Charities in the Limelight: The Power of Marketing in a Crowded Space

Over the last forty years, charities have stepped up not only to seek donations and support but also to grab attention in today’s information-packed world. In the era of data overload, organisations in the third sector face the challenge of making their voice heard among the many others in the same space.

In this blog, we offer valuable advice to charities and the third sector on what effective organic marketing will look like in 2024. Join us as we unravel how targeted organic marketing can make a difference in this noisy world.

The Power and Pitfalls of Organic Marketing

With constrained marketing budgets in the third sector, organic marketing stands as an invaluable asset and arguably the most significant opportunity for charities. Beyond cost-effectiveness, organic tactics leverage social media, word-of-mouth, and grassroots efforts, providing a budget-friendly means to amplify an organisation’s message. This maximises the allocation of funds directly contributing to the cause, aligning with the responsible use of financial resources that resonates with both the organisation and its donors.

However, navigating the terrain of organic marketing presents its own set of challenges. Staying adaptable to evolving algorithms is crucial; what was effective yesterday may not yield the same results tomorrow, highlighting the need for flexibility in strategy. Understanding shifts in consumer behaviour is key and adapting outreach efforts to how audiences engage with content is key to maintaining relevance. And at the heart of this strategy lies the power of storytelling.

Amid the information deluge, where messages easily get lost, charities must craft compelling stories that resonate with their audience. Authenticity is paramount in this digital era, particularly given its rarity on social media – inevitably, the power of genuine storytelling remains central to successful organic marketing for charities, shaping future communication strategies.

Crafting a Compelling Story

At its core, this involves:

  • real people
  • real stories
  • a problem, and a solution provided by the charity
  • impactful visuals

Shelter, a homelessness charity, exemplifies this on YouTube, sharing powerful narratives of individuals finding housing through their support. But how does this approach translate to other platforms?

Cracking the social code

In the dynamic landscape of social media, charities grapple with the challenge of understanding the ever-changing algorithms and trends of each platform, each presenting a unique array of opportunities and obstacles. Let’s break it down:

LinkedIn offers charities a distinctive opportunity to connect with corporate influencers and professionals enthusiastic about contributing to meaningful philanthropy.

  • Top tip: Crafting compelling narratives aligned with professional interests is key, utilising features like LinkedIn Articles to provide in-depth insights into the organisation’s mission.

Facebook is a bustling hub with an expansive user base, where the challenge lies in carving a niche amid the content deluge.

  • Top tip: Charities can stand out by deploying attention-grabbing visuals, emotionally resonant stories, and fostering a sense of community through strategically managed Facebook Groups. A prime example of this is Macmillan Cancer Support and their use of Facebook to share touching stories of cancer survivors, caregivers, and individuals impacted by their services.

Twitter, known as “X” since Elon Musk’s takeover, is recognised for its real-time nature, demanding succinct yet impactful messaging. It’s worth noting the rising popularity of Threads by Instagram as a contemporary alternative worth exploring, especially as it gradually becomes the preferred option over X.

  • Top tip: Charities can optimise their presence by strategically employing hashtags, engaging in trending conversations, and utilising poll and survey features for instantaneous feedback. Mind, a mental health charity, effectively utilises X to share personal stories, mental health tips, and updates on their advocacy work. Their tweets often incorporate relevant hashtags to join larger conversations about mental health awareness.

TikTok emerges as a powerhouse for organic content, allowing charities to infuse creativity into their messaging through short-form, visually engaging content.

  • Top tip: don’t be afraid to be a little unconventional to fit Millennial and Gen Z humour. Authenticity takes centre stage, enabling charities to connect with a rapidly growing audience through relatable, genuine, and even humorous narratives. Examples of brands who’ve adapted their brand to TikTok include Duolingo, Ryanair and Bose. For the third sector, the Paralympics official account stands out along with examples like Young Mind’s UK, British Red Cross, Citizen’s Advice, and Girlswhocode.

Instagram remains an excellent platform for visual storytelling, offering behind-the-scenes glimpses and dynamic Reels. Although Reels aim to provide a short-form video alternative similar to TikTok, Instagram hasn’t quite reached that level of success yet.

Partnerships and Collaborations

When it comes to social impact, partnerships and collaborations are invaluable opportunities to enhance the outreach of charities. Influencer marketing is a market that continues to grow exponentially, with its global size doubling since 2019.

A strategic approach to brand collaborations and influencer marketing is crucial to curate and align the tone and style of content to the chosen influencers or partners. This allows charities to benefit from the profound influence influencers have over their engaged audiences, or from the network other organisations have within specific markets.

The strategic alignment with influencers whose values resonate with the mission of a charity enables organisations to establish authenticity and cultivate profound connections with a wider audience. Recognising the profound impact that influencers can have in championing social causes underscores the pivotal role of integrating influencer marketing into the broader collaboration strategy.

Meaningful partnerships with businesses and other organisations within the third sector are just as influential. The collaborative ecosystem that emerges from such alliances facilitates a synergistic exchange of ideas and resources, enhancing the collective capacity to address intricate societal challenges.

Great examples of collaborations like World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Coca-Cola, or Save the Children and the Ikea Foundation, showcase the efficacy of cross-sector partnerships between organisations who aligned their sustainability goals to yield impactful results. On the influencer collaboration front, noteworthy instances include Zoe Sugg with Mind Charity, Jacksepticeye with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Lilly Singh with UNICEF.

SEO for long term impact

While social media marketing can deliver a short-term visibility boost for specific campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO) represents a more sustained effort that is sometimes overlooked by smaller third-sector organisations with limited teams. Nonetheless, implementing effective SEO strategies involves optimising website content with relevant keywords, crafting compelling and shareable materials, and building high-quality backlinks.

By aligning their digital content with the search behaviours of potential supporters, volunteers, and donors, third-sector organisations can substantially improve their discoverability on search engines. A robust SEO framework not only elevates website ranking but also fosters increased engagement, thereby assisting charities in attaining their objectives and making a more substantial impact in the digital landscape over the long term.

What’s next for marketing in the third sector?

As charities navigate the challenging landscape of information saturation and limited budgets, the pivotal role of marketing, particularly organic strategies, becomes evident. Crafting authentic and compelling narratives, adapting to the dynamics of diverse social media platforms, and strategically leveraging partnerships and collaborations are essential components for success.

To truly make a difference in this crowded space, charities must embrace the power of storytelling, stay adaptable in the evolving digital realm, and foster meaningful connections that resonate with the activist generation.

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