Paul Manning on why charities should take advantage of digital

It’s staggering that one in four kiwi kids live in deprivation. I don’t have any children myself (sorry mum & dad!) but I recently decided to sponsor one through Variety. This provides essentials that a child would otherwise go without, like basic clothing, shoes, stationery for school, warm bedding, medicine and access to activities that help them feel included. It’s a truly wonderful cause, yet I had to find out about it through old-fashioned word of mouth. Which is fine, but I wonder how many people they’ll never reach.

So, do charities like these need greater bandwidth – and therefore more money – to tell their stories and reach more people who can actually contribute? Well, not necessarily.

A healthy marketing budget allows a charity to do amazing things, but sadly this is not a position in which many such organisations find themselves. Charities generally have their work cut out for them, struggling to be heard over and above a plethora of clutter. 

The good news is that digital isn’t just revolutionising commercial marketing – it’s opening up new, affordable (and in some cases, free) opportunities for non-profits too. As we all know, in the digital world, the size of your wallet isn’t directly proportionate to the number of eyeballs you get on your brand. Social media has been a incredibly helpful for charities as it offers the chance to reach out to, and communicate with their supporters and potential supporters with outstanding efficiency. The key is now turning social currency in real money.

Back in 2013, Unicef Sweden launched a campaign pointing the finger at the public’s slacktivism. In the campaign’s most watched video, a boy called Rahim tells you he’ll be alright because because Unicef Sweden’s Facebook page has nearly 200,000 likes.

The campaign also included an image that said “Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio”. The four videos made for the campaign were watched more than 750,000 times in 195 countries, and were tweeted out more than 10,500 times. As a result, enough money was raised to vaccinate 637,324 children against polio.

Last year, Google announced to representatives from 50 Kiwi not-for-profit organisations that it will give eligible New Zealand charities and community organisations free access to advertising and technology worth USD $120,000 in each case per year. 

Google AdWords has worked wonders for the Mental Health Foundation. Within three months of signing up, the organisation is reported to have seen visits to its website increase by 25 percent and requests for information (key to securing monetary donations and volunteer assistance) rise by 52 percent. It’s exciting to think what will be achieved through Google for Nonprofits in years to come.

While Facebook doesn’t offer any such grants, it’s still a valuable platform for almost any type of charity. The social network realises that non-profits face some extraordinary challenges. With that in mind, Facebook released a series of guides to help charity and non-profit organisations raise awareness and connect with its user base through both Facebook Pages and Instagram.

One non-profit campaign making great use of Facebook (and digital media in general) is Movember — a grassroots advocacy movement held every November. The event supports men’s health initiatives and raised $17.6 million in 2014 largely through the use of the social network. Movember also found that the average donation amount was $27, a 13 percent increase from 2013 and 60 percent of donators used Facebook to share their involvement with the campaign. Additionally, 10 million visits to Movember.com came from the social network, an increase of 37 percent from the previous year. An achievement buoyed by the campaign’s ongoing viral success across a range of digital platforms. 

However, not all great charity and nonprofit advertising exists in the digital realm. Other traditional channels can be affordable and effective especially with a great agency partner and a little support from media outlets. Last year, Ogilvy & Mather produced an award-winning print campaign for Forest & Bird. It was designed to get readers to physically reach into their wallets by asking them to hold up a $5, $10 and $20 notes in order to complete pictures of flora and fauna that correlated with New Zealand cash. Through it, people could discover for themselves how a mere $5 or so could make a huge difference and help put a bird back in its natural environment.

And by the way if, like me, you’d like to get involved with Variety and sponsor a kiwi kid in need, you can find out more at www.variety.org.nz/get-involved/donate – it’ll make your day and might just change a child’s life.

  • Paul Manning is the executive director of Ogilvy & Mather New Zealand. This article was originally published on his LinkedIn Page.

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