Charity DM campaigns need to show added value

Despite the benevolence shown by Britons in the wake of the Haiti earthquake and the goodwill shown by all men and women during big splash telethons such as Children in Need, evidence suggests we are becoming a less charitable nation.

Russell Parsons
Russell Parsons

The annual citizenship survey, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, found charitable giving declined over the past five years.

Almost three quarters (74%) of people questioned in 2008/09 said they had donated to charity, down from 78% in 2005. And this before the worst ravages of the recession dented disposable income.

An indication of how much the downturn has hit charities came last September when a Charity Commission study found that 56% of charities have been affected by the recession, up from 52% at the start of 2009.

This past few weeks has seen a raft of agencies and charities step up in a bid to meet that challenge. The Samaritans appointed TDA as its direct marketing agency, the Dogs Trust launched a DM campaign, Adam & Eve won the advertising business for Save the Children, while the Breast Cancer Campaign is said to have kick-started a review of its ad account.

Their causes are many and varied but the objective is the same: to raise money.

I am not suggesting that this collection of campaigns, agency reviews and appointments represent a sector in turmoil, but charity marketers do face a challenge in finding new ways to engage with a frugal and disengaged public.

This will not necessarily come from shock tactics, an increase in mail volumes, or stark descriptions of abuse, poverty and suffering, but from a demonstration of value to existing and prospective donors. Charities need to show what the tangible outcome of their philanthropy will be.

Perhaps a demonstration detailed in a DM campaign of how “your investment” has rehoused families or rebuilt communities, or how donated funds have rehabilitated?

In austere times, and let us not convince ourselves that we can put the recession completely behind us yet, consumers need to know that their hard-earned is being given over to an organisation – private, public and third sector alike – that will add value.