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Marketing support for small charities

Sophie Davies, BH&P Associate and former head of membership and retention at The National Trust, shares her thoughts on small charity marketing.


Charities – especially smaller ones – are under pressure. Demand is increasing for their services, and yet local and central funding is decreasing. 

This in turn puts pressure on resources, with small charity marketing especially affected, with both a financial and skills gap.The small charity marketing gap

A recent Local Giving study found that fewer than half of local charities surveyed felt that they would still exist in 5 years’ time*.

This could be a disaster for the communities they serve.

So how can we help to reverse this decline? We have all heard it; ‘the charity sector is in crisis’. It is certainly true that public trust has decreased significantly in the last 3 years. And this is not helped by recent crises at much larger charities such as the British Red Cross and Oxfam.


Public trust in smaller charities remains high

Charity fundraising just got harder

Yet both the Charity Commissions bi-annual survey in 2016 and separate Open University study have both shown that this is NOT the case for smaller charities.

This is great news.

It means that providing they remain transparent, and compliant, small charities are in a really strong position when thinking about fundraising.

Fundraising is known to be one of the most effective and sustainable ways to raise money to support the work they do. Typically, for every £1 invested in fundraising, a charity receives over £4 to support their work**.


Fundraising does more than just raise money

As well as bring in much needed funds, it also raises awareness of the cause and the work done. This in turn leads to a greater understanding of what the charity does and why.

A 2017 study by YouGov and the Institute of Fundraisers shows clearly that a deeper understanding drives further charitable and philanthropic activity. In fact, a whopping 63% of people go on to take additional positive actions such as volunteering or being involved in a campaign***.


Small charity marketing: Three tips for planning a fundraising campaign

Working out what you need to do can be quite daunting. But don’t be put off by the challenge of creating a campaign.

Here are three tips to start you off:

  1. Know your audience
    • Think about what you already know about your audience before you put together the campaign. Answering these questions will help you to work out what the best focus and methods are for your fundraising:
    • Who is it that is interested in supporting your cause?
    • Why are they interested?
    • What motivates them to want to donate to your cause?
    • What will most likely prompt them to donate? An event, direct ask face to face, crowdfunding?
    • What’s the best way to get in touch with them? Social media, email, mail, telephone?
    • How will they most likely donate? Online, or through their phone?
    • Would you prefer a large number of people to donate a small amount, or a small amount of people to donate much more? What is realistic for your audience?


  2. The power of social media
    • Start with what you know – use your audience insight to understand what social media platforms they use and only use those. That way you can make sure you reach your audience effectively.
    • Social media is diverse and constantly evolving. Continual testing of channels, messaging and formats is really important.
    • Just test one or two things at a time – once you know something works, try changing a small part, and see what impact this has.
    • It is unlikely that one person will see every single post, so you can use the same content across lots of different platforms – you can even use it for your newsletters too.
    • When you do set up a social media page, make sure you’ve always got the donate now button active.


  1. Other digital fundraising tools
    • Leverage the big donation websites for your small charity marketing. For example, can now be used to crowdfund – and they will support you through the process.
    • If you are a registered charity, you may be eligible for a Google Ad Grant. This can be a fantastic boost to media budgets – but does require an element of expertise to manage, as Google has recently tightened up the eligibility rules (December 2017)****
    • Email is a really cost-effective way of talking to those who have already donated to your cause. Using a platform such as Mailchimp to manage your email campaigns helps you to make sure you are following data rules such as the ability to opt out. They will keep that list for you and make sure you don’t email anyone you’re not supposed to!


If you feel that you would like further support, then do get in touch. We can give advice, coaching and support, advise you on how to deal with the new GDPR regulations, or help you set up small charity marketing campaigns so that you can go ahead and run them yourself.


With more than fifteen years’ experience working in marketing, Sophie recently headed up the fundraising communications team for the National Trust, before being promoted to lead the membership loyalty and retention programme at the charity.

Sophie is currently working as an associate with BH&P.


* Localgiving, Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report, 2016

** NCVO, Civil Society Almanac, 2016

*** IoF and YouGov, Insights into Charity Fundraising, 2017

**** Search Engine Journal, Feb 2018