Online visibility: where do you start?

With so many small charities struggling to be heard, Kayley Dempsey from Seedling Digital discusses how small charities can use online channels to improve their visibility this Small Charity Week.

Online visibility: where do you start?

In 2017, overall charitable giving in the UK increased by around 2.9%. Online giving, on the other hand, increased 18.5%. So although charitable giving as a whole is only seeing small growth, there’s been a significant shift to online methods of donation. So charities that aren’t visible online risk missing out on donations altogether. But where do you start?

The most important mantra to bear in mind when reviewing your online strategy is that it should support your overall organisational strategy. How does your organisation aim to maintain or grow this year? In general, this will fall into one of three options (or a combination):

  • Increase the number of donors or fundraisers (or service users)
  • Increase the average amount given or raised by a donor or fundraiser on each occasion
  • Increase the frequency of donations and fundraising events.

Increase the number of donors or fundraisers (or service users)

Here’s where you need to do some analysis. Is your problem an awareness issue, or is it an activation issue? If your time is limited, as a very rough rule of thumb, search (SEO or PPC) will help you gain awareness with a relevant audience at their most critical point of need, and social media will help you engage an audience that has already heard of you.

If you’re looking to grow awareness, make sure you are using Google’s free Ad Grants for charities to get some free advertising in search results. This is particularly important if you’re looking to reach more potential service users, and the only investment is your time.

If you’re looking to engage your audience and drive them to take action, social media is a great platform. Are you using social platforms like Facebook or Twitter – and if you are, are you posting regularly (more than once a week)? Use Twitter and Facebook Insights tools to see how many people your posts reach and engage. Recently Facebook’s algorithm has started to downweight the visibility of posts from business pages – unfortunately, that means for charities, too. Creating a Facebook group as well as your organisation’s page can be a way around this, as are paid social campaigns, which can focus either on gaining more fans, gaining more awareness, or driving more traffic to your website.

Increase the average amount given or raised by a donor or fundraiser on each occasion

In terms of online visibility, this means making sure you are visible in front of the right audiences, plus a creative review. Perhaps you have a very strong and loyal base of student supporters, who may not be in the financial position to increase their donations. If this is the case, your tactic might be to reach higher net worth individuals. If you have a CRM or email list of your audiences, you can use this list on Facebook to create a “lookalike” audience of your ideal donors, then run Facebook advertising campaigns targeted at users similar to your ideal donor profile. If you have video content, the same tactics can be used for YouTube advertising. If you don’t have a list like this available, think creatively. For example, targeting drivers of certain brands of car can be a useful way to identify users with a higher disposable income, overlaid with your actual campaign targeting.

Secondly, review your creative. If your goal is to have a user base regularly giving £5 a month, ensure your website and social media doesn’t focus on £2 a month. Make sure that where you are visible, all of your communications are in line with your strategy. Spend some time doing a sweep of all of your online channels and ensure your donors are nudged towards your average gift objective. This includes landing pages.

Increase the frequency of donations and fundraising events

Creating a marketing funnel that nudges one off donors to become regular donors, or one off fundraisers to become regular fundraisers will help achieve this. This requires tactics to go out and find your users, not wait for them to come searching for you. Social media, email, or even YouTube can help this.

For example, use social media to thank your fundraisers at events where you have a lot of first timers. Tell their stories, show gratitude, and build an emotional connection with your fundraisers. One study showed that donors who are thanked for their donation are 19% more likely to donate again.

Create regular emails to your donor base that are personalised to user segments – for example, if a fundraiser has taken part in a bake sale, don’t ask them to sign up for a marathon. Segment your base so that your content is more likely to engage them and drive them to take action.

Kayley Dempsey is a marketing strategist. In 2017 she founded Seedling Digital, providing digital marketing services and training for non-profits and ethical businesses.