Communications: Long-term goals beat the quick fixes

Chris Greenwood, head of advertising and brand development at the NSPCC, says showing supporters how their actions are part of a bigger picture is one of the best ways to retain their help for your charity in the long term.

Whether you want people to tell you 'they're in', audit the wildlife in their back gardens or walk a million miles, you are part of a small but discerning group of charities that are building relationships with their supporters by publicly asking for that little bit more. In fashion terms, action is the new black.

The NSPCC has always said we can't end cruelty to children on our own - it's everyone's responsibility. We need people to act.

Just because people have heard of your charity, it does not mean they want to help it. It doesn't mean they'll give it money and, more importantly still, it doesn't mean they'll go out of their way for it. Converting people to your cause is about the quality of your relationship with them.

The first challenge is to get supporters to really understand what the charity is about. No one will act for you if they don't understand what you do and why you're doing it. To really engage, you have to educate.

Last year, for example, 75 per cent of parents agreed that smacking toddlers was cruel - in May 2002, the figure was 41 per cent. This is no happy accident, but the result of years of uncompromising communications on the realities of hitting children from the NSPCC and the Children are Unbeatable! Alliance.

Once your supporters are dizzy with empathy, you have to make them believe in your vision and see that their actions will make a difference. Effective action is like a jigsaw - you have to break down your vision into small manageable pieces, be it calling a helpline or taking some child protection training. Supporters must also understand how their small piece is part of a bigger picture that fits together to create a national impact.

To guide your supporters from brand recognition to action takes time and investment, and there are no quick-fix options.

I wonder how some of my colleagues get to implement their plans, because I know trustees and senior management teams in the sector find brand expenditure hard to stomach. My advice is to include a direct-response mechanism in your brand expenditure, so trustees can see a tangible result from the investment, while you create long-term engagement with your supporters.

After all, which seasoned fundraiser hasn't heard their donors demanding to be allowed to do something more than donate?

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