How charities can create successful and cost-effective marketing campaigns

If you’re part of a charitable organisation and want to create a marketing campaign, you might be wondering how to do this without a large budget. Often overlooked, non-profit organisations face the same issues as commercial businesses when it comes to creating a successful campaign. Yet, they typically have less capital to support them along the way.

Regardless of what you want to achieve from your marketing campaign, these tips will help you design and launch a successful charity marketing campaign with limited funds.   

Who is your audience?

Being aware of your target audience and what affects them is crucial to creating an effective campaign. Are there any economic factors that might affect people donating to your organisation? If so, bear these in mind, and remember: no matter what issues you discover, knowing what they are is a critical step to overcoming them without having to start over — which is costly.

Are you wondering how you find out more about the target audience of your campaign? Start by researching current donors to find out their interests, likes and motivations to help you create a marketing strategy that they’ll want to engage with. You can do this for free by using your website’s analytics and metrics, checking out social media accounts, or via a postal survey.

What are your marketing aims?

There’s no point of even starting a marketing campaign if you don’t have a clear goal. Decide what you want to achieve and let that choice guide everything else you do. Not only will this make your campaign easier to manage, but it’ll also prevent unnecessary spending.

Many charities who launch a marketing campaign aim to:

  • Hit a fundraising target.
  • Attract more regular donors.
  • Improve awareness of their organisation.

Anything is achievable as long as you have a clear target — just remember to also make your objectives precise, measurable and realistic.

What is your key marketing message?

Short and snappy slogans and messages work wonders in marketing — and your marketing team can come up with them for free. So, draft ideas regarding what you want to do to achieve your marketing goal.

How about story-telling? Running narratives tend to complement charitable organisations and help the audience engage with your organisation. For example; US organisation, charity: water, dedicates a section of its website to real-life stories of people the charity has helped, and is renowned for its vivid images and poignant videos. Try collecting case studies of how your work has improved lives by:

  • Carrying out interviews.
  • Taking pictures.
  • Creating a ‘day-in-the-life-of’ detailing a colleague or recent beneficiary of your charity and placing it online or as a photo-story for a series of pull-up banners.

After all, showing people what your charity can do is far more effective than just telling them.

How can you write good campaign content?

Videos and photos work well on social media — plus you can take these on your smartphone to save cash. However, strong and emotive content that encourages engagement is an essential companion of imagery.

Whether they’re used in a brochure or online, make sure you maintain a chatty, familiar and light-hearted tone throughout your content to engage with your audience. Create content that is punchy and powerful with a strong key message — such as: ‘Likes don’t save lives’ from UNICEF Sweden or ‘Help is a four-legged word’ from Canine Companions. Taglines like these jump off print marketing products like posters and flyers. If you pair with a striking image, you massively increase your chances of marketing success.

How will you spread your campaign?

Get on your charity’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to boost your campaign and encourage people to share your posts, photos and Tweets for free. Social networks are typically successful at promoting charitable organisations. In 2014, the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association (SSAFA) launched a video marketing campaign to raise awareness and hallmark the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Despite only running for two weeks, the campaign was covered hundreds of times in the media and achieved more than 14,000 social media shares.

However, you could miss out on a selection of your target audience if you don’t utilise other marketing tools. If you want to reach people with something tangible that they can take their time reading and hold on to afterwards, how about print marketing? Nearly 80% of charitable donations come from direct mail, according to a report by the Institute of Fundraising. The same report detailed that print inspires loyalty, with more than half of the people surveyed stating that they find print the most credible marketing channel and a quarter keeping printed products for future reference.

A shrewd move is to use both digital and print platforms when creating a cost-effective marketing campaign. Since print is such a popular marketing channel for charities, many design and print agencies work closely and often with non-profit organisations. So, don’t hold back from getting in touch and discussing your options.

Where can you get funding?

While it’s possible to create, launch and manage a marketing campaign using funding that comes to your charity, it’s certainly worth looking around to see if you can get additional revenue from other sources, such as:

  • Corporations: businesses are often pleased to donate to charities to boost staff morale.  
  • The general public: according to Company Giving, funds from the general public account for a third of voluntary sector income.
  • Governmental organisations: try your local government. But bear in mind that the level of funding changes depending on where your organisation is based. Browse a list of local authorities for more information.
  • Lottery: around 28% of lottery ticket sales are given to charitable organisations.
  • UK trusts: these donate billions of pounds to.

As you can see, launching an effective marketing campaign as a charity is achievable, as long as you stay on target and carry out plenty of research to avoid pitfalls.


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