International Day of Charity – what marketers need to know this Emergency Season

While a day of global solidarity with charity-focused organisations is undeniably well-intentioned and well-deserved, for many in the NGO sector, International Day of Charity – or IDC – is the groundhog day of the busy season.

Charley Day, strategy director, The Kite Factory

The date itself lets charities know they are at the beginning of what The Kite Factory’s strategy director Charley Day affectionately refers to as the Emergency Season – where, as we we edge closer to the golden quarter, the industry is thrown into a holiday rush and charities ramp up their marketing to vie for a piece of the goodwill pie.

As brands look to tackle the pressure-cooker perma-crisis of marketing in 2023, Day outlines how charities can make themselves heard above all the brand-focused noise of the golden quarter.

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. More than ever in fact, 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.

Despite this, 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.

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.

But now I’m on the other side of the fence – and 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.

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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 to what’s going on in a person’s life.

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

Balance of the long- and short-term

Achieving the balance of long-term and short-term brand building is 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 charities can determine when they need to make their 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 say 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, charities will rely on their existing supporters more than ever to maintain income stability. So it’s important to 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, reinforcing to consumers that donating to charity is ultimately an investment in humanity – and not something to be cut from a strained budget.

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