What makes a strong charity brand?

January 21, 2015, 10:30 AM GMT+0

For the second year in succession, Macmillan Cancer Support has been named as the top brand on YouGov's CharityIndex.

But what makes a strong charity brand? Each day our CharityIndex tool measures the public’s perception of charities across a wide range of areas, from whether people have noticed it in the news to whether they would donate to it. We have looked at the data, as well as our work with various organisations in the sector, to identify five things that help make a strong charity brand.

1. Know your audience

Different charities within the same area have very distinct audiences and it is important to make sure your brand resonates with the right people. A good example of this in action is the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA). With a mission to care for the pets of people in need by providing free veterinary services, the charity speaks loudest to those on the lowest incomes. Not only is its reputation score highest among those earning less than £25,000 but the lowest earners are also the group most likely to donate.

2. Foster a relationship with your supporters

The RNLI’s high profile is helped by the unique work it does and the way it communicates with its supporters and the public. The charity does not often go in for big, hard-hitting above the line campaigns. It doesn’t have to. Instead, it focuses on talking to the local communities it serves about what it does. Barely a day goes past when the charity is not in the local news for a rescue, fundraising drive or the launch of a new vessel. This shows both how the charity serves the local community but also the work local supporters do for the organisation.

3. Be prepared for viral fundraising opportunities

Viral fundraising is a relatively new phenomenon and – for the lucky charities involved – can lead to unexpected windfalls, both financially and in terms of brand strength. The key for a charity brand is to be prepared and react in the right way when they happen. Even though last year’s #nomakeupselfie campaign was not instigated by Cancer Research UK, the organisation realised almost immediately what it could do for the brand and got behind the campaign at an early stage – making sure that online buzz led directly to donations. The data shows that #nomakeupselfie crossed over to the mainstream and made an impact even among those who do not use social media, with non-Twitter/Facebook users’ consideration scores (looking at whether they would donate),rising from 40% at the start of the campaign to 47% in the two weeks after. This increased the campaign’s momentum and further boosted the charity’s brand profile.

4. Think like a business

Although charities are altruistic in nature, the biggest and most high-profiles ones view themselves as ‘brands’ and approach all their marketing efforts as any other business would. Around its “World’s Biggest Coffee Morning” in late September Macmillan used all the tools of the modern marketer with great success. It successfully married together its social media campaign to its print and digital efforts to both drive donations and awareness, all the while showcasing the excellent grassroots work it excels at. Its “word of mouth exposure” score shows that while 11% of the public were discussing Macmillan before the event, in the two weeks after the event this figure rose to 17%.

5. Get everything you can from a campaign

While this is true of all businesses, it is especially true in the charity sector where different brands have taken ownership of particular days or events and they need to get everything they can out of their time in the spotlight. A good example of this is the Royal British Legion, which stages its major fundraising drive and awareness campaign around Remembrance Day. While its scores are always positive, the organisation has a very pronounced spike in late October and early November each year around the anniversary of the Armistice. At the start of October its buzz score – which measures whether people have heard or seen anything about a brand in the previous two weeks – stood at 7.0 on 17th October, a figure that increased to 25.9 by 25th November.

This article first appeared on The Guardian's Voluntary Sector Network.

Click here for more information about YouGov’s CharityIndex.

Image from PA.

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