Being creative isn’t enough

By Kevin Baughen

Successful fundraising and marketing isn’t just about being clever or creative.  Only creative or advertising agencies with awards to win think this is the case.

In the last few months I’ve come across some truly shocking examples of ‘creative’ campaigns that are adding nothing but cost and in some cases losses to the charities involved.  And several are award winners to boot.

It’s not Achill’s style to denigrate the work of others (although if you’re interested, start with Jeff Brooks’ list of stupid non-profit adverts http://goo.gl/GEu5 ).  We prefer to suggest the positive things that can make a difference and as a gentle reminder, here are five tips we stick by for ensuring your organisation generates strategic benefit from these activities:

  • Link your marketing, communications and fundraising activities around a central brand strategy and coordinated set of key objectives.  Why?  Because marketing, fundraising and communications are a means to your ends; not ends in themselves.  Making your core strategy support a number of focused, shared objectives removes the risks of silo working as each area or team is consequently focused on the same end results.
  • Only ever hire agencies or consultancies on three criteria:
    • Good chemistry with your organisation’s culture and approach
    • Proven track record of desirable OUTCOMES (ie; results)
    • Evidence of their understanding of how to meet your objectives, with your budgets and over your timescales.
  • Give marketing and communications functions some skin in the fundraising game…  shared objectives, shared office space, shared leadership (perhaps even one director).  Key to driving optimum success from limited resources is to really make your joined up strategy feel joined up by the people delivering it.
  • Think about creativity and innovation over the short and longer terms and develop creative ideas that can be leveraged across multiple platforms and campaigns.  We used to call these ‘ideas with legs’ which could be tailored and executed a number of times to meet different campaign objectives and some agencies don’t like this approach because they’d rather charge you by the campaign…
  • Track and measure what’s going to make a difference to meeting your objectives.  Many organisations measure what they can from marketing and fundraising activity instead of what they should.  Focus on your ultimate desired outcome (like income targets) and work backwards to try and find the key influencing stages or factors to achieving those outcomes.  Then put in place measures that enable you to see how and if you are being successful at those core stages – this enables you to make changes throughout a campaign or stream of activity rather than waiting until the end.

And here’s a bonus tip:

Never forget that you need brand credibility to ask for money, to request a response or indeed any kind of support from audiences.  This means that an holistic approach to developing your organisation’s brand and how this is communicated with your target audiences should be integral to your fundraising, marketing and communications strategy (among others).


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