Posted by SteveOllington
What's this about?
Having worked in-house at one charity and provided some volunteer consulting to a couple of others, I decided it would be good to write about some useful ways that charities can increase their online exposure, without the need to drain too much of their already limited resources.
Many of the examples below are from my experiences working as the digital strategist for the British Humanist Association, where I learned that it can be very different from working at an agency, or in-house for a for-profit company.
How is online marketing for charities different?
There are advantages and disadvantages in digital marketing for charities. The advantages are the passion of the staff, the compassion of the audience, and the natural, powerful content that comes about through its work. The disadvantages are primarily the lack of resources and budget in comparison to the business world. What resources exist come from the generosity of people through donations and volunteering, and the willingness by staff to work twice the number of hours for half the pay.
So, here are a few tips that might help to offset the resource limits.
Google Grants for AdWords
As long as you have a registered charity number you can apply to Google Grants and receive $329 USD per day in free advertising with Google AdWords. Whilst this has to be in USD, itâ€™s not confined to America only; UK charities (and others internationally) get the equivalent amount to spend on their ads.
Until recently, it was difficult to use up this budget, as there was a maximum per-click bid limit of $1.00. This meant you could only really go for keywords which didnâ€™t have very much competition (and thereâ€™s a reason for that). However, in early 2013 this was increased to $2.00 per click, which makes a huge difference, allowing you to advertise with more highly searched keywords and bringing you more of the traffic you want.
How to set up Google Grants
Setting up Google Grants can take a few weeks because once you apply Google will need to assess your eligibility. The eligibility criteria and restrictions on use for Google Grants can be found here, but the main items are:
Restrictions on use
Only run keyword-targeted campaigns
Only appear on your countryâ€™s version of Google (this will differ depending on where your charity is based)
Only run text ads
Hold current and valid charity status
Acknowledge and agree to the application's required certifications regarding nondiscrimination and donation receipt and use.
If you have a registered charity number and are not yet using Google Grants, set up a Google AdWords account here (donâ€™t complete the billing section upon setup), then apply to Google Grants here. Once you get going youâ€™ll be offered the help you need from Google and youâ€™re on your way to getting free advertising that can make a big difference to your online presence.
*Where Iâ€™ve taken so long about writing this, I have been pipped to the post (pun intended) by another Mozzer. Theyâ€™ve got lots more detail on Google Grants in their post here.
Effective use of video
Videos can have a huge impact for charities because they offer a chance to show viewers the problems theyâ€™re trying to combat, allowing them to spread awareness about the charity and/or individual campaigns whilst triggering an emotional response that other media types might not.
Video doesnâ€™t have to be expensive. There are plenty of volunteers out there at both the amateur and the professional level who will help out (thereâ€™s more on recruiting volunteers later), and for the video content there are student actors to act, staff members to interview, or people who have been affected by issues youâ€™re campaigning on that are happy to talk about those issues.
If your charity is environment- or wildlife-based, contact Environment Films to have a video created. Theyâ€™re a non-profit organisation too, and if youâ€™re lucky you might even end up with Distilledâ€™s Margarita Iosif working on your video!
Have a look at these clips worked on by a team including Margarita:
Whips Hurt. Ban Them. â€“ A video for Animal Aid. This is a campaign-based video about horsewhipping (45 seconds).
The Soi Dog Foundation â€“ A trailer for the Soi Dog Foundation. This is a video about the charity itself (4 minutes, 19 seconds).
In just a few minutes, the clips above are able to communicate their message in a way that people are often more willing to engage with than with plain text, and the short duration means theyâ€™re more likely to be both watched and shared online.
There are lots of different types of videos that your charity could consider, including trailers, animations, discussions, interviews, and debates. The most important thing in the video is the message.
Itâ€™s important to determine the goals for your video before you market it (or even create it). Is the primary goal to spread awareness, or to encourage donations? The goals of the video will make a difference in how you should market it, such as on which platform (because itâ€™s not always YouTube that you should go for).
Phil Nottingham, whom I have the honour to sit opposite, is the video marketing specialist, and if youâ€™re going to make a video, you HAVE to watch this video of Phil explaining how to do it right. Also, check out the Distilled Video Marketing Guide.
Videos, just like any other content, should be promoted through outreach. Outreach in its simplest form is contacting others in the relevant field with the hope they will publish, share, or promote something for you (thereâ€™s more on this later).
Below are two videos that were released by the BHA.
Video One was published on July 30, 2012, and Video Two was published on December 3, 2012. So there is more than four months between them, but look at the difference in the number of views. By the time the first video reached 8-9 months in (as the second has now) it had a lot more than 8,575 views. In fact, it had that within the first couple of weeks. Why is that? Both videos feature the same people, and are on the same subject appealing to the same audiences. Itâ€™s because the first video had a lot more outreach done for it. At the time the second video was released, there was a lot else happening with a new site going live, etc. As a result, not as much outreach was done as with the first video, where many people were contacted early and offered the story on the day of the release so it was still new news for all. Lots of people were emailed and asked if they could tweet or blog about it, and they did. Outreach is an important component of online marketing, and it can mean the difference between success or failure of a marketing campaign.
YouTube Nonprofit Program
If you have videos, you likely have at least some of them on YouTube (any/all videos for which the primary goal is lots of views). But do you know about the free benefits you can have on your channel if youâ€™re a charity?
If you sign up to YouTubeâ€™s Nonprofit program, you will have access to a number of exclusive features, and features you would normally have to pay for.
There is the option of a Donation button on your channel page, which could increase your donations if you get many visitors to your channel. Youâ€™ll need to sign up to Google Wallet for this, if you donâ€™t already have an account.
Any videos uploaded to YouTube can have annotations applied, but with the Nonprofit Program you can have a call-to-action overlay containing a link, which is usually something youâ€™d have to pay for. The overlay shows up at the bottom of the video screen and encourages people to take an action such as following a link or sharing.
If your charity stages events, such as protest rallies, talks, or anything else, you can live stream the event directly to your YouTube channel for all those supporters who couldnâ€™t attend. The most important thing to remember about doing this, is that youâ€™ll need to publicize that people can watch this live first; thereâ€™s no point in live streaming to no audience. When you promote your event, be sure to let everyone know that if they canâ€™t make it, they can watch live, providing the date, times (including for different time zones), and a link to the channel.
For details on how to set up live streaming, see this video from YouTube.
The Nonprofit Program supplies access to a Community Forum which can be helpful in terms of support. However, most of this support will tend to come from other users (many of whom are very helpful and will do their best to solve your problems) rather than actual Google staff.
Donating on Facebook
If you have a significant Facebook audience, or are working towards one, itâ€™s worth considering adding a way for people to donate through Facebook. If you add a story to Facebook that becomes well shared and brings more people to your page, then some of those people may want to help out in any way they can.
There are a number of solutions for taking Facebook donations. There is an app by JustGiving which can appear in the Facebook navigation, as shown below on the Dogs Trust Facebook page.
You will need a JustGiving account to set this up, but itâ€™s relatively simple to do. You can find out more about it in these slides.
Another option is DonateApp. This solution takes a small commission, but if itâ€™s donations that would not have been received otherwise, then itâ€™s still a net gain.
DonateApp reports that:
A 2012 study of 3,500 nonprofits found about half of them (46%) have raised funds on Facebook.
The most popular way to raise funds was to solicit Facebook supporters for individual donations.
The average value of a Facebook donor was found to be $214.81 over 12 months.
Advertising on Facebook
Sadly, there is no Facebook equivalent to Google Grants, so there is no free advertising for charities (or even discounted), but due to the way audiences can be targeted by their interests itâ€™s worth looking at as an option.
Whatever your charityâ€™s causes are, youâ€™re likely to find plenty of people on Facebook who have declared those causes in their interests, and you can target just those people with your ads. Of course this applies to businesses, too, but the difference is in the number people who tend to join relevant groups or state relevant interests. There are plenty of â€˜likesâ€™ for brands, and some products, but generally thereâ€™s going to be a lot more people who have interest in causes such as eco-issues than there are for kitchen appliance parts, and you can take advantage of this. There are plenty of other targeting options too, including location, age, gender, and more.
You can put just a small amount of budget into a Facebook ad campaign to run a test and see how it goes, but donâ€™t forget to track the results in your analytics so you know if itâ€™s working or not!
You can find out more about and sign up for Facebook advertising here.
Media Trust (and Community Newswire)
For UK charities, Media Trust is an organisation that provides a variety of support for promoting charities, from marketing and PR classes to information sharing and new initiatives. As far as I can tell, the closest match to this in the US would be Charities.org. However, I can only really talk about Media Trust as I donâ€™t have any experience with other similar organisations.
One thing which your charity may find particularly useful from Media Trust is The Community Newswire. You can submit press releases here that will have increased opportunities to get picked up by news outlets. Media Trust has good relationships with the Press Association and journalists who report in the charity sector. Press releases that go through their system will be monitored by some journalists who know that Media Trust is a credible source and are therefore more likely to run with something that comes through them.
Do have a look at what Media Trust has to offer as a whole (if you havenâ€™t already), but also make sure you submit your press releases (ensuring theyâ€™re well written, contain at least one image, and are about something interesting) to the Community Newswire.
At the start of this year I attended an opening event for an initiative by Google and the Media Trust. There were lots of charities there, and some Google staff to answer questions. It was the launch of a new website called GrowYourCharityOnline.com. Here you can find information and action steps on the Google products discussed in this post, including Google Grants and the YouTube Nonprofit Program, as well as advice on using Google Plus to promote your campaigns and causes.
Have a look at the website, itâ€™s got some useful tips and will help you organise your efforts with promotion through the Google products.
Text to donate
Most charities will likely already know about donations via text. As I learned, this is not always the best option, as it depends entirely on your channels of promotion. If youâ€™re campaigning mainly online through your website and social media, then people generally seem to prefer following links to donate with something like JustGiving or Razoo. Text-based donations were very few when I tried this. However, if youâ€™re also going to be promoting offline then itâ€™s definitely worth it, as it gives people a way to donate if they donâ€™t have a link to follow. This can be on any literature youâ€™re handing out, or in press releases for local print newspapers, on billboards, presentation slides, T-Shirts and other merchandise, or speaking to people on the street.
This is relatively easy to set up. See JustTextGiving to do so; then all people need to do is text a campaign code and an amount to a particular number.
This one went fantastically: Everyone loves a quiz, right? At least if itâ€™s a nice short quiz that tells you something about yourself, anyway.
At the end of January 2013, the British Humanist Association launched the simple quiz "Are You a Humanist?"
Since then, itâ€™s been taken over 70,000 times, and continues to be taken a few thousand times per month. This is important because many of the people who are taking the quiz had never heard of humanism before, but they have now. That was the quiz's objective from the start â€” to spread awareness to a new audience â€” which it continues to do.
The quiz has been taken so many times largely because it offers to share the results at the end:
Not everyone shares their results. Many people donâ€™t (and wonâ€™t) but there were and are still enough to keep it spreading, and therefore to generate new interest.
Some of the tweets made by people after having taken the quiz indicated their new realisation of humanism as a concept, and sometimes even their intention to become a member of the organisation.
The percentage scores are actually irrelevant in this quiz, and werenâ€™t originally going to be included. However, people like scores. Scores make such things more shareable, and since the point in the quiz was to spread awareness of humanism with a bit of fun, scores worked best.
Your charity should think about doing something like this. Once you come up with the right quiz, meaning something that gives people results theyâ€™ll be happy to share, you can find a volunteer developer to help you build it into an app (thereâ€™s more about volunteers later).
Giving away content for social shares
Every online marketer looks for existing resources to utilise or recycle. One of the first things youâ€™ll do if you start a new in-house position is poke around in archives both online and offline â€” in storage cupboards for forgotten leaflets or on the old network drive for forgotten PDFs. Usually, somewhere, thereâ€™s some great content lurking about that people will like and share.
On to my example â€” The charity I worked for gave away hard copies of an interesting book at events, and also to new members. The aim of the book wasn't about profit, it was about awareness and education, so giving the books away suited just fine. Of course there were limits as to how many could be given away, because printing and binding the book cost money (and so did sending it), and then there were only so many event attendees and new members to whom the book could be given away.
However, it turned out we had it in PDF format, too. So, we set it free as a PDF eBook and offered it via the Pay With a Tweet system. Using Pay With a Tweet meant the only thing people had to do was tweet (or share on Facebook) about the book, and they got a free copy to download. A win-win situation. One click of a button and the user gets a free, interesting eBook, and the charity gets to see more of its books being read. Itâ€™s a great book actually, and chances are that at least some of the people who read it will agree with its philosophy enough that they use the included membership form to join the charity.
Thereâ€™s been over 7,700 downloads since it was launched in October 2012, and hopefully there will be many more downloads in the future, too.
If you want to see how it works by downloading a copy and paying with a tweet, grab it from here: Humanism: A Short Course.
Getting into Google News
Whether or not you currently release news, you should. If you want publicity for your charity and its work, itâ€™s important to get yourself in front of other news sources, and Google News is a great way to do that.
Here are some benefits to being in Google News:
It can provide high search engine rankings, potentially bringing your site more visitors (the right visitors, too, if theyâ€™re arriving because they clicked on your news result after searching something relevant).
It can mean your content gets republished elsewhere. Other publishers use Google News to draw inspiration on what to write about. This could be anything from bloggers with a small but targeted audience to journalists from national media outlets. Lots of news sources monitor Google News to see recent developments, and often they will pick up stories to run with themselves.
It may gain you some backlinks to your website (which can help your website with its traffic, and its search rankings overall, especially if the links are coming from a large and popular news site).
Getting into Google News is easier said than done, as Google has strict guidelines as to what passes as acceptable news and it can take a while to get your news pieces right. When submitting your news to Google to appear in Google News, you will provide the URL for the news section of your site, and then you will likely need to wait up to several weeks before being accepted or rejected.
Reasons for rejection may include format, the type of news, or many other issues including being "overly self-promotional." Now, the overly self-promotional issue is a problem for a lot of charities since they are by their nature releasing news about campaigns and causes they are undertaking themselves. For example, if a charity were to challenge an unjust law at the ECHR then the news is that the charity is fighting the government over a policy at court, for the charity to then exclude itself from that news would be difficult.
One way of dealing with this is to divide your news through categorisation or tagging. On your website's news section, you can tag or categorise less "promotional" articles to appear under a particular URL away from the rest, then submit only this URL to Google.
Your news releases may well be made up of your general press releases. From my understanding, this wonâ€™t work with Google News submissions, and press releases will need to be rewritten as news items in order to get in.
Content and sharing
There can obviously be a lot of impact from having celebrities tweet about your campaigns and charity work, and some charities are very fortunate in having celebrity support for their causes, but of course there are limits to how much you can ask for help from high-profile individuals (especially as many of these people are inundated with requests from charities every day).
The right content on the right subject can still get plenty of traction on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere without the need for celebrities (although it helps, of course). Charities are in a great position when it comes to getting social shares because their content is often naturally interesting â€” maybe controversial in some way â€” and likely to trigger some kind of emotion in people (whether it makes them happy, sad, or angry, if it triggers an emotion then people will want to show it to others). However, you still have to do what businesses do, and think about how youâ€™re going to present this content in the first place.
Due to the nature of charity work, a lot of the content to share will come naturally, through stories of campaign successes or losses. Thereâ€™s bound to be other stuff you can share, too. The trick here is to keep an eye on what others are sharing and how successful their content is on social media platforms. This would be a large and complex task if done manually, but there is a tool for it, and itâ€™s free! Yousaf Sekander of RocketMill created a tool called Social Crawlytics which allows you to enter a web address, and provides you with information on content from the website such as how much it has been shared and on what platforms. Doing this will show you examples of what works, and what doesn't, so you can adapt similar content strategies for yourself!
Also, have a look at the 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, which offers up tactics that have proven successful for other charities along with data about which channels have been most effective for various types of fundraising and campaigning.
Tracking your success with Google Analytics
In order to know whatâ€™s working and what isnâ€™t, you need to track your campaigns. Iâ€™ll assume you already have some analytics software such as Google Analytics installed on your website. You can see a lot with that, but you can see and organise far more by using the Google Analytics URL Builder.
How to use the URL Builder is beyond the scope of this article, but here are a couple of posts from Chris Gilchrist of HitReach if youâ€™d like to learn more:
Why you should use the Google Analytics URL Builder
How to use the Google Analytics URL Builder
Your authority staff as a marketing asset
Someone in your charity is an authority on the issues youâ€™re campaigning for. You need to use that. Itâ€™s important that theyâ€™re getting out there in front of people on every possible occasion.
Referring back to the charity I worked for, the CEO Andrew Copson was very good at this. He seemingly worked 168 hours per week, what with running the organisation and travelling around the country (the world even) to give talks and feature in debates. When it comes to the charity and its causes, he is an authority. That means when secular issues come up in the news, journalists want to hear from him. For that reason, heâ€™s often quoted in newspapers, interviewed on TV and radio, and asked onto panel shows to discuss current issues. This exposure of course means more people get to hear him, and if they agree with him (heâ€™s so very reasonable itâ€™s hard not to), it brings more awareness to the charity.
Rand Fishkin gave a talk on using your CEO to spread awareness at the 2013 LinkLove Conference. Normally youâ€™d have to buy this video, which isnâ€™t actually even available to buy yet, but since youâ€™re reading this article, you get to access the video right now, and for free (Itâ€™s a must-watch!). Just follow the steps below.
Go to How to Transform Your CEO into a Link Building, Social Sharing Machine
Click â€˜Buyâ€™ (Not buy as bundle). Donâ€™t worry, you wonâ€™t be charged.
If you have an account, sign in. If you donâ€™t have an account, create one (itâ€™ll only take a minute).
Enter this code: MOZSL2013RANDFISH
Watch the video and have a notepad to hand, thereâ€™s some great tips in there!
Note: If you enjoyed the video, Distilled is hosting another conference in SearchLove San Diego three weeks from today! This will be our first time heading West, and we'd love for you to be there. Early bird pricing on tickets ends soon, and the kind folks at Moz have even lined up a discount for your ticket over on the Pro Perks page.
Finally, make sure you film every time your CEO (or whoever they might be) talks at any event!
Look at what happened with Philip Wollen. He gave an impassioned speech which went viral on YouTube (there are many videos of the whole debate but hereâ€™s one with just the speech to save you time). Lots of people became a fan of his after seeing that, and it brought a lot of attention to The Kindness Trust and all of the charities he supports through it.
Getting volunteers to help with your online marketing
Many of the recommendations in this article are relatively inexpensive, but some funding may still be needed to hire copywriters, developers, designers, a video agency, etc. You donâ€™t have to spend a fortune for this though â€” not if you get volunteers.
If your charity has followers, fans, connections, and whatever else on its social platforms, use them to recruit volunteers. You may well be doing this already, but remember thereâ€™s a difference this time: The types of professions youâ€™re looking for in this case are technology based, meaning thereâ€™s a greater chance of them being accessible online than with a lot of other professions.
Tweet for help, and thereâ€™s a good chance itâ€™ll get retweeted. The same with Facebook; people may not be able to help with certain tasks but theyâ€™ll often tag others into a response who they think might be interested, such as their friend who makes apps and is a keen environmentalist. Many tech savvy professionals will use software to monitor social media channels and alert them when there are mentions offering work. A tweet asking for a copywriter recommendation will often result in copywriters tweeting back because theyâ€™re watching any tweets that have that keyword of â€˜copywriterâ€™ in it.
There are also websites that may be useful. Reach exists to hook up volunteers from different professions with charities in need of specialist help. Get yourself listed on there and provide a description of what you need, and someone may well get in contact with the expertise youâ€™re looking for. Reach is a UK organisation, so if youâ€™re in America, try CatchaFire instead. Iâ€™m not sure about other locations but Iâ€™m guessing there will be similar organisations in other countries.
Build a contacts list, and do outreach
Regular Moz.com readers and those in the industry know this well, but if youâ€™re reading this as someone who is volunteering or working at a charity and donâ€™t have much experience in online marketing, then this is important for you.
Remember the two videos above, where one had a lot more views than the other? If you have a great piece of content, whether itâ€™s a video, an app, an eBook, or anything else, tell people about it! Too often there are great pieces of content that get uploaded somewhere on the web, tweeted or shared by a couple of people, and then left without any real promotion (many businesses are guilty of this too).
Build your list of contacts. Find relevant blogs, forums, Facebook groups, Twitter accounts, niche news sites, or anything with an online community, and send them a polite message about your content. If you do it right and your content is related to the type of thing they usually post or share, then thereâ€™s a good chance they will publish or share your content, too.
Build your outreach list larger and larger over time, and the contents of the list will often help to get the ball rolling for many of your campaigns. Look after it, donâ€™t abuse it, and keep it secure (itâ€™s a contact list and it contains people's data, so just be careful with it).
Got any tips to add? Let me know in the comments... :)
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