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How Can Marketing and Communications Support the UK Charity Sector?

Posted by Nicholas Ogden

2018 was a transformative year for charities with the sector facing many challenges, and this year a 'quiet marketing revolution' has been happening in the charity and wider Not-For-Profit sector. Organisations are looking to not just help those in need but empower them as well – how can marketing and communications help?

2019 has seen brand purpose come under the spotlight and scrutinised like never before, with criticisms particularly prevalent when it comes to commerce and corporate businesses trying to 'do good'. This scrutiny has also extended to the Not-For-Profit sector and charities are moving away from a paternalistic approach to one of empowerment in the way they market themselves and their services.

Allys Thomas, Oxfam's Head of Brand explains: "There has gradually been more appetite for [images of empowerment] and charities themselves can play a role in driving and shaping that too, so it's become about how we can challenge and change public discourse as well as respond to it." Not-For-Profit organisations should think about marketing as more than simply a way to raise more money towards a valuable cause, but it is also important that charities utilise marketing and communications tools to promote their cause, raise funds, and portray themselves in the desired way. Global Corporate Social Responsibility Director, Frank Krikhaar, of global marketing agency Dentsu Aegis Network, identifies what the charity sector could learn directly from the marketing world - what he considers the 4 C's.

1. Consolidation

Mergers and acquisitions are commonplace in the marketing world and it has been often identified that mid-sized charities are often competing against other similar sized charities working on the same cause for the same pot of money – why not consider merging?

A recent example of UK Charities joining forces would be Beating Bowel Cancer and Bowel Cancer UK merging in December 2017 – if charities have shared goals, executives ought to consider strength in numbers.

2. Collaboration

If a merger is improbable then what about collaboration? Working together should certainly be considered more frequently amongst UK charities. This concept is not absent from the sector as in larger charities, internal marketing, communications, events and fundraising departments collaborate together as they all work cohesively to build awareness and raise funds.

Collaboration is encouraged in the marketing agency industry as seen with the Common Ground UN initiative bringing together some of the biggest advertising holding groups curbing competition to tackle the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals as together they support and promote global issues. Charities can identify opportunities to collaborate externally with other charities such as hosting challenge fundraising occasions such as long distance running events. Collaborating not only helps drive and increase support for each cause but also contributes enormously to the atmosphere, which makes attending memorable.

3. Content

It has been consistently noted by numerous marketing leaders that content is key and the UK charity sector should also continue to integrate this. Charities of all sizes can participate as creating content can be inexpensive but still highly engaging. A great example of planned content is Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital’s storytelling with #OneDayAtGOSH consisting of hourly shots and snippets from the hospital - the use of Instagram stories can be excellent in supporting this and can help build a following in the same way successful vloggers use these tools. 

Aside from this, the effective use of all social media platforms, the creation of short videos and graphics, and the regular publishing of blogs on behalf of a charity are all ways in which low-cost marketing initiatives can be incredibly effective.

4. Confidence

Have confidence in digital marketing as these tools can be very progressive as seen in recent years with the rise of Crowdfunding and GlobalGiving which has changed the donor culture and landscape. Particularly useful are mobile and digital fundraising platforms like instaGiv - partnered with more than 300 UK charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Tearfund and Amnesty International, instaGiv offers a range of mobile and digital solutions for the third sector and has helped raise over £7.5m. Recent reports on Activate - a texting platform that lets charities talk directly with supporters in real-time - have also seen positive results. The app has been widely texted in the UK and a few charities have now used Activate in the UK, including the People's Vote campaign. Patrick Heneghan from People's Vote said: 'Activate has been a valuable tool in our campaign. We reached thousands of supporters within minutes and had an expert team at the ready to engage in conversation and drive action. We used Activate to recruit volunteers, get people out to events and raise significant funds.'

The younger generations are increasingly interested in how the money going to charities is collected – storifying this as a campaign can blend well in the form of content as mentioned above. The digitally savvy Generation Z are now entering the UK workforce, so incorporating digital trends will attract them and encourage donations and we may even find that these younger generations will change the future path of marketing and communications in the third sector.


To conclude, if the competition is close and funding is limited – perhaps acquisitions or working together to achieve shared goals is the way forward for charities this year. Not-For-Profit organisations should also be embracing digital platforms for marketing and advertising and become part of a sector-wide progressive movement to empower people, which will simultaneously attract the generations entering the workforce in the coming years. Lastly, plan content and don't be afraid to get creative - the more creative, the better story created for your brand and the more memorable your content and campaigns will be!

Here at Pro-Marketing, we focus on making Marketing, Fundraising and Communications appointments across all levels in the Charity and wider Not-For-Profit sector. For more information on this article or to speak to our industry experts about your future in Marketing, contact Nicholas on 020 7269 6338 or nicholas.ogden@pro-recruitment.co.uk.

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