Marketing a powerful tool for philanthropy
Most Australian not-for-profits set out to obtain a third of their funding each year from philanthropists and philanthropic organisations. And just as with the other two-thirds of funding, which come from governments and corporates, it is a highly competitive environment. As philanthropists consider their options regarding what social needs to support, or continue to support, the more successful not-for-profits use marketing to help them decide.
Such marketing efforts usually focus on three main moments. First, as the philanthropist considers their choice, marketing is used to create awareness and understanding of the cause. Second, once the decision has been made to support that initiative, marketing is used to create content and stories that reassure the philanthropist their gift has been actioned. And finally, after the project has been completed, marketing’s role is to highlight the results, the return on that social investment, and of course to say thank you.
In raising awareness and understanding in the first instance, not-for-profit marketers have two audiences to consider in persuading and convincing the philanthropist, or philanthropic body, to give to them.
The first is of course the philanthropists themselves. Whether it’s an individual, family, trust or foundation, it is a defined audience that can be marketed to effectively. Occasionally this is done through wider media such as television or outdoor or social channels to ensure all potential donors have a chance to hear the message. But more often this is done through one-to-one marketing. It could be a phone call, an invitation to an event, a letter, an email, or simply a meeting.
The second audience is the influencers of these philanthropists – other family members, accountants, family lawyers, investment advisers and financial planners. At the very least marketers need to work closely with these third- party advisers, arming them with information packs, pointing them to their websites, and reminding them regularly via email, phone calls and meetings of the benefits of their work over another’s.
With either audience, a fundamental of marketing has to be adhered to. That is, if the philanthropist or adviser is the “target audience”, then what is their “need” that a not-for-profit’s product or service can meet? Without deeply understanding the customer’s want, marketers will never successfully engage them, and precious time, money and resources will be wasted.
The challenge is that individual philanthropists, as well as philanthropic entities, will have a limited number of causes they want to support. They do this so that their gift isn’t spread too thin and they can have the desired impact on those causes. Understanding whether it’s areas such as the arts, education, homelessness, family violence, the environment, local communities, animal shelters or medical research that are of interest is one thing, but it’s also important to understand the more exact concern within them. For example, medical research is extremely broad. Cancer research-related charities are a little more precise, but philanthropists often want to be quite specific – prostate cancer research, blood cancer research or breast cancer research, for instance.
In many cases, philanthropists are very open about what they would like to support. The Packer family’s $200 million National Philanthropic Fund, managed as the Crown Resorts Foundation and the Packer Family Foundation, clearly highlights indigenous education, the arts and Western Sydney. Others require further research to gain a thorough understanding. Determining exactly what these areas of social good are is essential for a not-for-profit marketer looking to persuade a philanthropist to donate to their cause, as they can then tailor that marketing message to them.
Once a gift has been made, philanthropists and philanthropic organisations want to see that their donation has been put to good effect. In today’s digital world, the smart marketers are using social media, website pages, blogs, emails, photography and video content to tell these stories. Storytelling deepens the impact of the work, not only to the philanthropist who has provided the gift, but to potential donors in the future.
The Salvation Army in Australia has many stories posted on its website of the great social work it does in relieving poverty and homelessness. Not only are they a record of its work and their impact, they are done in an emotionally engaging manner and have a call to action asking for further donations at the end of them.
Finally, marketers need to follow up with the philanthropists once their generous gift has been put to effect. Highlighting the impact and results of the grant is one way of keeping the dialogue open for further donations. As is a simple thank you. A North American survey a few years back showed 84 per cent of donors would give again if they were thanked in a timely way. Both are fairly basic, but effective, retention strategies for not-for-profit marketers.
In business, marketers will talk about identifying their target audience, then deeply understanding those consumers, then how they will drive awareness of a product or service that meets that consumer’s need so they can acquire them as customers, and then how they’ll maintain a meaningful and engaging dialogue with them to retain them as customers. The marketing fundamentals in persuading philanthropists, or philanthropic organisations, to donate to a specific social need are no different.