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  • 14 Feb 2017
    Zoe Amar is Director of Zoe Amar Communications. She also writes for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network about charities and digital marketing. I don’t know about you, but on 1st  January this year I was bracing myself for what 2017 might bring. Politically and economically this year is set to be rocky to say the least, and all the charities I’m speaking to are readying themselves for a challenging period ahead. At times like this it’s the most natural thing in the world to batten down the hatches. I’ve worked with many small charities as well as large ones and I’ve observed similar patterns of behaviour at both during tough times. I was guilty of it myself occasionally during the 5 years I worked in-house at a charity. Running around, putting out numerous fires, juggling diaries and the ever shifting wants and needs of stakeholders, preparing for funding cuts… on top of all of that, digital can feel like another huge item to add to the to do list. Yet I would argue that digital is one thing that every charity should look to grapple with if they are going to thrive through the undoubtedly hard times ahead. Best of all, it’s something that you can control, even if you have a small budget. Here are my 7 top tips that every charity can follow to put them in the best position now.  They’re a great way to help you upskill in digital, and create strong foundations for everything you do. Whilst we’re at it, I’d love to hear from more small local charities about how they are using digital so that we can map skills across the charity sector, so do take our survey with Skills Platform by Friday 17 February. Test your website for mobile friendliness. This may sound obvious but there are still too many websites out there that aren’t. If your website isn’t optimised correctly it’ going to hurt your Google rankings. Hubspot have a helpful checklist of free tips to get you started. Get on social media If you aren’t on there already, social media is a brilliant way to connect with people in your community, from local MPs to businesses who might want to support you. There is lots of advice in the Charity Social Media Toolkit.  Know your audience Your beneficiaries are the cornerstone of what you do- they are the why. Yet I know myself from when I worked for a charity that my team was sometimes so busy it wasn’t always easy to keep in touch with what our audience wanted. In every single charity that I’ve ever worked with I’m struck by how many untapped, valuable insights there are about stakeholders. It costs nothing to define your audience and map out how they will interact with your services on and offline, so why not take a Friday afternoon with your colleagues to nail that down? Improve your email newsletter Did you know that people are 8 times more likely to donate via email than via your social media? Simple, regular email newsletters with a clear call to action are a great way to keep in touch with supporters and grow the relationship.   Look at what other charities are doing Again it costs nothing to keep tabs on what other charities are doing online. Just taking a look at what they’re saying on social media and on their websites regularly is a good substitute if you don’t have a budget for market research. Get on top of Google Analytics There is so much useful information hidden away in Google Analytics and it’s free to use. It can feel a little overwhelming if you’re new to it so James Yorke has broken down how to use it step by step in this useful guide. Try new things out It is so easy to be overcome by analysis paralysis about digital. If you do one thing after reading this blog, promise me you’ll try something out, however small. It could be an update to the copy on a website or looking into a tweak to your database, but just experimenting with something low risk and learning from the results will help you and your charity feel more confident with digital. Do this once a week and within no time your charity will be doing better and better things online. Follow these 7 quick tips and they’ll not only improve your charity’s digital efforts but they will also help other areas of your work. Let me know how you get on. Found this blog post useful? You may also like:     Do you have the courage to let your supporters own their story? by Mike Zywina  Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report 2016  
    8682 Posted by Zoe Amar
  • 16 Jul 2018
    Localgiving’s Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report shows the amount of pressure that small charities are under. I was concerned to read that only 47% of the UK’s local charities and community groups are confident they will survive beyond 5 years. It is worrying to hear how these groups are stretched to breaking point, and how many of them are shouldering the burden of increased demand; 78% of groups reported an increase in the need for their services over the past 12 months. What could help local charities in this situation? As resources are stretched even more thinly, what could help them save money and time? I’m a passionate believer in the power of digital to help small charities, and that’s why we’ve created best practice specifically to help them in The Charity Digital Code of Practice. The Code aims to increase motivation and confidence in using digital for all charities. We’ve worked closely with the Charity Commission, Small Charities Coalition, NCVO, ACEVO, Office for Civil Society, Tech Trust and others to develop a framework for success. By following it we hope that charities will be able to increase their impact, grow skills and collaborate more with others We know from Lloyds Business Digital Index that highly digitally capable charities are twice as likely to save time and to see an increase in donations, and ten times as likely to save costs. A brilliant example of this is how NAVCA (themselves a small charity) ,rebuilt how they worked by putting digital at their core. The whole team now work remotely, and they use a number of online platforms such as Breathe HR, which helps them manage appraisals, leave and absence, and Xero, I’ve also seen where small, local charities can miss out if they don’t use digital. My kids go to a school just around the corner from us, where the PTA (who are a charity) are trying to raise funds from parents and the local community for a new library. They decided to put on a fundraising dinner. Great idea, right? Yet they didn’t offer a way for parents to donate to the library fundraising campaign online, which very sadly meant not enough people donated and the dinner needed to be cancelled. Local charities will need to find new ways to raise money amidst further cuts to public funding. Making it quick, easy and simple for people to give will help, or they could potentially miss out. I’ve worked with many local charities and support several in my area, and I have seen first-hand the difference they can make in their communities. Localgiving report’s shows how local charities need our support, and that their sustainability should be a priority or our communities will suffer. Digital could help them build on the amazing work they do, freeing up time and money so that they can do what they do best. The Charity Digital Code of Practice is open for consultation until 25 September 2018. Read the draft Code and get involved.  If you enjoyed this blog you will also like: Localgiving report highlights Brexit uncertainty Employee volunteering and Localgiving's report  
    5955 Posted by Zoe Amar
Tips & guides 6,757 views Nov 30, 2015
How charities can tap into the power of hyperlocal

Zoe Amar is Director of Zoe Amar Communications. She also writes for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network about charities and digital marketing.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are amongst the biggest social networks, and your charity may well have a presence on them, however nascent. Their one downside is that they are now very crowded marketplaces. To stand out on Facebook you will have to invest in ads, which many small, local charities may not have the budget for. Whilst it’s vital to maintain a presence on global networks, the answer to true engagement may lie closer to home in hyperlocal social media.

Hyperlocal sites, which are focused on targeted geographic segments, such as Birmingham Updates or Sheffield Forum, are a perfect fit for small charities.

According to a recent report by Cardiff University and Nesta, there are more than 400 active hyperlocal websites in the UK, compared with 1,045 local papers. 17 per cent of people online in the UK visit hyperlocal websites or apps every week for news about their local area or community, and Ofcom have noted that this trend is set to rise. Such sites are most likely to cover community activities e.g. festivals, clubs and societies, local councils and the services they provide, but some feature investigative journalism about local news. Those aged 35-44 are more likely to have used hyperlocal. With all that in mind, more charities should tap into the power of hyperlocal.

Anecdotally, hyperlocal sites are often the first place people look when they want to find out what is going on in their community, and Nesta reports that community events, services, local weather and traffic are the most popular content types.

So how can small, local charities use these sites to build relationships with their local communities?

1. Understand your audience. Talk to people in your audience and find out where they get their information about what’s going on in your area. Is it the local paper? Or is there a blog for your area? Or a local mums’ group on Facebook? Establish where conversations are taking place and then join these forums to see what people are talking about.

2. Get to know the people behind the sites. Find out who runs your favourite hyperlocal sites. Like you, they are likely to be passionate about the place you live in and want to bring people together. Build a relationship with them and they will be much more likely to publicise what you do.

3. Look at how your charity could add value. As someone who’s advised many charities about how to use hyperlocal, I don’t recommend joining sites and broadcasting about your events or campaigns. Take time to understand how you can add value. For example, suppose you are organising a coffee morning. Give people a reason to come along as well as supporting a great cause, such as that it’s a nice rainy day activity for mums with children. This will help you establish a long term relationship.

4. Have a clear ask. How can your community help you? Do you want them to donate, volunteer, or use your services? Make sure you have a strong call to action and a good reason for people to take it.

If your charity wants to campaign, fundraise or build a community around your brand in your community then hyperlocal could help you go a long way.


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