Today I volunteered at the Big Advice Day event in London organised by the team at FSI as part of Small Charity Week. They organised an impressive 315 hours of advice between over 120 advisors and 100 charities in the room and over the phone / Skype. The room was buzzing all day!
I spent an hour in turn with people from five amazing small charities and talked about digital comms / marketing / fundraising. The charities were very different (two working in development / overseas, two health charities and one local branch of a national charity). And of different sizes and ages. All were doing properly amazing and vital work with limited funds.
Here are some of the main themes which we covered and some links to relevant posts I have written, useful to small charities.
(NB I mostly include examples from larger organisations in posts as these are easier to find. I would love to include more from smaller charities. I think we can all learn from each other. Did you see the Small Charities Coalition, #BigSupportSmall campaign which launched on Monday?)
Four out of the five charities I saw today wanted to talk about legacy fundraising. Many had received legacy gifts but felt that they could do more to drive this type of support. Some were uncomfortable about making an ask.
We mostly talked about content – for example, how to make the ask, what terminology should you use to inspire supporters to trust you enough to make this future donation? Really this depends on your audience and their relationship with you. Your ask might be more effective if made via a letter or mentioned in a speech at an event. However, you should probably still have something about legacy giving on your website to help people with the practicalities. The tone of voice and images you use here are key. Your direct relationship with your beneficiaries / supporters is a huge asset as a small charity. If you understand and show that you understand their motivations, you can write content which is powerful and persuasive. If you can show that leaving a gift like this, is something people like them do, it helps them take action too.
It is important to check the digital experience you are giving on your pages – for example can people find the information about gifts in Wills easily (how many clicks and where is it), is the information practical and helpful (does it tell them what they need to know)? Check the statistics if you can, to see where people are dropping off your journey and make changes as needed.
We looked at examples of others being creative, confident and appropriate in the messaging. There are lots of examples of this here:
- 10 tips for great online legacy fundraising
- see also Check your donor experience / in-memory fundraising
- and How to mark your charity’s anniversary.
Involving people with ‘lived experience’
More and more charities are involving people with first-hand experience of the cause at board level, in co-design of services, and in strategy setting. Many of those I talked to today were doing this but not yet involving them in comms. There are big opportunities (and risks) to include first-hand storytelling in your on and offline comms, funding applications and in-person events.
- Cathartic and powerful storytelling – about how giving someone the space to tell their story can help
- How to share lived experiences using #rocur or Twitter take overs – if handing over the keys to your social media channels is daunting, could you do it for an hour rather than a day?
- See also, this AoC blog post about being ready for shifts in power: What does the Civil Society Futures report mean for charity Chairs.
Being a comms / marketing / fundraising person in a small charity means prioritising and juggling. It can be easy to be overwhelmed by needing to be on 24/7. Some of this pressure can be eased by sorting out your systems and processes so that you don’t waste time looking for an image or re-writing a standard piece of copy. (I have a crib sheet of standard tweets, messages and links I can modify and use which saves loads of time.)
Spending some time working out your image strategy, thinking about crisis comms or working on monthly comms plan is time well spent. In a small charity you can be reactive but to avoid feeling like you are always chasing your tail, make sure this is balanced with some planning and preparation.
- How to review and improve your use of images
- Using social media for crisis comms.
- Do I need a content strategy?
- See also: Is your SMT/trustees page inspiring?
Small Charity Week
There is lots going on during the rest of the week including fundraising day on Thursday and celebration day on Saturday. Do get involved. The hashtag is #SmallCharityWeek.
Find out about the small charities near where you live. There are sure to be lots of them working from kitchen tables (see this fab thread from Tiny Tickers sharing their working spaces) or shared offices. They are on the ground working in your community or supporting people further afield. Just look at this great A-Z of small charities in Camden curated by Camden Giving which gives a flavour of the volume and variety of organisations in one London borough.
Use the Charity Commission charity search to find a small charity near you. Then find out how you can help. Donate your money or time or skills to give them a boost. Small charities need your support.