How to manage your online presence on a shoestring

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How to manage your online presence on a shoestring

Deniz Hassan gives 8 ways to manage your charity’s online presence on a small budget


We’re like magpies, us digital marketers – attracted to nice shiny things that, more often than not, will do very little for us. The last few years have seen ‘the next big thing’ come and go countless times, leaving fundraisers fuming that they’ve wasted their time and money.

The problem is, there’s just too much choice. And every single digital tool out there will dangle jaw-dropping ROI and income predictions to lure us poor, naive digital folk in.

But when we’re just starting out on our digital journeys, it’s actually the simple things that matter the most. The real beauty of digital marketing is actually how little you need to do to make it work.


1. Set your goals

A bit of planning costs nothing but saves a shed load in the long term. A digital plan is just like any other: without goals it is doomed to fail. So before you do anything work out, at the very least, the following:

  1. what is the one thing you want people to do when they’re on the website;
  2. who are those people;
  3. what do those people need from us to make them do what we want them to? A website that tries to be everything to everyone inevitably becomes nothing to nobody.


2. Make your content relevant

The biggest mistake in digital fundraising is having poor content on your website. Making sure the people that come to your site are being satisfied is a massive step to getting them to engage with you. Remember, what you think your audience would like to read is often very different from what the actually want. You may think that your 100-page annual report is something they’d love to get stuck into on their first visit, but actually they don’t.


3. Make sure people can find you

Search engine optimisation is the single most cost-effective digital marketing tactic – you’d be a fool not to invest what little time and resource you initially have in this. With the latest Google releases putting the emphasis on high-quality content, life has become easier for legitimate marketers. Make sure when you get your website built that you’ve considered everything from URL structures (don’t use gibberish) and metatags to the keywords you want search engines to pick up from your content. Remember, when you’re writing for search engines, witty, pun-loaded headlines get pretty short shrift from Google’s bots.


4. Get a Google Grant

The sponsored links (AdWords) that appear above, below and to the right of Google’s main search engine results make it easy to target the most common words you think people would search to find your charity. Usually you would pay on what is called a ‘pay-per-click’ basis; you only pay if someone clicks through. But with Google’s grant, you get a completely free (albeit caveated at a $1 maximum bid) AdWords spend of $10,000 per month. Find out more at


5. Get social

Gone are the days of one-way communication. Your supporters want to get involved and are the best free resource you have at your disposal. Give them interesting and engaging content and not only will they follow and like you, but they’ll share and recommend you to their chums…who might do exactly the same thing, creating one big virtuous circle of people who love you.


6. Analyse everything

Don’t go wasting time and money with pointless guesswork when you don’t have to. With Google Analytics, you can keep track (for free) of what is working and what isn’t, see how everything on your website functions, what type of things people read, what type of content is shared and what pages and sources encourage people to take action. Armed with this knowledge you need never waste a second writing content that nobody wants ever again.


7. Earn your media

In the marketing world we can either own our media (website, Facebook page), pay for our media (online ads) or earn our media. Earned media is online PR and is one of the most valuable online channels around. Why? Because people trust it. It’s much more believable to have someone independent say good things about your charity then it is to take out an advert bigging yourselves up. And again, the best thing is that it’s free. Building relationships with bloggers, news sites and other influential people that talk to your audience will see your traffic grow in no time. Just make sure your website is good enough to keep them interested!


8. Make it easy for people to give

If you can only do one thing, do this. There’s absolutely no point in driving people to your website and charming them with your content only for them to get annoyed at the last hurdle – the important one. Do some research, stalk other charities (the big ones don’t necessarily do it better!) and see which giving platforms work best for your budget.


Deniz Hassan is digital marketing manager at Merlin


This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 22, October 2012

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