offers to do it for (including for free) should be planned and brief properly. There is an argument that when something is done cheaply or for free, then as a charity you should avoid that, because either the agency won’t do as good a job as they would normally or that the charity won’t give it the attention it should get and you end up with a bad output that needs fixing and ends up costing more long term.


So, regardless of the cost. ensure the agency understands your values, they understand your customer avatars, your content strategy and whatever else is needed to complete the job. Set targets and goals for the project.



Charities Should Be Viral


Most businesses would love to have the loyal following and genuinely authentic messaging that comes from being a charity. Most charities don’t realise what they have and fail to maximise the viral effect of what they do, instead wasting money on marketing they should be getting for free.


This starts with understanding what makes you special. Just being a charity is not enough, this is not a reason people love you, it’s the values behind why you are a charity that matter. By understanding this and telling that story, you’ll have a message that will resonate and people will want to share - getting this level of organic reach is something commercial businesses can only dream of, so take control of this advantage.



Making It To Hard To Donate


Charities have a great reputation for direct marketing and making good use of data, long before it became popular because of the internet. But in many cases, this has led charities down a bad path when it comes to online donations and expecting far too much from people when they want to just give you some money.


You need to make the donation process as seamless as possible. Optimise it for a mobile experience, because that is where most will be donating. Most importantly, stop looking to collect too much data during the process because it will put some people off.


We’ve come across charities that take longer to donate to than it takes to apply for car insurance. Keep it simple then follow up after the donation to collect more data. It is true that people are more likely to give information to a charity than your average brand, but don’t push that too far and build up a picture over time.



Marketing Automation


In the commercial world, the second someone shows an interest, they are looking at ways to automate as many marketing messages to you as possible. If you actually buy from them, this goes up tenfold. Unfortunately, too many charities don’t follow the same thought process and miss out on simple opportunities to raise funding.


By not using the basic marketing technology available nowadays, Charity’s are missing out and wasting time and money, doing manual processes and not maximising the potential of the volume of visitors they get.


This is best categorised by looking at Marketing Automation, the art of automating marketing communications based on a user's actions. The act of signing up for a newsletter, buying a product or simply donating should trigger a series of communications that allows a charity to maximise its long term engagement with that person. Here are just a few simple examples.


  • Welcome programmes. The user signing up for a newsletter shouldn’t mean they only get your weekly or monthly email. Build up a relationship from the moment they join. Tell a story over a series of emails about what the charity stands for, what they can expect from you in future emails. This is a chance to make a great initial impression

  • Donation abandonment - Depending on when they abandon and what you already know about them at that stage, it’s often possible to follow up to these individuals and remind them how easy it is to complete a donation. Emphasis the great work you do and what any donation would go towards

  • Purchase programme - If you are a charity that sells products on top of fundraising, then it will be vital you have a post-purchase programme in place to reinforce the charity, what it stands for and look for future donations