Third Sector

Why should digital be at the top of your charity's fundraising agenda?

Find out at Digital Edge, an inspiring Third Sector conference on Thursday 16 April with top-level speakers including Matt Jerwood of Oxfam, Martin Carter of Comic Relief and Sam Butler of Anthony Nolan. Read this article for a preview of what they're going to say and full details of how to register

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The Digital Edge event on 16 April will bring together digital, fundraising, media, communications and PR professionals to tackle the challenges faced by the voluntary sector in raising awareness and fundraising through digital and social media channels. In preparation for the event, we asked some of our speakers why digital is (or should be) so important to charities right now.

Sam Butler, digital marketing manager at the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, says digital is important to charities because supporters are spending more time than ever online. "If we want to engage supporters and harness their energy, we need to be there with them," he says. Bernard Muscat, senior social media officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, adds: "2015 is the first year when more than half of advertising spend in the UK will be digital. Digital media is not just important for charities – it is important for all organisations seeking to keep in touch with their audiences".

Cancer Research UK's senior digital services manager, James Gadsby Peet, says getting people that are digitally skilled to see the charity sector as a place they would like to work is great challenge. However, he believes that "any charity not investing in this area – regardless of their cause, audience or ambition – is missing an opportunity to connect with people".

At Digital Edge, the speakers will address a range of issues in the digital space, such as social media engagement, website optimisation and integration to name a few. Matt Jerwood (left), digital fundraising lead at Oxfam GB, will address delegates on the subject of mobile and SMS marketing. He will examine mobile strategies that have worked both well and less well for Oxfam and engage in some "horizon-scanning" for the charity’s "online journey".

One element of mobile marketing and fundraising that has already established itself as a "trusted friend" for Oxfam is the SMS response to emergency campaigns, especially from TV adverts, and most recently for the charity’s pre-Christmas Ebola appeal. "That’s something that has consistently performed for us," says Jerwood. "The supporters understand what a request is: it’s a low-pressure form of engagement and it’s easy for people to do – there are very few barriers. And a very low level of knowledge is required to get it. Some of the other things we've come across, by contrast, require explanation, and people might not have the technology."

Jerwood will also discuss the future of mobile marketing as the functions performed by the phone continue to multiply. He will talk about what might be possible for mobile marketing in the context of what might catch on for supporters, and he will consider new developments that are likely to pay off quickly for charities. "The normal behaviour of the supporter is definitely changing," he says.

We also asked speakers what their one piece of advice for those wanting to effectively engage with their supporters and fundraise through digital or social channels would be. Here’s the holy grail to digital fundraising:

"Understand who you want to reach. Build, measure and learn. And you have to invest in digital properly – especially time, skills and budget." Linda Davidson (right), operations director, Legend Engage

"Value conversation as much as you value content, and remember that more and more people read your messaging on mobile and handheld devices." Bernard Muscat, senior social media officer, Macmillan Cancer Support

"Ignore click-throughs – engagement is the metric that matters, as has always been the case. If you can speak to people in a way that engages them in your cause, they will want to get involved and fundraise for you. They probably won't click on a banner ad to do so." James Gadsby Peet, senior digital services manager, Cancer Research UK

"Use the data and the tools that are available to you. Set your strategies based on what you know about your audience, rather than the industry or that article you read on LinkedIn. Or, you know, I’ve heard cat photos do pretty well?" Martin Carter, communications manager, Comic Relief

Find out more from our industry-leading speakers at Digital Edge – www.digitaledgeevent.com

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