he UK charity marketing sector has been hit just as hard as the private and public sectors by the recession and the post- recession ‘age of austerity’ that’s still very
much prevalent in the UK. And just like in the other sectors that has meant both budget and job cuts as charities seek to ‘do more with less’, a phrase which may come to define the first half of this decade we’re living in. But just how hard has the sector been hit? And what does that mean in practical terms to those who carry out this most important of insight-driven marketing work? How has the sector evolved its game to meet the new challenges head on?
REASON FOR OPTIMISM A quick look at the Charities Aid Foundation website which collates donation statistics for UK charities suggests that the sector may not have been quite as hard hit by the recession as many other sectors, a notion backed up by Jim Baggett, Managing Director of charity-focused Marketing Services Provider Wood For Trees. “The reality is that the sector doesn’t seem to have been hit anywhere near as hard as other sectors have,” he says. “We work with about 28 different charities at the moment and the vast majority of those haven’t experienced a downturn in total donations, though there are clearly a number of variables at play here.” The number one factor at play, of course, is the huge strength of many of the UK’s household name charity brands, and the emotional power that they exert on vast swathes of the population. But another possible variable is that the sector has simply gotten significantly better at fundraising on a sophisticated level over the last five years or so.
“The last few years really have been hard on
the not-for-profit sector,” counters Glenn Cook, formerly database marketing guru at Macmillan Cancer Care support, now head of Group Solutions at The REaD Group. “But what the recession has done has forced a lot of charities, especially the bigger ones, to take much greater control of their marketing, to get under the skin of exactly who they are targeting and with which messages.”
Cook highlights the continued growth of Macmillan’s revenues right through the recession period as proof positive that a strong focus on insight-driven marketing can deliver results in even the toughest of macro economic times. “The charities that have been least affected by the last few years have been those that grasped the importance of understanding their data five or six or seven years ago and invested heavily in a data analysis and function,” says Cook. “In other words, the ones that have been most successful have been the ones that decided
a long time ago to run their fundraising divisions just like any other commercial business would.” Baggett’s experience also tells him that most of the UK’s bigger charities have long had data insight departments that would rival those of many big private firms in terms of complexity and sophistication. He also raises the possibility that for many next-tier charities not yet operating at that level, it might be a worthwhile exercise to ‘take the hit’ for a couple of years in order to build a much stronger fundraising function in the longer term.
“I think a lot of marketers would be surprised at how slick and well organised the database marketing departments are within most of the big charities,” he says. “Most of those guys ‘got it’ a long time ago and run very sophisticated multichannel activity of a very high standard. For charities that haven’t quite made that leap, though, it’s certainly possible to argue that it’s worth taking the hit for a year or two to invest in an insight department to build the basis for future growth.”
One of the main stumbling blocks for charities
here, of course, just as in any other business or organisation, is gaining board approval for jam tomorrow (at the expense of jam today). To make this leap, suggests Baggett, requires a strong board and a strong CEO or MD.
“Most of the bigger charities ‘got it’ a long time ago and now run very sophisticated
multichannel activity of a very high
standard on a regular basis.”
Jim Baggett, MD, Wood For Trees
He explains: “While the benefits of most
direct and database marketing activity are easy to demonstrate, you still need a willing pair of ears at the highest level. A good example is a client of ours, The Dog’s Trust, which is a great brand and as far back as 2005 it made the decision to invest in a proper insight function. “Key to that was a great chief executive who saw the potential of data and who had the courage to pour money into a number of channels. Since then, the charity has been flying in terms of fundraising.”
Cook’s story at Macmillan is not a dissimilar one. When he joined the charity was heavily dependent on the strength of its brand and was doing well but needed to evolve. “We managed to persuade the board, led by a Sainsbury’s veteran who understood data, to
News in brief Charity digest
RNLI | Marketingunity Software house Marketingunity has implemented its web-based marketing suite for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). The first phase, scheduled to launch this month, will centre on its ‘Web to Print’ solution, and will enable the charity’s community fundraisers to order marketing material 24/7, and customise it to boost the fundraising potential of local events. The system automatically generates the material before routing it to the RNLI’s in-house production unit, saving administration and production costs.
Later phases will also bring benefits across other areas of the RNLI’s marketing processes – from the design and approval of artwork, through to print procurement and campaign management.
Vogelbescherming | Blackbaud Vogelbescherming Nederland, Netherland’s leading organisation for the conservation of wild birds, has selected Blackbaud CRM to support a major shift in its outreach strategy that requires deeper and more informed constituent relationships.
Blackbaud CRM will enable all departments of
Vogelbescherming to bring together disparate information from across their fundraising, membership, campaigning and volunteering programmes, and from across multiple channels to obtain a centralised, 360- degree view of the organisation’s constituents. Blackbaud CRM is the only solution of its kind developed specifically to meet the needs of large not- for-profit organisations, providing an enterprise-wide, multi-channel and scalable platform for constituent relationship management.
Data sharing in real-time and from remote locations is supported by enhanced data security while user-friendly management, reporting and analysis tools provide powerful functionality for building in-depth profiles and histories, peer-to-peer benchmarking, intelligent targeting and prospecting, and complex mission delivery.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust | PCA Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has just raised an additional £10,000 in a single month from supporters it would have lost touch with thanks to Cleanse+, a contact data cleansing service from Postcode Anywhere. The trust used the service to correct inaccuracies in the address data, before cross-referencing against the National Change of Address and Mortascreen datasets to account for changes in members’ circumstances. As well as eliminating embarrassing phone calls resulting from poor contact data quality, the service allowed the trust to re-engage with people whose memberships had lapsed.
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