15 Jun 2017

Create powerful digital content for effective fundraising

Charities are diminishing their advertising budgets on TV ads when digital content campaigns are more cost effective and deliver brilliant results. Sadly, at the moment, digital content campaigns have an image problem. Charities believe they deliver brand awareness. True. But they also deliver to the bottom line. We need to re-educate ourselves: digital content can generate successful fundraising results and has many advantages over traditional advertising channels, like TV and direct mail. Unsurprising given that online giving reached an all time high in 2016.

TV is an expensive and a very competitive field and is now frantically trying to reassure its advertisers that it is still worth investing in. TV sources suggest ad revenues are likely to fall about 2% this year, which would mark the first decline since the 2008-2009 recession. Direct mail is under equal amounts of pressure, as MailOnline articles berate unfortunate stories of bereaved relatives faced with ongoing mailers from charities. Like TV and direct mail, face to face fundraising is also dying out now that we’re living in a cashless society: Britons now carry less than £5 in their wallets – they don’t have anything to put into those buckets.

As the digital world continues to expand, it has a lot to offer charities and fundraisers, and is the best place to start when creating impactful campaigns. This boils down to the major shift in how people are consuming media: the average person actually spends more time on their phone and laptop than sleeping.

Assumptions are often made that digital fundraising campaigns are not the most efficient way of reaching older generation donors. But, with increasing numbers of older people on Facebook and the desire to reach younger audiences, digital should always be the first port of call.

Online content serves a malleable strategy. You can amend the way you talk to people and the way you present content can be changed depending on how people are responding to it. It allows you to listen to the consumer directly, hear how they feel about the cause and the content – and adapt accordingly. For example, you may at first believe that Women, aged 30-45 are your biggest fundraisers and therefore serve TV ads to them. Online, however, the data available will allow you to open this up, perhaps discovering that male millennials are sharing and championing your cause more than anyone else – you don’t then want to miss the opportunity to capitalise on their interest.

Online data and insights available far exceed TV. You can learn more about your audiences, what they like, what they respond to and where they reside. This allows you access to people in a more personable and tailored way, so that the fundraising ask is relatable and more subtle than a traditional DRTV appeal, residing where they already spend a lot of their time.

Our experience at creative agency, Don’t Panic, is producing content that people actually want to watch, as opposed to the watered-down, bland, or hard-to- watch DR appeals people are used to. Online directory, Charity Choice, found that on average, every £1 the top 100 charities spent on fundraising raised a further £5.83 in funding. This highlights the growing need for lean agencies that put most money into the work rather than account management and overheads.

Our exceptional engagement stats for online campaigns and the associated earned media mean that the funnel (the process of creating awareness and interest, encouraging decisions and finally getting viewers to act) is more effective from an ROI perspective than TV campaigns. Online content is also successful in driving new audiences into the funnel, we saw this with our Greenpeace ‘The Little Explorer’ and Lego ‘Everything is Not Awesome’ campaigns where 75% of the audience was new, providing a wider reach beyond the usual target audience. To achieve this we ensure any campaign has a connected approach that:

1. Has an awareness of what is likely to trending, and what is going to be dominating the news cycle. We ask: ‘what is the news hook?’ and ‘what influencers will be interested?’

2. Understands the zeitgeist: What cultural and social topics are going to get people going? What Easter eggs can we place in campaign content that interest groups will react to? Joining an existing cultural conversation is easier and more culturally relevant.

3. Uses this to craft the creative content: Whether it is on online film, a great visual or a stunt, creative strategy needs to run right through its development and execution. When it comes to reaching people where they are online, how can we adapt the idea for Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter?

4. Understands how paid media – if done well – has its part to play in amplifying the message: Investment in media needs to come from earned-driven creative, strategy and audience insight, not the other way around.

5. Understands media retargeting: including a call to action when retargeting an ad increases the chance of individuals giving to a good cause if they engaged and enjoyed the film first time around.

This strategy, which reaches broader audiences, means that our clients not only increase the amount being raised, but also develop long term relationships with those who engage. Sharing content becomes part of someone’s identity. This is where traditional fundraising methods are lacking. Online campaigns provide more value by turning potential converts into long term supporters and advocates.

When producing a fundraising film, it’s important to conjure emotion but not just rely on tugging at people’s heartstrings. People don’t want to share a straight up appeal video as they don’t want to become straight-up fundraisers for that charity. There must be a value exchange which offers the viewer a reason to share. That’s how you earn media.

When asked to donate money, consumers are more likely to engage with something that one of their friends has shared or reacted to than make a donation as a result of seeing a TV advert which has no social influence. Research by The Centre for Market and Public Organisation found that giving is fundamentally a social act. People give significantly more if the person asking for a donation is someone they know. Giving is contagious, seeing others give, makes you more likely to give, and encouragement from a prominent person in your life also makes a big difference to donation decisions.

Building consumer loyalty plays to the fact that social media presence and behaviour is habitual. Fundraising teams want habitual funding. They would rather have direct support every month than receiving a one-off donation. This should be mimicked in the way charities approach consumers. People choose to be online and are choosing to share and give to charities that engage them.

However, that’s not to say that paid media has no place in the ecosystem. Online content and TV can work hand in hand as data from online engagement can be used to target a specific and very relevant TV audience. If the highest engagement comes from a young female audience, for example, you can research which TV programmes the same audience are most likely to watch and retarget them in the ad breaks.

When we created the first ‘Still the most Shocking Second a Day’ film for Save the Children we made a conscious decision to not include a donation ask and focus solely on brand awareness. After the huge success of the campaign it was obvious that this was a huge missed opportunity.

That said, the film did have many strengths including its extraordinary longevity. In this instance, we added the fundraising ask into certain territories within the original video. It then went on to raise a lot of funds. Save the Children saw an increase of 62% in web traffic within the first week, an increase of 146% in PayPal donations, 93% in cash donations and 25% in regular donations. Although the fundraising ask was added in afterwards it was great to see such a positive impact. As a result, for the second video in the ‘Most Shocking’ video series, we considered a fundraising ask from the outset.

The strategy for this campaign was to create a ‘hero video’ with a primary objective of emotional impact and engagement which subsequently included detailed case-studies and donation asks after reviewing the previous missed fundraising opportunity.

The success came down to the inclusion of multiple campaign objectives within each video. Save the Children is now being perceived as forward thinking within the industry with their highly diligent and sophisticated CRM systems and policies. Charities can often be very single-minded. It’s important to realise that fundraising campaigns can work in a multitude of ways if various departments work together.

The combination of powerful digital content and social influence can help charities increase the number of donations and encourage people to give in the long term. So, let’s move away from traditional advertising methods such as TV and direct mail and move with the times to engage people’s emotions and put fundraising firmly on everyone’s radar.

Joe Wade, Co-founder, Don’t Panic