It’s been a bit of a bugbear of mine that charities always seem to scream poverty when it comes to spending money on fundraising. It’s as if we should be holding charity events for the charity sector so that they can use that money to raise awareness of their own campaigns!
I watched a TEDx video recently (link here) that showed that it’s not only happening here in the UK, but across the pond too. We have somehow got it into our heads that charities shouldn’t be spending money on advertising and fundraising but instead they should be using that money for those they’re trying to help.
If you spent £5 advertising a car boot sale and managed to raise £100 in donations the charity would be obviously grateful.
What if you spend £5m on advertising to a professional standard, built ‘brand awareness’ highlighted the problem, made it a talking point and raised £100m for the charity? They would give you a knighthood! Until ‘they’ found out you had spent the £5m in the first place, then they’d tear you to shreds.
Fundraising isn’t just about raising funds; it’s about building awareness of the plight, the challenge, that overriding problem that a government initiative isn’t tackling. The US Government under Ronald Reagan slashed spending on programs such as food stamps and subsidized housing, and as a result the poverty rate climbed from 12% to 15% and unemployment rose from 7% to 11%.
“It’s already predicted that by 2017 the UK is set to have the lowest share of public spending among major capitalist economies, including the USA, as a result of the exceptionally hard cuts in published spending currently planned.”
The dogma of ‘spend as little as possible’ is being is being well and truly ‘cracked’ by organizations such as Prostate Cancer UK who underwent a major re-brand following changes after bringing in Seamus O’Farrell, who came from the commercial sector and pushed through major changes that saw spending in excess of £190,000 and the dropping of the word ‘charity’ from the strap-line.
Blackbaud utilising the instaGiv platform, helped with Prostate Cancer UK’s Nutcracker Suite, by building a stunt based engagement platform which raised on average £400 per working hour over the 2 week period. The bold black and blue branding and new marketing strategy were more masculine and bolshy in a bold statement moving away from traditional soft sell, typically found in their previous campaigns.
Even after treatment for prostate cancer, 160,000 men have been left with little or no sex life (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21805991) this alone should be campaign agenda in its own right? Rising cancer rates could see those receiving treatment double by 2030, so as it’s been shown by Prostate Cancer UK, it’s time to crack the nut on this, and not be held back by issues such as fundraising expenditure.
The charity sector must start operating as a commercial enterprise and tackle the raising of funds the same way a for-profit company works at raising market share and returns.
Marketing has two basic functions, leveraging volume or leveraging margin, it’s not unheard of for emerging companies to spend upwards of 15% of their turnover on advertising, in an attempt to build brand awareness. It’s a falsehood that servicing your existing clients to the highest degree at the expense of spending on advertising will bring in more customers, that’s the same as building a better mousetrap in the hope of catching more mice.
We all know the Disney brand; in 2011 they spent $1.9 billion on advertising. Now if you already know of Disney, why is it that they still spend so much? Keeping the brand alive in the minds of their customers. This in the shadow of Procter & Gamble who spent $3.34 billion on ads, however with revenues in excess of $83 billion in 2012, you can see how spending big, brings in big profits. Not bad for a company that started out as an English and Irish man who married sisters having moved over to America and started making candle and soap for the US Army, all because their father-in-law told them to start a business or else he wouldn’t let them marry his daughters.
It’s time to focus less on how much you spend on advertising, and push the focus back on how much you have raised.