The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

Posted in Opinion Individual Giving, General Fundraising Donor Management & Behaviour, Communications

How to develop a mass marketing approach

Highly targeted audience marketing was once seen as the ‘holy grail’ for fundraising – but this might not be the best approach as most donors give sporadically. So how do you know when to prioritise and when to target? Andy Hyde explains more…

“The people most likely to donate to you are upmarket women aged 35-54 living in London. They are likely to have children aged 10-16, travel to work on the Northern, Piccadilly or Metropolitan line, read the Metro, and are more likely than average to notice poster advertising. That's the power of our data.”

So said the analyst from a major research panel provider, while selling their platform containing syndicated data to a medium-sized charity client. To my knowledge, about half of the top 100 UK charities buy this data. It's a compelling proposition.

Many of these charities are also seeing their income from individual giving in decline and the all-important cost per acquisition on the rise. The future of fundraising, charity communications, programmatic individual giving, or whatever you call it, seems to be a discipline in crisis.

Audience sweet spot

Fundraisers have long talked about being audience led; putting the supporter at the heart of their activity. An industry of consultants, agencies and marketers specialise in developing winning propositions, products and communications aimed at this type of audience. The holy grail of the perfect offer for the target audience sweet spot. Yet targeting in this way cuts the campaign off from a large number of available donors – potentially 70% of donors to similar charities are outside this audience definition (the 14 million men who support charities every year for a start). 

Effective mass targeting 

Byron Sharp’s How brands grow: What marketers don’t know was published nearly 10 years ago and summarised decades of empirical research into consumer behaviour, marketing and brands from the Ehrenber-Bass Institute. There’s no mention of charities and fundraising, but a number of papers published by the institute more recently demonstrate the similarities. Yet despite marketing giants like Mars adopting the approach ‘lock stock and barrel’ to long-term positive effect, the book’s conclusions are still controversial. The subject of targeting, and how to do it, is one of its prickliest for many classically trained marketers.

Sharp essentially advocates a sophisticated mass marketing approach. The argument goes that to grow you need to reach all the consumers in your category because, put simply, the value isn’t in the small number of people who buy the most, but in the millions of people who buy once in a while.

When you consider 60% of the population claim to have given to charity in the last year and most, around 23 million, give on an infrequent or irregular basis, this should sound quite familiar to fundraisers.

Yet the argument is counter intutative to many, brought up to belive that to be effective you must target the people most likely to buy, or in our case, donate. Or those that look like the people who already donate; those upmarket women on the Metropolitan line.

Who do you target when you need to prioritise?

1. Ask different questions of your data

If you have access to the kind of market data described above, task your analysists with generating a view of your whole sector. What unites the people who give to your cause and your competitors isn’t a demographic, it’s that they care about your cause. Look to understand who they all are, and how they are all supporting. Not just those who over index by a few points. 

2. Look for strengths to build on, and weaknesses to put right

Looking at the complete picture of supporter behaviour in your sector you will no doubt see areas where you are relatively strong and/or areas where you are relatively weak in comparison to your competitors. These are the places to prioritise. 

3. Find new ways to be present and add value to your audiences

Instead of working to finely tune the perfect offer for the narrow audience, look to take a range of offers into your supporters world by embracing the lifestyle and the needs of your wider audiences.

It is time for fundraisers to look through the other end of the telescope and engage a wider audience to grow fundraising performance and generate sustainable income.

Andy Hyde is Head of Planning at the Good Agency

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