Charities are reassessing their branding and marketing communications to try to ensure they appeal to new audiences, as they face additional funding challenges and stalled donations.
Disability charity Scope, Children’s charity Variety and Diabetes UK have all refocused their branding and approach to marketing in recent weeks demonstrating the need for charities to be much clearer about what it is they do, who they can help and why their work is so important.
Simon Morrison, marketing and communications director at the charity membership organisation the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) says that the government cuts to statutory funding are “really biting now” creating a genuine fundraising issue as volunteer donations are being fought over by more charities.
Many councils slashed funding given to charity organisations as part of the government’s austerity drive last summer.
He says: “Brands are changing to appeal to younger audiences. Any responsible charity will ask ‘does my current brand proposition reflect what that audience is interested in’ and address their brand values and where they stand. At the moment there is an extra impetus from the funding challenge and we are seeing more investment in this area as people look to address it and restate their core values.”
Children’s charity Variety, formerly Variety Club, decided to drop the word “club” from its brand name to clarify what it does after recognising that its brand wasn’t appealing to younger people who didn’t understand what the brand stood for and was missing out on potential donations from people aged between 25 and 35.
Charities are also looking to better communicate the services they provide and personalise how they help individuals to “humanise” the organisation.
Disability charity Scope has revealed a new brand strategy and identity created from images contributed by its beneficiaries, as a way to demonstrate what it is that drives the charity’s work.
Marketing and communications director at the charity Alexandra O’Dwyer says that the rebrand is less about a brand identity and more about a statement of what the organisation stands for.
She says: “The days are gone when charities can talk on behalf of a group of people. We need to be driven by them and their stories. Their stories are better than anything we [marketers] could come up with.
“Just because what we’re doing is right, it doesn’t mean that people have to buy into it. We have to really sell it. Being visionary and earnest isn’t enough.Charities have to stay fleet of foot to maintain integrity and make our work clear to everyone.”
The IoF’s Morrison adds that it is typically British to be understated and not shout about achievements, which means that in the past charities have not always communicated what they do very well. In the US there is much more emphasis on recognising and highlighting philanthropy and UK charities are starting to catch up with this and the need to make it clear what they provide and good work they do.
Scope’s objective is to get disability better understood, both by those directly affected and people who aren’t, because it currently falls around 8th or 9th as a cause that the public is interested in, behind other causes such as cancer or animal charities.
O’Dwyer says this means that there is a job to do to change the way society views disability and Scope believes that using the visions of its beneficiaries is a way of “humanising” the cause and addressing preconceptions about disability in society.
Diabetes UK has also overhauled its brand in a bid to make the cause more visible to consumers and potential givers as well as to government to boost its lobbying efforts.
The charity, which also developed its new brand identity in collaboration with stakeholders such as diabetes sufferers, nurses and carers, believes that it needed to modernise perceptions and “be more pushy about getting support by being a bit more in your face”.
CEO Barbara Young adds that Diabetes UK wants to be “pushy, but not brash” in the way it raises the profile of the organisation and the scale of the problem diabetes poses.
Vicky Browning, director of CharityComms, a membership organisation that aims to improve marketing communications in the third sector, believes that charities are getting more “sophisticated” in the way they communicate and agrees that there is more need to tell their audience exactly what their organisation is about, what the charity can do for them, why they should listen, why they should care, and what they can do to help.
She says: “Charities are becoming more professional in the way they use communications to reach out to people. The issue is not one of talking louder: it is about being heard. For fundraising charities, donors’ pockets and budgets are really being squeezed and the financial situation is making many people feel uneasy and insecure. But you don’t get people to donate to your charity, volunteer, use your services or lobby on your behalf by shouting at them.”