Charities haven't had it easy over the last few years. The recession caused donors to tighten their purse strings, while government spending cuts have stripped many organizations of their official support.
For many charities, their survival now depends on finding new supporters and appealing to them for donations. But advertising costs money and they don't have much.
The good news: these bodies can take free steps to promote themselves online. However, "free" means "free to implement." These tips require an investment of time.
Hopefully, you have highly motivated staff willing to put in some extra hours. If not, consider looking for volunteers. Ambitious but inexperienced would-be online marketers may well be willing to help promote a charity in order to build their own portfolio, so advertise for volunteers.
Once you find a workforce, here's what you can implement for nothing.
Create a Fan Page on Facebook
If people are willing to "like" major corporations like Coca-Cola on their Facebook, how much happier will they be to support a charity?
Set up a Facebook fan page, and get your staff and volunteers to like it. Add "Find us on Facebook" invitations to all your marketing work. Promote the work you do regularly on your page's newsfeed, naming and praising those involved where possible.
You'll soon build Facebook fans, all of whom may be willing to promote your cause on their own news feeds. The more eyes see your cause, the more likely you are to receive donations.
- Pro tip: If you have budget, try setting up a well-targeted Facebook advertising campaign. The demographic targeting in Facebook is excellent. By drilling down on gender, location, and age ranges of your target audience, you can get some great ROI. Plus you may be able to focus on people with specific related interests or those who are already fans of other similar charities.
Tweet & Ask For Help
Micro-blogging platform Twitter is a fantastic way to build support, share news, and comment on relevant political and social issues.
Although you may only have 140 characters to play with, this is enough space to post links, express support or disappointment, and ask for donations.
- Pro tip: If you have a sudden need for cash, for donations, for petition signatures, that kind of thing, it's worth asking celebrities if they will retweet your message.
Obviously, major celebs like Stephen Fry get thousands of these requests every day, so you're unlikely to be lucky enough to get them to promote you.
But are there any celebrities with a connection to your charity? Perhaps a star lives in the area in which you operate who might be happy to support a local cause.
Make Donating Really Simple
Every extra click a customer has to make is a barrier between them and a donation.
How easy is it for visitors to your site to give you money? You don't need an expensive redesign, just ensure there's a Donate Now button on every page of your site.
- Pro tip: Make the most of social media in the donation process. You may have noticed how JustGiving encourages users to use social media. For example, allowing people to share recent donations on Twitter or Facebook at the click of a button.
Ask for Links
Corporations can't get away with begging for links, but charities can. Ask people to link to your pages, ask for them to retweet your content, and ask bloggers to add a support button to their articles.
Not only will this help your search engine optimization (SEO), it will also encourage a flow of visitors to your pages and keep your charity at the front of people's minds. Charities exist to offer help, so they shouldn't be above asking for it.
- Pro tip: Try to encourage students into supporting your charities and it may help to generate some strong educational links too!
Target Search Traffic
Make sure your site is well optimized for search terms related to your charity. Also put effort into writing content and blog posts that are of interest to the target audience of people commonly supporting your charity.
- Pro tip: PPC doesn't have to be expensive. Check if your charity is appropriate to be accepted for Google Grants funding for non-profit organizations.
Blog About Your Work
People may know what your charity does, but do they know what daily effort you make and the real impact you have?
Blog about the success of projects, the challenges your organization faces, and the difference it makes. Invite volunteers to write about their experiences and run interviews with service-users if it's appropriate.
Readers will be able to relate more clearly to your organization and its goals, and be more motivated to make donations.
This kind of content is fantastic for SEO, and also gives you regular links to tweet and add to your Facebook feed.
- Pro tip: If a celebrity is supporting your charity, try and get them writing on your blog. Last year in the UK, Eddie Izzard generated a huge amount of attention when running 43 marathons in just 7 weeks for Sport Relief. A diary of his thoughts during the time were collected on his blog so there's a central place to link to for any attention generated.
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