Relevance in 2020

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

I spend a lot of my time planning integrated campaigns with our clients, and the one thing everyone wants is to be relevant. To be part of the conversation that’s happening right now. And these days, that’s no mean feat. Our moods and conversations are swift, dynamic and transient. Social discourse is increasingly impermanent and hard to grasp, taking place in stories and snaps that are gone within hours or minutes. If you’ve ever seen a murmuration of starlings, shift and turn, I imagine it something like that. Millions of tiny pieces of content, flowing and changing each moment.

This year in particular, this has really hit home. How many months or years of planning were obliterated when the pandemic became the only story? I doubt anyone’s plans for 2020 bear much resemblance to the campaigns and appeals they have live right now. As marketers, we’ve started to realise how hard it is to predict our audiences – to be audience-led, when they keep slipping through our fingers. We create a campaign; gather insight, plan the media, develop the proposition, all to find the conversation’s moved on without us.

Take this week. Just when we thought we understood the media story, had a proposition around coronavirus we were starting to optimise; George Floyd. Overnight, our audiences’ attention and emotional charge has shifted. A vital, brutal conversation is happening that we cannot, should not, ignore.

What do we do, then? Because (and I say this with the greatest love for our dear sector) speed isn’t always our forte. Just doing things faster isn’t always an option. When we don’t know where the minds of our audiences will be from one day to the next, how can we be truly audience led? How can we plan? And how can we do it before the discourse has changed again?

I suggest, three things.

The first is a question to ask yourself repeatedly. Should we be telling this story? Does this campaign come from our most pressing and urgent organisational need? It’s great to be out fast with a relevant message, but get this wrong, and it could backfire horribly. If you don’t have a seat on that bandwagon, don’t jump on it.

The second is to be ready to pivot. It’s hard when we’ve spent months or even years planning activity to have it suddenly on hold. Forcing things through won’t help. If the flock has moved on, try to go with the flow and embrace where they are headed.

The third is the most radical but I think the most potent. If you do have the right story to tell, if, suddenly, the media is behind you, just get out there with something for your audiences to share, support or do. We don’t always need to craft a polished suite of ads to put in front of our audiences. Sometimes all that encourages is a passive action. We can activate them, let them get involved, and ask them to help create and share our campaign.

Platforms like TikTok are designed just for this. We can look to the music industry who are having massive advertising success on the platform, by letting the audience tell the story their way. Your deliverable here isn’t a film, it’s a brief for creators, that gives them the story to tell, the inspiration to get creative.

And you have to trust. They may want to flex your brand guidelines, let them. They might want to give in a different way, let them. This is where earned media and peer to peer lives. This is where viral lives. This is where #nomakeupselfie and Choose Love and Run 5k live. Colonel Tom didn’t have a campaign strategy. But NHS Charities Together told their story in a way that allowed everyone to play their part. There isn’t just one way to support that campaign, there are hundreds. The result is people sharing stories, and doing what they can, for a cause they believe in. Which is, in its purest, loveliest iteration, charity.

You may not end up with the campaign you intended, but if people have taken your story, and found their own way to tell it, share it and support it, isn’t that even better? Isn’t that totally and completely beautiful?

That’s why we’re developing new kinds of campaign strategies, that look beyond paid media and leave the door open for supporters.

If we really want to be relevant, we need to relinquish some control over to the people we are speaking to. They’re not just ‘target audiences’, they can be advocates, makers, dancers, volunteers and billboards if we give them a chance. If you really inspire them, they’ll do more for you, for free, than any paid media ever will. Be brave. Let them.

Amy Hutchings
Strategy DIrector

If you’re ready to let supporters tell your stories and would like to talk about how Open can help you develop a truly relevant campaign strategy, we’d love a chat, just ping us an email.


When the dust settles

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

My spirits have been lifted as I’ve watched the outpouring of advice, information and support on how to fundraise during these unprecedented times. We are all going to learn a lot about how to adapt and continue to do good in these times. 

This isn’t a blog with more advice though, this is a blog about what happens when the dust settles on this crisis and we hopefully all emerge safe and well on the other side. So much that we did last week or the week before suddenly feels distant, unimportant or even irrelevant. 

This applies particularly to planning work I’ve been doing around Open’s partnership with Allan Freeman, Charity Benchmarks

We created Charity Benchmarks to give fundraisers the information they need to make better decisions and, in doing so, raise more money and maximise the impact of the cause they fundraise for. Only two years in and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback and fascinating debate that it has caused. 

For the last few months we’ve been busy planning this year’s study, as well as welcoming new participants. However, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a lot of conversations about how to move forward in these uncertain times. 

At times we wobbled, but we concluded that we must push on with Benchmarks. 

Given the inevitable and already reported hit to everyone’s fundraising, it strikes me that having an understanding of your fundraising programme in relation to those of other charities will be vitally important when planning, reporting on performance and making sense of what is happening. 

Charity Benchmarks is unique in that it combines detailed analysis of the hard data behind your fundraising, but also incorporates perspectives on current and future performance through surveys and qualitative interviews with fundraising leaders. This means that you can benchmark and plan against not only performance, but reflect levels of optimism and focus for the future.So whilst it doesn’t feel important today, it will certainly be relevant as we return to our offices and another ’new normal’ sets in and we have to make sense of it all. 

That all said, we have certainly seen a slow down in new charities signing up in the last couple of weeks. To be pragmatic, we are extending the deadline for joining Charity Benchmarks until the end of April. We do this as hope it means it will give teams time to adapt to all the change, but then begin to consider what the world looks like in a few months time. 

If you’d like more information about Charity Benchmarks then please drop me an email. I can share a sample report to give you a flavour of what your charity would receive for participating. 

 

Mark

Strategic Partnerships Director


Is Your Checkout Burning Money?

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

If you don’t want to read the next few paragraphs and suffer any more ham-fisted memes then here’s the headline. Asking people for loads of data that they don’t feel like giving you (at least not yet) is annoying for them and probably destroys a ton of value in our sector. And we’ve got evidence.

I can’t post the actual numbers publicly because they’re not mine to share in that way. But if anyone wants to catch up for coffee, we can show you  graphs that demonstrate pretty conclusively that focusing on taking people’s money rather than generating a whole bunch of contact details results in the following:

  • Slightly higher levels of conversion to Regular Giving
  • Slightly higher value regular gifts
  • MUCH higher numbers of one-off cash gifts
  • MUCH higher value cash gifts

As a consequence, we obviously collected fewer postal addresses relative to the number of donations. But we got everyone’s email and, fascinatingly, over half of the people who gave cash using our super-frictionless checkout agreed to store their card details in case they wanted to give again.

In short, our client raised a lot more money by simply letting people donate when they hit the donation page – rather than insisting they first do things that bore and annoy them. And the majority of those people expressed some indication that they’d give again.

Now before anyone who’s known Open for a while calls me out on this, I’m well aware that this is a bit of a U-turn for us. We used to be big advocates of getting as much data as we could because, as Direct Marketers, it’s how we do our job. It’s how we turn impulsive acts of generosity into lasting engagement with the causes we work with, right?

But the fact is that not everyone wants to engage – perhaps because they’ve not particularly enjoyed being ‘stewarded’ in the past.

More to the point, if we’re going to inspire people to give again then we’re probably best off i) trying to do so in the same channel they came to us in and ii) making the experience really, really easy.

I’m not advocating giving up on Relationship Fundraising and turning giving into the kind of thoughtless button-pushing with which we summon cabs, food, movies and pretty much everything else we buy online. But based on what we’ve seen in recent months, it might be a good idea to give people what they want and see where we can take it from there…

James