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This time it’s personal: use data to engage with potential donors


As brands battle to gain a foothold in our info-overloaded lives, speed, relevance and context are critical factors for successful engagement.

Marketing automation, inbound marketing and multichannel strategies have unsurprisingly been the watchwords for 2012. But while B2C and B2B companies invest in these areas, how can non-profit and charitable organisations use these strategies and tactics for their own goals?

Despite the recession we are all giving more and more each year. According to the Charities Aid Foundation, the likelihood of UK giving increased by 2% last year, with 56% of adults donating to charity in some form. Sites like have made it quick and easy to donate – and share that experience through social networks. But are we suffering from charity ennui? Every day a friend is posting to Facebook details of a marathon they’re running, or an email goes around the office about a fundraising event.

Be heard through the noise

Charities can stand out from the crowd by using some of the same techniques that commercial organisations are deploying. Bottom line: to get people to include you within their cash-strapped but information rich lives, you need to give them a reason to do so.

It’s not enough to just ‘ask’ any more. We have to ‘give’ too – a user-friendly experience, a relevant experience, a ‘just enough’ experience, that’s based on a solid understanding of your audience.

Before anything, you need to know who your target audience are – their motivations, their online habits, psychographic data (their personality, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles). If you haven’t already, create some personas which you can use as a basis when designing any kind of interaction or content.

Start to design ideal engagement patterns. Let’s say you post details of an event or campaign on Facebook. Do you expect people to go to your site, download an information pack, provide you with their email address, sign up to attend an event? Map these processes and plug them into your web publishing system. Tailor your content with relevant, timely messages to help the user along this path. Always think, what’s in it for them? Provide something of value – that’s where understanding your audience’s motivations and interests comes in.

You can then use analytics tools to see how successful your campaigns are and build your engagement from the success – or failure – of previous campaigns. Do you have a CRM which can track all of this information, enabling you to profile and segment people according to demographics, past interactions with you or their communication preferences?

Multiple systems, multiple costs?

Does your CMS talk to your email marketing manager, and your Customer Relationship Marketing tool – what about your web analytics and marketing automation software (for lead scoring and nurturing)? If you’re using several tools to achieve all of this you’ve the added overheads of cost, administration and integration.

Working with an integrated content and engagement solution such as Sitecore brings much of this intelligence into one place, rather than juggling several components at once.

So if you’re a charity what should your next steps be? Get your marketing plan in place. Build out from your organisation’s goals into well-defined marketing objectives. Consider your ideal personas and create engagement campaigns that will connect with them in the right place at the right time. Are you giving them the opportunity to share the experience they have of being involved with your charity in a special way that will in turn enrich their experience with their friends?

Be sensitive to information overload. How much is ‘just enough’ contact? I saw a great unsubscribe page from a travel deals company recently which asked – have we been emailing you too much? Do you want to take a break for a few months or simply dial down the frequency of email updates (with a slick slider bar). Make your engagement easy and non-invasive for your audience and they’ll reward you with their attention – and hopefully, their money.

According to some research we’ve commissioned from YouGov, charities could generate £35.5 million more if they provided more bespoke engagement with donors based on previous interactions. 

Lisa Price is Digital Communications Manager at Eduserv, an IT service provider to the public, education and charity sectors. Eduserv specialises in CMS development using Sitecore CMS – where customer engagement is built in.

About Lisa Price

Lisa is Eduserv's Digital Communications Manager. With over 15 years' experience in digital, marketing, content strategy and tech journalism, she is responsible for our digital strategy and channel management. Lisa has an BA in English Literature and MA in Cultural Politics.

One thought on “This time it’s personal: use data to engage with potential donors

  1. Dama James

    There are two issues here. The first is what is the highest level within a charity that focuses on business outcomes through digital? In most charities its at a junior manager role, ie media manager or like myself Digital Fundraising Manager. Digital is still just a part of the charity’s communication mandate thus it competes for resources like any other business unit. Until Senior Management communicates and acts on the true value of great digital engagement like you describe above, by giving allocating specialist inhouse digital resources and a clear mandate overseen by someone on the Director or Trustee level, the sector will always play catch up and agencies will only be expected to enhance the legacy functions of the websites: publishing.

    The second issue is that institutions such as charities are not as nimble as a start up and this isn’t unique to the sector. We are spending people’s hard earned cash that they’ve given to us and there is a notion in some charities, like here at Stroke Association, that we have to go with tried and tested and make most decisions by committee. Innovation rarely thrives in such environments.

    To get around that we are focusing a third of our efforts in our new Digital Fundraising Strategy on developing digital products like a start up because ultimately we want to bring technical design, development, usability and UX skills inhouse which will allow us to do what you describe above.

    Other charities should look to the future and decide whether the flexibility, but cost, associated with having an SLA with an agency to continually improve the UX of their digital giving operation outweighs that of building their own capacity, starting now. Just giving is only successful because it exploits the illusion that you’re giving directly to an individual. Truth is you are giving to a charity, just giving takes a cut, passes it on and the charity does the same with your gift as it would have, had you gone direct.

    We need to be more likely like Just giving in that respect.


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