There is a lot of debate now taking place about how marketing a charity’s cause is carried out and indeed even if the emphasis on the cause is the right one. As we know, charities are less trusted than they were 5 years ago, and this is a trend that has been growing since the beginning of the 2000s*. The vast majority of charities are doing a fantastic job and should be supported, but it only takes a few to dent the whole sector.
The negative impact on the sector from a handful of badly managed charities says a great deal of how charities have failed to communicate not just the great work they do but how they are run. Too many people still have the image of the charity worker as someone who is either a volunteer or low paid. The whole business of charity is rarely discussed outside the sector until something goes wrong. Never has marketing and communications been so important in the charity sector and third sector to clarify how charities work, how much people are paid in the sector and the important outcomes charities have.
It has been argued that marketing should meet the needs of the charity’s supporters as much as the cause itself. Without supporters there is no charity and many charities have traditionally overlooked the need to really understand who their supporters are and how to market to them affectively without over marketing to them. Trust is absolutely at the centre of all that a charity does. Without trust a charity will not survive for very long and of course trust and supporters go together. Much more work needs to be done to educate the public on how charities are run, the costs of running a charity and the need to pay good salaries to attract talent.
The charity sector is highly competitive. In some areas there are hundreds of charities supporting the same groups, particularly in the children and ex-service sectors, but it’s not always about being innovative. It can just be about getting your message out clearly, something that is lacking for many charities. Attention span is short when someone visits a website and unless the key message is understood immediately you risk losing a visitor’s attention. Before you accept a marketing or comms job with a charity ask yourself this question. Would you support the charity? If the answer is no based not on the cause, but on how it ss run don’t take the job.
There is probably no other sector that can give you the satisfaction that the charity sector offers. Your skills and input into the marketing strategy of a charity can result in more support for vulnerable children, better care of our natural environment or less homeless people on our streets. It really can be that impactful.
It’s always going to be challenging not just because of what we discussed above but because there are so many worthy causes, but your skills and idea can ensure the charity you work for has a larger slice of the funding cake and your supporters a better understanding of what the charity does.
For more information about charity Communications and Marketing go to charitycomms
*Open University article on the decline in trust 2018