Charities have to develop better customer (donor) relationships

It’s easy think that just because a charity is a non-profit that they lack the same commercial awareness and urge to generate revenue exhibited by their ‘for profit’ counterparts.

Actually charities are every bit as commercially-driven as business. Every charity understands the importance of maintaining long-term, profitable relationships with their donors and volunteers. and whilst the charity sector may not be so gauche as to talk about ‘customer relationships’ and ‘lifetime customer value’, this is exactly how they operate to keep money coming through the doors to finance their causes for as long as is necessary.

As with businesses, charities have to deal with considerations such raising awareness (marketing), reducing the churn of donors and volunteers on their database (retention) and working out how to activate advocates to spread the charity’s message further (advocacy).

Charitable giving is decreasing; aggravated by irrelevant communications

The problem for charities is that many are struggling to both maintain relationships with their long-term donors and reactivate one-time givers; an increasing issue for the sector, particularly as charitable giving is on the decrease in the UK.

This is further aggravated by the fact that charities – in their eagerness to raise awareness of their new campaign – are fundamentally interruptive. When you’re reading a gardening magazine – you see an ad about child poverty; if you’re watching TV – you see a commercial on Sudanese warzones; when you’re online – you get a pop-up about the ills of ivory-hunting. Each of these interruptions is an unsolicited marketing message from a charity or charitable cause that you may or may not give two hoots about.

At best they are an annoyance to be ignored. At worst, they alienate potential donors from getting involved with forever.

How then can charities start or maintain a relationship which adds value to the donor and keeps them engaged until they are ready to donate again?

Using content for awareness, retention and advocacy

Content marketing provides an excellent way for charities to reach out to or stay in touch with donors by disseminating valuable and useful content that engages with their interests without necessarily going in for the hard sell (“give us your money monthly”).

In contrast to the interruptive “Please donate now” advertising most people are subjected to by charities, content marketing attracts, engages and builds a relationship with an audience which may make a donation in time.

Grist is an excellent example of a non-profit doing content marketing. The site publishes articles daily on environmentalism, the sharing economy and advances in eco-science, to attract and activate people who might eventually donate to climate-saving causes. As a result of content marketing, Grist proudly “reach a community of more than 2 million people a month. Sixty-five percent of them do something based on our content.”

Grist’s content is so good that it is not only consumed passively by readers but it is also actively shared on social networks. Sharing content is a great first step towards advocacy – something that can be achieved more easily if charities were to create interesting content over the long-term rather than relying on campaign ‘drives’ to encourage advocacy.

That said, whilst we can make broad statements about the efficacy of content marketing for non-profits, we know that all this content is as good as useless if it doesn’t resonate with the interests of each recipient.

How then can charities begin to learn what their donors interests are so that they can communicate more effectively and stimulate more transactions (donation)?

Content Intelligence reveals your customers’ unique and current contexts.

Author Walter Mosley once said, “A man’s bookcase will tell you everything you’ll ever need to know about him”, and it with this in mind that brands are starting to see the value of understanding what customers are reading and engaging with online. By tracking donor’s interactions as they browse and engage with content, non-profits can use content analytics to begin to reveal current and evolving interests amongst their donorbase.

Content intelligence platforms are able to extract the topics contained within content (for example – people, places, activities, brands etc) and create interest profiles for individual donors based on what they have been reading online.

By using content intelligence, charities can understand (from tracking what I’m reading amongst the content they are producing) that I’m more interested in ‘water sanitation treatment’ and ‘Lima’, than I am about ‘Romania’ and ‘orphanages’, for example.

By understanding your current and future donors’ interests based on what they’ve been reading, you will be able to:

  • Be more engaging on the phone during funding drive tele-calls (thereby improving the likelihood of getting a donation commitment)
  • Send me direct mail on issues that I will actually read rather than throw away
  • Create content that your audience will be inclined to share and advocate on your behalf on social networks

Furthermore, content intelligence platforms automate the delivery of content to prospective and active donors to make sure they receive the right content, in the right channel, at the right time – a powerful and simple way to improve the effectiveness of charities’ digital marketing.

Creating content that is engaging and interesting, rather than interruptive and demanding is the best way for charities to develop and maintain relationships with a donorbase that is time-poor. This process can be automated to make sure everyone receives the most relevant piece of content is the icing on the proverbial cake top.

Content intelligence makes sense and – for the charities that adopt it – it makes money, too.

Jonny RoseJonny Rose is Product Evangelist for personalized content marketing software company, idio. idio believes that content consumption reveals an individual’s needs and interests and our technology enables brands to use this information to deliver relevant communications.

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