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What Three Years Working At A Charity Has Taught Me About Marketing

This post was originally written in 2018 when I worked at Winston's Wish - a national children's charity.

For many marketers, there has been a shift to paid marketing in recent years. Facebook’s algorithm changes has meant that paid posts are being favored; forcing marketers to pay to reach their audience.

For those, like me, working in the charity sector, that shift is not possible. As a charity, we have to spend our money responsibly and funds have to go towards the service — that’s what people are donating towards after all.

This post expresses my views only and not those of my employer.

I currently work for a fantastic charity based in the UK. I won’t name them, but they do fantastic work with children after the death of a parent or sibling.

It’s really devastating stuff. The impact bereavement has on children is profound.

Thankfully, the charity is there to help. Thanks to the generous donations of supporters.

Taking care

Working in the marketing team at a charity has its challenges, namely resources.

Not only do we have to wear a lot of hats and juggling a lot of different plates, but we don’t have the budgets that commercial organisations would have.

Taking care of how the charity spends its money means that our marketing activity is more focused and considered.

It sucks. Not because it makes my job harder, but because bigger budgets would allow the charity to reach more of the children that need their help.

It can’t be like that, though, and that’s the major difference between working for a commercial organisation and one in the third sector.

Although challenging, taking care of how the charity spends its money means that our marketing activity is more focused and considered.

Here are the lessons I’ve learnt working in marketing for a charity:

You don’t need external experts

In the commercial sector, you often have the option of outsourcing to external agencies.

In the charity sector, you often cannot do that. You have to get your hands dirty.

I learnt that very quickly. At the charity I work for, we had an issue with our website. It went offline and the freelancer we’d contracted had gone off the radar.

The website being down meant that thousands of children and young people in need couldn’t access the support they needed.

Luckily, I had a bit of experience in WordPress (the CMS we used) and managed to do the rebuild myself.

It’s a small thing, but appreciating each other’s skill set and capacity to go above and beyond really makes a charity a special place to work.

Understanding your audience

If you work at a charity, it’s likely that you’ll be dealing with a sensitive subject matter.

Whether it’s cancer, mental health or poverty in a third world country, you’ve got to be considered and measured with your approach.

When I first joined the charity, it was a case of pushing out anything and everything we deemed appropriate on social media.

A new company was supporting us? Check.

Somebody held a bake sale? Check.

A new member of staff had joined the organisation? Check.

You get the picture.

After doing a bit of work to understand our audience and the platforms they used, it became apparent to me that we were disengaging our audience.

You see, these people have suffered a great loss. They come to the charity for support. For information, advice and guidance.

Telling them about Rupert who had done a skydive and raise £300 was not giving them what they wanted.

They want stories of people like them.

They want videos to help them manage their grief.

They want podcasts that they can use to understand their feelings.

Making this change resulted in a 255% increase in Facebook interactions, a 98% in referral traffic from Facebook to the charity’s website and a 106% increase in interactions on Twitter.

Content is king

On that note, content is what people crave.

Whether your charity is helping to save the planet, fighting for women’s rights or supporting families, your audiences want content to educate and help them.

For charities, the content really is king.

Producing content is another fight — one that can be hard to engage other teams in the organisation in — but once you find the right mix, your content will be winning.


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