Creating great content is all about storytelling and charities have a lot of great stories to tell. Whether it’s a video about the services you deliver on the ground, or an article about the brilliant work of your volunteers, content has the power to build lasting connections with supporters, keep supporters informed, and ultimately drive more donations to your cause.
You don’t have to be a big charity to produce lots of good, informative content. The Lorna Young Foundation, a micro charity that provides farmers in developing countries with education and economic support, punches well-above its financial weight with its content.
It has a regularly updated blog featuring news and information pertaining to the charity and produces a wealth of radio content for its Farmers Voice Radio programme, which “brings farmers together in community settings to discuss their challenges on the radio.”
Similarly, Football Beyond Borders, an education and inclusion charity, produces great imagery campaigns, zine projects, and articles, which showcase the organisation’s impact and put its service users at the heart of everything they do.
There are lots of potential avenues for charities to explore when it comes to content. In this article, we show charities how they can create and use this content to drive donations, maximise their web traffic, and employ a digital content strategy that will pay dividends for their fundraising efforts in the future.
Content, simply put, means information provided to an audience via a website or other digital medium or platform. Content can range from a blog post to a picture on Instagram. Anything that informs your online audience about what you do, from tweets to newsletters to podcasts, is digital content.
Digital content performs best when it is part of a digital content strategy. This means that all content produced is strategically developed and placed to achieve your organisation’s objectives. For example, your objective might be to attract more volunteers. Therefore, an article featuring the experience of your current volunteers, or a podcast talking about the benefits of volunteering, would be considered strategic.
When it comes to fundraising, charities should think about what their overall strategy is and consider how content supports that strategy. Perhaps you need to raise awareness of the urgency of your cause among new audiences. Or perhaps you’d like to deepen your connection with existing supporters, as well as new ones. Content about your impact would work well in this case.
Whatever your strategic goals are, content can be a driving force in helping you achieve them. Below we show you two important ways your content can power your fundraising and, hopefully, expand your charity’s reach.
Establishing an emotional connection with supporters has long been a strategy for charities looking to improve their fundraising. Research has shown that people are more likely to give to a charity if it has helped someone they know, while others have pointed to evidence that well-designed advertising appeals “motivate strong emotional responses that in turn generate charitable donations.”
That level of emotional connection with a charity is difficult to replicate, but it remains at the heart of fundraising. People donate to charities they feel reflect their values and what they care about. Content acts as a personal invitation to donors to see these values firsthand. The more personal, the more connected people will feel.
The easiest way for organisations to connect with supporters on a personal level is to tell their story: why they were created, who they help, and why they continue their work.
There are many ways you can tell your story. Most charities have a well-signposted ‘About Us’ section on their website’s navigation bar. This provides a great opportunity to not just talk about the basic facts of your organisation (what you do and how), but also to write about your journey as an organisation.
For example, the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, a charity dedicated to researching and raising awareness of Motor Neurone Disease, has split its About Us into three sections, two of which are dedicated to telling the story of the charity’s founders, Stephen Darby and Chris Rimmer.
These stories are also linked on the charity’s homepage, adding a personal element to the charity. This deepens the connection between the organisation, its founders, and their supporters, leading to a bigger investment in its cause.
Another way to deepen this connection is to use powerful case studies from the people your charity is helping. In telling the story of your beneficiaries, you are again putting a face to your cause, showing potential supporters the real impact their donations will have.
Case studies can take a variety of forms, but video content works particularly well in building a direct link between supporters and beneficiaries. It keeps the personality and tone of voice of your beneficiaries, ensures their experience is centred throughout, and creates a sense of immediacy that encourages people watching to donate as a result.
When creating case studies, however, it is vital that charities protect the personal data of their beneficiaries, in accordance with GDPR and other applicable privacy legislation. The best way to do this is to get specific, informed consent from them for their story (and name and image, too, if necessary) to be shared, giving them an explicit description of how it will be used (on your website, for example).
You could also consider anonymising all information or creating content that doesn’t reflect an individual beneficiary, but the experience of many. A good example of this is Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity’s Christmas appeal, which comprised an animated film in which a young patient was able to travel home for Christmas as a result of a flurry of donations which spurred him on.
This video wasn’t a case study but was no less impactful, showing the reality of many patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital who hope to spend Christmas at home and how donations can make a difference.
Conveying impact is another key part of how content can drive donations. It can work alongside emotional connection, if impact is seen firsthand through the eyes of a beneficiary, as described above. But it could also be as simple as displaying your key stats and metrics on your charity website, so people can see the impactful numbers of how your mission is progressing.
Football Beyond Borders is a great example of a charity combining the two approaches. Not only do they give their young people a voice in campaigns like the one for International Women’s Day, they also include articles on the work they do, such as this one on how they are bridging the skills gap in UK classrooms.
The article clearly sets out the situation they are trying to address, their role in addressing it, the actions they are taking, and the results they hope for. This is sometimes referred to as the STAR system: situation, task, action, and result. By following this formula, charities can be transparent about where their donations go, the actions they are taking, and how this is directly impacting their mission.
Football Beyond Borders also puts its most important statistics on the homepage of its website so that one of the first things visitors see is how many people the charity is helping, how many projects are being delivered, and how many people at risk of exclusion from school finished the year (this is the charity’s goal).
Essentially, talking about your impact directly in this way shows donors precisely why they should invest in your project. And donors want to know. Research has shown that philanthropic impact is the second most researched factor about charities by supporters before they donate. Just as connecting emotionally drives donations, so too does trust, and people want to trust you’ll do the right thing with their money. It’s not about the end goal, it’s about how you’re getting there.
- Choose multiple formats and channels. The more diverse your content strategy is, the more people you are likely to reach.
- Prioritise your audience. Thinking about what they want to know will help determine your content and make it more efficient in driving people to donate.
- Think about the future. Create content to send donors that shows the impact of their donation after they’ve made it—it strengthens the connection between themselves and your cause that can drive repeat donations further down the line.
For more helpful resources from our partnership with Charity Digital, visit www.CharityDigital.org.uk.