Charities dial up personalisation to boost fundraising

The British Heart Foundation and Teenage Cancer Trust are overhauling their websites to offer visitors a more personalised experience as they look to boost engagement and drive up fundraising.

The British Heart Foundation's new website will tailor content based on why people are visiting the site
The British Heart Foundation’s new website will tailor content based on why people are visiting the site

The BHF’s new website will integrate with its CRM system “in a more advanced way”, said the charity’s head of digital Chris Thorn. That, combined with cookies, will mean the site know more about its visitors and how they interact with the site and can promote different content based on that behaviour.

“We have a wide remit – supporting people with heart conditions and the people that support them, people that do fun runs for us or somebody who wants us to pick up their old sofa to sell in one of our high street stores – so there is a wide range of reasons why people come to the site. We want to push information that they’re after to the forefront to make it a quicker and better experience for them. That is a huge win for them and us,” he said.

Thorn said the BHF plans to roll out personalisation in the coming weeks as it gets new stats from its revamped website on how people are using the site. It hopes the move will boost online registrations, which he admitted weren’t well used on its old site because it “didn’t have much personality”, and that it will improve engagement because it can use the information provided to offer people more relevant content.

“The holy grail is to try to get an all round view of our supporters and better information on them, whether about their health or fundraising,” he added.

Teenage Cancer Trust

Teenage Cancer Trust is taking a different approach to personalisation, focusing on offering people locally relevant content. Its new website optimises for mobile so that people can see what work the charity is doing in their local area.

That includes local services, local fundraising events and stories about cancer sufferers and youth workers in their area. Kate Collins, director of fundraising and marketing, says while the charity works nationwide it is often viewed as a local charity with people searching for information from their area and for support from others that might be going through the same experience.

The plan, said Collins, would be to offer an online information and advice platform to create local communities online where young people could talk to each other. However, she cautioned that would need to be well moderated and secure with the charity working on how best to implement the service.

The charity hopes the local focus will also help boost fundraising. The charity received a fundraising boost this year when Stephen Sutton raised awareness of its work through social media but said that it still faces the challenge that for every young person it helps there is another it doesn’t have the funds to.

The drive to personalisation

A range of brands, from retailers such as Asos to drinks makers including Pernod Ricard, are looking to personalise their online offerings in a bid to provide more targeted information and communications to customers. The aim is to increase engagement and boost conversion by tailoring the marketing message to individuals.

For charities, the aim is to provide supporters with more relevant information and hopefully boost fundraising. Thorn says the move is part of a new strategy to “weave digital into everything the organisation does”.

“We are not going digital first we are taking a digital equal approach. Before digital was a poor relation now it is seen as more strategically important.

“Personalisation makes fundraising easier. Everything the charity does is driven by people donating to us and we need to get that message out there in a way that is relevant to people however they come to the website.”

Sarah Fitzgerald, charity communications consultant at Self Communications, say while the move by charities towards personalisation is positive, there is a danger in missing opportunities to engage with supporters.

“Charity websites often end up trying to be all things to all people, whether that’s supporters, beneficiaries, service users or volunteers. People are accustomed to a more personalised experience online so it’s a positive move by charities to find ways to deliver more tailored website content.

“Charities which go down this route need to maintain a well-developed understanding of current and potential supporters, as the danger otherwise is that they miss opportunities to make asks of people who are otherwise only being presented with a relatively narrow range of content,” she says.


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