Oxfam plans marketing overhaul

Oxfam is planning a radical overhaul of its marketing strategy that will see departments working more closely together on supporter-led campaigns.

Preliminary plans, which are yet to be confirmed by Oxfam's trustees, outline a complete restructuring of the marketing division. Campaigns will become more tailored to appeal to individuals, and supporters will have more direct input into deciding how programmes are to be run.

Possible plans include the launch of a supporter communications management team, which will work on building detailed supporter profiles and feeding this information through to other departments which will work on a range of carefully targeted communications.

Simon Collings, head of fundraising at Oxfam, said that the overhaul was vital if Oxfam was to find new channels to market and have "our voice heard above the noise".

Email and digital marketing will play an increasingly important role in appeals and will form a major part of the charity's regular communications with supporters.

A team will handle email exchanges between supporters and the charity alongside other communication channels. Individual donors will also be given a single point of contact who will handle all their enquiries. This may lead to a reduction in telephone and door-to-door fundraising.

"We're making these changes in order to put the supporter, not the campaign, at the very heart of all our communications and fundraising activity," said Collings.

"At the end of this rejig, no Oxfam supporter should receive anything from us that does not have a direct relevance to a past communication."

The charity also intends to cut back on costs by reassessing the levels of direct mail currently sent out to its database.

"Of course, we're not going to stop direct mail activity completely, but the development of our web communication is key to personalising our messages on an individual level," said Collings. "Supporters are used to being talked to in a sophisticated way and we must recognise the levels of expectation have changed."

This approach will filter through all of Oxfam's marketing programmes including donor acquisition activity, and the charity will work towards a more integrated approach to recruiting different types of supporter.

"Like a lot of modern-day businesses, we're turning away from promoting a range of products and are beginning to ask ourselves how people want to interact with the Oxfam brand," said Collings.

The changes are designed to shift Oxfam's focus from mass marketing to focusing on specific target audiences. Collings said that in a market where one charities mail pack looks much like another, it is vital for Oxfam to find new ways of talking to the public.

He added that the department should be completely restructured by the beginning of 2005.

Changes have already been implemented in the past year with the charity increasing its email communications and strengthening its online database.

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