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7 digital tactics for small charities in volatile times

  • 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