Birds Eye View

International Day of Charity – What charities need to know this Emergency Season

By Charley Day, Strategy Director as originally featured in Marketing Beat

Happy International Day of Charity!

While a day of global solidarity with charitable organisations is undeniably well-intentioned and well-deserved, for many in the NGO sector, IDC is the groundhog of the busy season. Notifying us that we are at the beginning of what I affectionately refer to as the Emergency Season.

As we edge closer to the golden quarter, the industry is thrown into a holiday rush where charities ramp up their marketing to vie for a piece of the goodwill pie – aiming to tackle the pressure-cooker perma-crisis of today.

Having worked my own fair share of Emergency Seasons at a few large charities, I can safely say that the reality of this time of year is most marketers will be knee deep in budgets and planning, with less than eight weeks to go until the peak time for charity advertising.

So, is it too soon to talk about this impending media golden quarter? Not if you’re signing off media plans and approving long print deadlines. The pressure is on. Even more so, as NGOs have taken a huge hit over the past few years and are battling on all fronts – be it financial, climate, war, poverty or human rights. A pressure that seems somewhat ironic considering how much we all rely on charities to support us in trying times.

Expectations continue to mount on charities and their employees. Combined with the pressures of the seemingly never-ending cost of living crisis, the sector faces an epic challenge: How to meet these great expectations, with less funds.

There is some confidence to be had from the last UK recession, when we saw that charitable giving was often the last expense to be cut when considering reducing monthly outgoings.

So now I’m on the other side of the fence – looking in from the outside I’d like to share my three planning lessons for charity marketers, to help make themselves heard above all the holiday brand marketing noise and maintain their presence.

Find new people to appeal to

Many charities are still focusing their appeals on the same profiles and demographics, and creating campaigns based on assumptions of those audiences. To stand-out, charities mustn’t just focus on their channel mix, but on appealing to new audiences – the underrepresented, the generous later-in-life, those with religious beliefs and the ‘persuadables’.

WaterAid implement this brilliantly, creating a well-crafted communication strategy that drives two-way conversation with their audiences, and where relevant, timely and personal communications speak that to what’s going on in a person’s life.

The goal this golden quarter should be to build a supporter segmentation based on values, not just demographics.

Balance of the long- and the short-term

Achieving the balance of long-term and short-term brand building is going to be crucial. Have the courage to learn through an economic downturn, invest in your charity brand to ride out the rough times ahead. There is a lot of research that reinforces that brand who can afford to continue to invest through a recession will come out the other side stronger. What budgets do you have to invest in building awareness? Then you can determine when you need to make your paid media work harder to drive activation.

Establish a loyalty strategy

Don’t forget the incredible dopamine hit people get from giving to their favourite causes. When bringing new supporters into your charity, connect them to your cause and remind them of why they donated in the first place. Edelman’s 2023 Trust Barometer report revealed that 78% of consumers report that they uncover things that attract them and make them loyal to a brand after their first purchase – or in this case donation. Making your audience feel good and showing them their impact will nurture their loyalty. For this to take shape, a robust nurture communication plan must be your first line of defence.

During tough times, you will rely on your existing supporters more than ever to maintain income stability. Give people a reason to remain loyal to the cause you are championing.

Fundraisers and marketers need to be especially creative to stay afloat this emergency season, and most importantly reinforce to consumers that giving to charity is an investment in humanity – not something to be cut from a strained budget.