How charities can learn from businesses to compete for consumer attention

Happy business people web

Ric Hayes believes that for business and charities alike, the principles for gaining attention are the same

TFN Guest's photo

13th December 2019 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

While advances in technology have transformed the possibilities for organisations and marketers, the purpose of communications is still about one consistent thing - connecting with people who have needs, desires, fears and emotions.

Something that is critical for charities whose primary communication objective is to understand these motivations to drive goodwill.

Charities need to move beyond simply ‘promoting their causes’ and focus on consumer centric advertising that looks to understand people’s motivations and appeal to them to overcome the barriers to action.

With 168,000 charities registered in England and Wales - the highest for a decade - competition is growing and this has presented major challenges around differentiation and cut-through in the chase for attention, time and money.

People are growing exhausted from the ever-intensifying noise, with 46 per cent admitting they cannot recall the name of a friend’s charity they last donated to, according to Third Sector Insight – The Future of Online Giving. Charities are not alone in this respect. From multinationals to high street brands, all businesses are battling with the challenge to stand out from the crowd. We are witnessing new areas of competitive pressure:

• For charities that have traditionally acted as a link between supporters and causes, the connected world poses a challenge as more empowered donors look to self-select what to do with their time and money.

• As more commercial brands pursue ‘purpose’ and ethical practices as a method of differentiation, the distinctions between charities and businesses has become blurred, with each claiming the ‘do good’ space. People can satisfy their sense of social purpose without signing up to (and more importantly donating to) a charity. For example, brands are integrating donations into existing behaviours, such as Action Against Hunger’s Dish Donation in partnership with Carluccio’s and Hawksmoor. This trend of lifestyle giving poses risk to the future financial health of the sector as does the decline in the use of cash. While street donations are still king – in fact 58% of all gifts are cash according to CAF UK Giving Report - this is diminishing in line with the decline of high streets, local banks, and ATM closures.

The old routes to market are vanishing and the need to understand the motivations and behaviours of new audience segments is essential.

This means building the capabilities to deliver a people-based marketing approach to provide seamless customer experiences based on the right integrated approach to creative, media and technology.

Ric Hayes

Ric Hayes

It has a multi-faceted approach but has four interdependent essentials:

Make it easier to give

One in four say they would donate more if they could do it through mobile. Charities need to react to the shift in payment preferences from cash to digital, with a great example being the contactless payment unit at St Mary’s Hospital, London.

Optimise digital tech

In terms of digital contributions, owned assets and relationships with third party platforms are essential, with 78% of charities receiving donations via their own websites. But this is outstripped by the 86% who now benefit via third-party sites, such as the JustGiving platform.

Focus on customer experience

41% of consumers dumped their brand because it did not take the time to learn about them and reflect that in its interactions with them, according to Accenture. Eight out of ten companies believe they deliver super experiences yet only eight per cent of customers agree.

Build trust

In an era where trust is in short supply charities cannot rely on the authority that often comes with an established legacy. Building accountability and transparency in every public interaction is vital to maintain trust in the sector. Positive creative messages about the good work charities do are needed to counter the perception of the 58% of adults that agree that persistent negative news stories damage all charities. (Canvas8: Charities in a Low-Trust Society).

This approach is all underpinned by data and insight. If you do not understand your audience, how can they understand what makes you unique and relevant among 168,000 other charities.

It is not a magic bullet but we know this formula works for businesses, with long-term sustainable results. And there is no reason why the same approach cannot work for charities.

Ric Hayes is group strategy director for Dentsu Aegis Network