3 Ways to Future-Proof your Board…


What a year it has been!

Running a Not-for-Profit these days is not for the faint-hearted.

The world has changed. Technology is disrupting the way we engage with supporters and deliver our services, and (based on the Etherington review), charity leaders need to increase their fundraising involvement.

As a Trustee or board member, it can be quite a daunting prospect to suddenly realise that our old tricks aren’t working the same way, but it’s also an exciting time to be in the third sector and a fabulous opportunity to achieve things we never thought possible.

But nobody said it would be easy. The future of the voluntary sector looks vastly different than the past and we, as Trustees, have a responsibility to ensure we are keeping up with the pace of change.

There is no magic formula for a successful board, but these top tips will go a long way to ensuring you are shining bright in tomorrow’s world:

1. Recruit, Recruit, Recruit! Networks are everything, and this is where the board can really add serious value to your organisations’ success. In the new world of Not-for-Profit, everyone is a brand ambassador and it starts at the very top. Strive to attract young, connected trustees who understand the business world and have the energy to keep up momentum and drive through change.
2. Manage Risk – Good governance is the key to resilience. Be clear on your legal obligations and assign specific roles and responsibilities to each board member
3. Know exactly where you’re heading – as Steven Covey famously said ‘Begin with the end in mind’. A robust and clearly defined strategy, which aligns with your mission, is critical to success. And don’t get lost in endless jargon. Keep it simple and always come back to the question – how will this decision affect our beneficiaries?

If this makes for uncomfortable reading, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve created an event that will show you exactly how to do all of this, and more!

The 2016 ‘Future-Proofing’ Trustee Forum is an afternoon of practical inspiration from some of the UK’s leading governance and resilience experts.

Workshops include:

– Boost your Trustee Board
– Trustees and Risk Management
– Fundraising for Trustees
– Strategic Planning for the Future
– Duties of a Trustee

You’ll then have the opportunity to road-test your new skills with potential new board members in our Trustee Dating Session, when eager volunteers from the business community come searching for their dream role.

It’s all happening on 18th January 2016 at the Gateway Conference Centre in Aylesbury. Tickets cost just £15 and are 2for1 until the end of November.

To Future-Proof your board click here.



Wycombe Sound2

Guest blog by Keith Higgins, Wycombe Sound

Community radio stations typically cover a small geographical area and run on a not-for-profit basis. They cater for whole communities or for different areas of interest. Community radio stations reflect a diverse mix of cultures and interests. A community radio station’s programmes will reflect the needs and interests of its audience. This means creating direct links with its listeners, offering training opportunities and making sure that members of the community can take part in how the station is run.

At Wycombe Sound we are setting up a community radio station as a community interest company that will serve the needs of the town of High Wycombe and the surrounding area. We have already been on air twice for 28 days in 2013 & 2014 and we have another short term licence for broadcasting on 87.9 FM, starting on November 19th. Ofcom have allowed us to use a more powerful transmitter this time so we should be able to reach a wider area than before, especially to the north of the town and to the east. At the moment we are busy getting the studios ready in our new permanent home, which is in Bridge House, Bridge Street, directly opposite the Bus Station.

We have also submitted our application to Ofcom for a 5 year community radio licence. If we are successful, we will be able to work with different groups in our catchment area for a much longer period of time. Our short term broadcasts have shown how we have made an impact on the lives of different people and we want to continue to do this.

It is important that we meet the requirements of Ofcom so we will welcome any members of the community who want to work with us to promote their services & community projects. Many of our listeners have told us how much they value a truly local radio station for High Wycombe. At Wycombe Sound, we are giving the people who live & work in the town and the surrounding area an opportunity to work with us and ensure that the great work people do in our local communities is brought to the attention of a wider audience.

If you want to find out more about Wycombe Sound, do contact either Keith or Pippa, two of the Directors of the CIC.

Keith: 01494 449900 (Studio), 07753 277567, e-mail: keith@wycombesound.org.uk
Pippa: 01494 449900 (Studio), 07973 7109763, e-mail: pippa@wycombesound.org.uk

More, more, more!


Charities just seem to want more these days!

The website UK Fundraising issued an article stating that 75% of charities are bending under the pressure of increased demand for services. They go on to say that “More than half of them are not confident they will survive the next five years.”

This data is based on the Local Charity & Community Group Sustainability Report, which surveyed 538 local voluntary sector organisations from across the UK, and reports that:

  • 81% of local charities are facing an increase in demand for services. However, only 15% of those feel they have enough funds to deal with this.
  • 73% of local groups expect their annual income to either decrease or remain stagnant over the coming financial year.
  • 59% of them say income generation is their most pressing issue
  • 42% of groups have had to use their reserves in the last 12 months
  • 43% are concerned about a lack of reserves
  • only 4% are in a position to prioritise building financial reserves.

This data mirrors almost exactly the recent sector report by Community Impact Bucks on the needs of charities in Buckinghamshire (download here).

If we consider these statistics alongside one more really critical aspect – that only 15% say that they have an adequate business plan – the future for our 5,000 charity and community groups may be tough.

The data is piling up that the charity and voluntary sector is facing a challenge and will be asking for more – but we must remember that the charity sector now carries a great deal more responsibility than it has ever done before. As the government reduces in size the charity sector often picks up the slack.

So yes they are asking for more… but they are doing much more. At CIB we are working with charity and community groups to help them make the most of their resources at Start up, Develop or Crisis – they can contact one number 0300 111 1250 or one email address info@communityimpactbucks.org

3 Ways to Attract More Volunteers


“To help people be altruistic, we need to help them be selfish.

The selfish volunteer is not a bad person, or part of an unwelcome trend –it is at the heart of the future of volunteering.”

(The 21st Century Volunteer) 

Have you noticed that it’s getting harder to attract volunteers? Gone are the days of sticking a card in the newsagent’s window and being inundated with willing workers.  Volunteer recruitment has become a full-time slog, presenting almost as much pain as the dreaded funding search.

So, what’s going on? 

Do people have less free time now? Is there too much competition for volunteers (there are 2500 registered charities in Bucks alone)?  Or is the world just getting more selfish?

In reality, the answer is probably ‘yes’ to all of these questions.

According to researchers, we are now in the age of self-interest, where altruism takes a backseat and experience-seeking is king.

We might be a Not-for-Profit and we might be changing the world, but that will only take us so far. No matter how worthy our cause, at some point we need to accept that not everybody cares as much as we do and what people actually want to know is what volunteering will do for them.

People really don’t want to be seen as do-gooders, anymore.  In fact, this is now the number 1 turn-off for those considering volunteering.

So, how DO we attract volunteers?

  • Sell your Story

You know you need somebody to spend 3 hours a week entering data in your back room, but how appealing does that sound?  Think bigger than that – what does your organisation do? How many lives are benefited as a result of the data entry and what would happen if that person wasn’t there? Volunteers want to experience the spirit and mission of an organisation and feel like part of the solution.

  • Think ‘Intrinsic’

Not all volunteers are the same. Some people volunteer for extrinsic reasons e.g. they need the experience to get into uni, or they want the time credits, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Yet, according to motivational expert Daniel Pink, ‘people who are internally driven to succeed are significantly more effective in the long run than those who are motivated by some carrot or stick’.  So, before you post your latest volunteer role, take a moment to think how it might also benefit their life.

  • Inspire your Volunteers!

If you want to know how to put all of this into practice and set your organisation up for the next-generation of volunteers, then come along to our Inspire Your Volunteers masterclass THIS THURSDAY in High Wycombe.

This is the most comprehensive and practical training you’ll find and is designed specifically for those managing or coordinating volunteers.

Professional training of this kind would usually cost £250, but as a member of the Community Impact Bucks network, it’s available to you for just £35 (full day including materials & refreshments).

If you’d like to inject some magic into your volunteer team, book your place here.

Charity Performance Measures Worth Tracking for Improved Impact Measurement


Guest Blog – By Mark Kemp, Director, The Gallery Partnership

Impact measurement often strikes fear into charities, large or small. It is something that organisations are increasingly expected to do, yet it can be difficult to know where to begin. As impact began to gain traction in the social sector a decade or so ago, interest in and activity around tools and techniques to measure it also began to grow.

To demonstrate that your charity is really changing people’s lives, you need some way of assessing your work. Government and private funders are increasingly concerned with getting maximum value for their money, targeting their funding to the charities which achieve the most change. Charities who can show clearly what they are achieving are at a real advantage. Furthermore, charities who address a need for impact measurement by proactively opening up conversations are likely to impress funders. Proposing sensible ideas on good impact measurement show you take it seriously, and that you are doing it for the right reasons.

For some charities, performance measurement can serve as the answer to many of their prayers. In these cases, data can provide the critical component that will allow them to showcase their efforts and successes to their funders and other constituents while also helping them increase capacity and improve return on investments.

If you’re a charity CEO who is rolling your eyes while reading this, you’re probably not alone. This vision of non-profit utopia seems far removed from the actual reality of effective charity performance management and finding charity performance measures that are useful and attainable is not easy. However, it is possible to find performance management metrics that enable your organisation to both prove that you have effective management in place, are experiencing successful financial performance, and that the efforts your staff and volunteers are exerting are truly moving towards meeting your mission.

If finding performance measures has been keeping you up at night, keep reading to learn the secret to developing your own performance measures worth tracking.

The first metric charities need to consider, is how efficient they are at mobilising their resources. Because charities range drastically in size and scope, sometimes simple metrics like pounds raised or members served can be red herrings, drawing attention away from the actual issue at hand. These metrics could include fund-raising performance, membership growth, and market share. The current standard of categorising expenses into programs, fundraising and administrative/overhead speaks to this kind of metric, and the idea of a common outcome framework is already becoming more visible and solidified within the charity arena.

Staff Activity
The second kind of metric is probably the most straightforward; measure what your staff are doing with their time. Understanding the organisational inputs, not just in terms of money but also in terms of time, is critical for being able to draw the connection between efforts and outcomes later on. Thankfully, as management software has improved, collecting this kind of data has become substantially more straightforward. Employees can now track their output immediately, increasing effectiveness and accuracy. Tracking these kinds of charity performance measures is a no-brainer.

Mission-Based Measurement
Saving the best for last, we all know that tracking progress against a mission is an absolutely key component of effective management for charities. But that’s usually easier said than done. While it might make sense to narrow or reframe one’s scope to make it more quantifiable, this is often not practical or reasonable to expect of charities, especially those whose goals are around affecting significant social change.

Another possible tack here is to collect evidence, usually on a large scale, that demonstrates there is change in the world that is correlated with the mission of the charity and has some plausible connection to their efforts. This leaves much to be desired as a standard of measurement. Correlation is not as valuable as causation as a form of proof, and even this kind of research could come at a large cost, both in terms of time and money.

So what’s a charity to do? While some organisations suggest utilising micro-goals to help break down one’s mission into measurable pieces, there is another part to the puzzle that is often overlooked. Creating measurable, actionable micro-goals is important, but having the right tools and strategies for measuring these outcomes, connecting them directly to efforts, and being able to pivot the organisation in order to stay in alignment with the broader mission are all absolutely critical for success. Selecting key performance indicators is an important first step, but it’s the moment when these measurements are brought into alignment with the big picture that actually signifies change.

Hopefully by now it’s clear that no single metric is going to solve all of your organisation’s operational challenges. Finding the right performance measures can take some time and effort, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the challenge. However, with the right technologies, such as Apricot Software and an ability to keep an eye both on the end goal and on the smaller, more attainable steps along the way, your organisation can thrive in both improving efficiency and continuing to attract valuable funders to the cause.

A note about Apricot by Michelle Dawson, Living Life Service Manager at Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind

“Apricot software goes beyond case management needs and gives us the ability to clearly communicate the impact of our organisation. Apricot offers a variety of services giving us the ability to put a large focus on outcomes and community impact. We can better understand what goes into a successful outcome plan and how to increase our successes each year. By receiving these insights, we are able to make better-informed decisions about where we should allocate our resources for future programming. Apricot allow us to understand fully who we are working with. We can compare data across projects. We can mix and match outcome strands in line with our seven organisational outcomes. We are better able to identify strategic operational, technical, and outcome-based objectives, so that we can maximise our technology’s capabilities to meet our organisation’s outcomes, data collection, and reporting needs.  And finally all of this saves us money.”

Mark Kemp is Director of The Gallery Partnership, which has provides professional IT support services and reliable software solutions to charities across the UK.

Gallery’s Apricot is a cloud based database for charities, which allows you to monitor your outcomes and prove your impact.

Strive to be a Brand Champion and Protect your Reputation

Guest Blog – by Giles Robertson

The last few months have given those of us working with charities good food for thought as to why it is critically important to have a rock solid brand and a clear unique selling point (USP) in place.  I have experienced this media anti-charity maelstrom from three very different perspectives – as a Trustee for the Marine Conservation Society working to help protect our seas and sea shores, running my company Green Banana Marketing working solely with charities and public sector organisations and finally, as a consultant working within UK charities.

Anti-charity maelstrom

camilla newspaper

It’s certainly not happy reading. The negative media around how charities operate in getting their vital funds has definitely been provoked by a less than philanthropic side of the media – out for a good old fashioned kill. We’ve now seen just how easy it is for the charity sector to attract criticism, much like any other sector, from the debacle of the Kids Company closing (after 19 years of what looks like good work) to the charity ‘cold call sharks’. Having worked in the charity sector for the best part of two decades, it’s the worst I have seen.

And this has been reflected in the Edelman Trust barometer 2012-2015, which shows trust in charities ‘to do what is right ” went down from 67% in 2014 to 50% in 2015- this figure is actually now just 2% below trust in business!

Charities creating value

Most charities have limited budgets but many have also become more professionalised over the last few years. Fundraising is of course big business for charities and the ‘value’ of what members and supporters get from their relationship is key. Some charities have actually managed to maintain / increase the perceived value of their supporter relationships. And of course new partnerships are a good way to bolster income and profile, but these can also be a risk, and there are many examples of partnerships which have upset supporters, who may walk away from their chosen charity. With more government cuts to our essential services, the essence of big society still creeping through our organisations, the market is only going to get tougher for those involved in supporting communities, youth engagement, homelessness, the environment, education, health and well being.

Tensions between divisions

So it stands to reason that charities should make sure they have a rock solid basis upon which they operate. Divisions and tensions within the internal ‘family’ structure of charities are often all too apparent. Many commercial organisations and sectors have long-suffered such acute internal tensions, for instance in retail and fashion (between the design and sales teams – epitomised by Steve Jobs’ evangelical belief in all things Apple design-led. But also in the media, fisti-cuffs between editorial and sales teams over the soul of magazines are very common.

The equivalent in charities is the tension between fundraising and operations, who don’t always sing from the same hymn-sheet. Whilst the need to fundraise is inarguable, fundraising and the marketing efforts that support it, are often seen as merely support services to the actual business of doing charitable work.

The problem is – we all know, that fundraising creates a strong brand message, which can sometimes seem at odds with the charities core vision. And so when difficult questions are asked, it is perhaps not surprising that a joined-up response isn’t immediately forthcoming.

It’s not been great for those of us working in the sector to see the internal / external tensions grow.  But rather than respond in a constructive and strategic way, many charity brands have dug themselves even deeper holes.

Your brand should be your shield

I think attacks on charities over the next few years will continue to increase because there are so many charities and because they are now seen as being too powerful. Look at what Greenpeace can do with their  ‘Tell Lego to dump Shell’ campaign– they can mobilise millions globally to stop a partnership.  It was good to see Greenpeace in action (and succeeding in stopping the Lego Shell partnership!). Without Greenpeace, life would be much less interesting (and less organisations would be kept in check).


And not to mention the collective campaigning might of Change.org, 2Degrees and Kiva, and crowd funding sites like Indiegogo which raised 1.9m Euros from 108K people to help the Greek Deficit. OK, it is some way off the 1.6 billion target, but the sense of charity from the community is of great interest. There has also been a huge increase in charities and NGOs over recent years.

greek bailout

But I want to return to our central theme of having a robust and clear brand / USP, and acting as a shield for your reputation (and maintaining ‘trust’ in challenging times). I’d like to present a checklist of the things I think charitable organisations could do to be one step closer to dealing with challenging times (and the odd poorly selected partnership).  A clear brand / USP should:

  1. Protect you and keep people trusting in you during the bad times – when the going is not so good
  2. Get that bit more out of people who get out of bed for the cause, sometimes for no/low money, such as volunteers and Trustees. I think of the brilliant words of Barbara Cassani, who founded Go Fly under British Airways. She talked about inspring the cabin crew in the low cost airline by saying they were the in-flight ‘champagne’. Your brand vision and brand message should inspire and be the organisational in-flight champagne.
  3. Make delivery more efficient (and effective) when working with limited resource
  4. Appeal to new partners (staff, alumni and new staff and Trustees)
  5. Add a certain vibrancy and chutzpah

It’s important to have the right tools in place to enable people to be able to express / interpret the brand vision and USP in their own words. A well defined brand strategy should have the following elements:

Brand strategy

A. An outline of your purpose
– How it works
– What it does very well

B. The vision and values

C. Benefits
– What you do better than anyone else

D. Objectives for growth
– Benefits and opportunities

E. The main audience and stakeholder messaging (and the shift you may need with each)

Brand guide
A. An outine of what’s on and off brand, words, images, logo use, strapline

B. How the various sub brands work together
– The common thread which guides and unites key functions like fundraising, operations, programmes, advocacy, marketing, comms; commonalities and unique messages

C. How different comms channels should be used
– Guides for each type of comms material
– Guide for use on website and intranet

D. How the brand should be used on social media (including Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and Flickr as well as a guide for working on partner sites)

E. A written content guide is useful; the National Trust do this very well, see here
https://youtu.be/mVfCyejm4cQ (a written content guide is sufficient, but a film guide is very useful)

F. Great written case studies showing a slice of work, through one persons perspective, communicate the story well (how it works and what it does). Organisation and places can be complex for people to understand, people can only really take in a handful of messages at a time, so producing a handful of case study films would be a good asset. Mario’s personal battle with cancer and the support he got from Macmillan Cancer Support hit me hard in this film – Mario’s Story and I “get” exactly what he went through and what the charity did for him – even within this small focus of their work

G. Effective corporate partnerships; checklist for sectors and approach

H. A brand crisis team / crisis outline, with staff trained and prepared for “an aggressive and fast-moving” news cycle, should negative stories arise

These are just some of the ways you can help build your charity brand. People are a charity’s main asset and a few well-placed guides can make all the difference.  It’s important to have the right tools in place to enable people to be able to express / interpret the brand vision and USP in their own words. A well-defined brand strategy will not only serve you well when the media are in a less charitable mood, but also help you define value to all your supporters and ultimately help you grow. My advice to you would be to complete an audit of what your organisation has in place and strive to be a brand champion.

Giles Robertson is Managing Director of Green Banana Marketing Ltd and  independent Marketing Consultant, Marketing Society Fellow, Charity Group chairman, Trustee of Marine Conservation Society and proud member of Bucks Business First.

You can meet Giles at our Big Impact Not-for-Profit Conference on 29th Sept, where he’s delivering a Brand Building Essentials workshop.

Follow him on twitter @gogreenbanana and Linkedin or email at Giles@greenbananamarketing.com

Weeds and wildernesses

centranthus rubra at chelsea2

When we arrive at our clients’ gardens and ask what their priorities are for our visit, the most common response is “the weeds!” This is often accompanied by a wearied flinging-up of their hands in a gesture of defeat. Certainly, the weather this year has seen weeds thrive, often in circumstances where other plants are struggling to establish. I like to remind clients that the only official, botanical definition of a weed is “a plant growing out of place,” so if they like it, it’s not a problem.
The jury is often out on plants such as Centranthus Rubra, which many class as a weed, but has long been a Chelsea Flower Show stalwart. The majority of our clients, however, want it pulled up.


Others, however, are not as contentious, such as bindweed, ground elder and the ephemeral Senecio Vulgaris, found in many of our clients’ plots. In this recent clearance project, there was almost nothing but this pernicious culprit although, after our visit, it is now thankfully gone:

pearce weeds

pearce weeds after

A lot of our clients may not have a weed problem as such (or not one that they’re aware of), but feel that their gardens have got “out of control,” due to a lack of time or attention. Since the majority of our clients are elderly, disabled, or both, it is no surprise that their gardens have been left to their own devices. By the time we’re called in, there’s often a veritable jungle lapping at their doors and windows. Here is just one example of an initial clearance we carried out recently:

Garden clearance before

garden clearance after
Whether it’s fine-tuning and pruning, weeds or wilderness, our volunteers love nothing more than getting stuck in to a garden. Now, if only we could get our volunteer base to grow quite as quickly as those weeds!

If you’re interested in becoming a gardening volunteer, please contact leona@communityimpactbucks.org.uk

Why measuring Impact is good for the charity, vital for funding and a boost for the team.

According to our recent survey, 30% of organisations say measuring impact is a key priority. I can guarantee that next year it will be more.

So why do charities constantly look to measure impact and why is it so important?

Firstly, when seeking funding, most organisations need to prove that what they are doing is a good thing. If you are going to donate your hard earned cash to a charity, you want to know that it’s going towards something that is actually worthwhile. Ideally something tangible, in a nice bite-size package, like Oxfam Unwrapped.

If a conservation charity claims to protect 1000 acres of ancient woodland, we get it. The challenge comes when they have to prove the exact impact your donation has made.  How do we know that those 1000 acres wouldn’t be OK without your donation? That is the difference which needs to be articulated….and in order to do that, we always need to be asking ‘What would happen if we weren’t here?’

Secondly, measuring impact helps us prioritise and refocus when resources are short.  Is what we are doing really changing people’s lives? What could we do to add even more value to our beneficiaries?

And finally, culture. There’s nothing quite like the buzz of a team that knows that their work is making a difference, a real difference, that you can measure and quantify. It’s what gets people out of bed in the morning and it’s what attracts the greatest talent to your door.

So why is it so hard to do? Maybe it’s that we are used to thinking “outputs” when we need to think “outcomes” and impact. Planting 100 trees is a measurable output.  But the fact that children will have wooded places to walk, that the environment will be better and global warming will slow, can all seem too big and distant to measure so we don’t do it. Sometimes we don’t even think it!

But we have to because great charities will run out of money if they can’t persuade funders.  If we are going to persuade those that hold the purse strings that our charity is a good thing we need to show how we change lives, save trees, rescue lost people and preferably how many lives we change. We can’t wait until these doomsday scenarios are upon us to start shouting about the difference we made.  It will be too late.  As Stephen Covey famously said, ‘begin with the end in mind’. What is the greatest story you could tell and what questions need asking to prove your worth?

Charities Under Fire: 7 reasons why we should be cautious about draconian measures for charities:

Listened to the Today programme on Saturday and was astonished to hear of the suggestion of an OFSTED for charities being proposed in the light of Kids Company issues – long before anyone truly knows what the “issues” are.

Firstly let’s wait and see what the problems really are! Having read details in the papers and on the internet I am still not clear on what heinous act has been committed by the charity in question. The story is so muddy and unclear it is impossible to get to the bottom of the situation, but here is my view of the OFSTED solution…

  1. Shooting in the dark! Don’t react too soon. As yet the details are unclear so let’s not allow the media to drive change by reacting to one charity before we know the full story. The reality will certainly be different to the media rhetoric.
  2. Measuring the unmeasurable. An OFSTED style inspection on charities will do huge damage. OFSTED is a system of measuring. We all know that when the important is unmeasurable the measurable becomes important. The NHS and so many other organisations still bear the scars of incessant measuring of the unmeasurable. As an old Irish friend of mine used to say “Weighing a pig does not make it fatter!” And OFSTED, being masters of weights and measures, would not necessarily benefit the sector. There will be a natural drive to meet spurious targets – ignoring some “soft” but vital work. Some charities do great work simply by holding a hand or sitting with those in great despair.
  3. Charities vary dramatically – so in what way would it be possible to measure one organisation against another…?
  4. What will be the cost of inspecting the 1000’s of charities out there? More than £3m that is for sure!
  5. Who will suffer? Many people will simply not set up their charity for fear of bureaucracy, and valuable support for people will be lost.
  6. What do people really want to know about charities? Let’s assume that in any sane world not all things delivered by charities can be measured, so what would the Charity OFSTED want to know? It is likely to be primarily the accountability and transparency of funds. In most cases other people’s money. And in that case yes … it should be done. We need to know at a glance that our money is being reasonably well spent. Every charity should display accounts and in a clear way so people can see where the money has gone! Probably all charities should offer a single standard account of spending, as a simple dashboard if possible, and most already do in the Charity Commission data.
  7. Let’s accept that sometimes things go wrong! Charities run like businesses – balancing books and budgeting. Things sometimes go wrong, for a million reasons, so if there are lessons to learn from this one charity, let’s learn them. But to my mind the rather bigger question that we should be asking ourselves is why was Kids Company needed in the first place? And who will look after the needs of the most deprived children now?

So let’s take time to step back, see what went wrong with one charity and help charities not to make the same mistakes. The Government should have been very cautious with their, I mean our, £3m but to be fair the organisation claims to have helped thousands of children in desperate need and the Government spends a good deal more than £3m on less worthy projects – and we don’t hear a lot about that.

The Perfect Online Marketing Mix for Charity Growth

Elton Boocock
Elton Boocock

Guest Blog – from Elton Boocock

It seems that at every presentation I give, the same question albeit in different forms comes up. It’s the question of getting the right ‘mix’ of online marketing. Given that we are all under increasing time pressures, very few have the luxury of being able to carry out every method of online marketing to a suitable level, so we have to make choices. So, is there such a thing as the perfect online marketing mix and if so, what is it?

Ultimately, the answer has to be that there is a perfect mix, but before I give you the wrong impression, finding that perfection point is as difficult for an experienced marketing company as it is for you. Even if you did find it, how would you know and what would stop you from changing what you are doing in a search for ‘even better’? Let’s assume you found the perfect online marketing mix, knew that you had it so stuck to it. Well, the environment changes constantly, so even that wouldn’t work. The secret therefore is to continually search for better (more efficient, more effective) results from your online marketing, regardless of how well your campaigns are running now. This means continual testing and measuring.

With that in mind, are there any ‘obvious’ elements that always work or always don’t work? Sadly the answer to that isn’t straight forward either. It all depends on who you are trying to reach. This isn’t anything new. Ever since marketing begun, you have had to find a place where your potential audience are and reach out to them there.

So far, this hasn’t been very useful apart from reassuring you that if you haven’t found the perfect mix, then don’t get hung up on this ideal. It’s time to present something slightly different and that is the idea (and a good one) of having a joined up strategy for your online marketing. This is the closest indicator to the perfect mix you will find. When we talk about online marketing, we are referring to four key elements. Search engines (paid or natural listings), Social Media (paid or natural again), Email and of course your website.

Your website should be the cornerstone. For every person that visits your website and doesn’t take the action you would like them to take, you need to be asking ‘what could we have done differently, that would have caused them to take the right action?’ Too many charities avoid this area and wonder why they are not attracting donations, support etc. be really clear as to what people should do and tell them what they should do.

Search engines are where people will look for you. If they have gone this far then you are half way there. Most marketing (even social media) is interruption marketing. You interrupt what someone is doing to force your message down their throat. Sounds aggressive, but it illustrates the concept accurately. I don’t watch the TV to see starving children in Africa. They ‘interrupt’ my viewing to show me that. With search engines, you are responding to someone actively chasing you, or someone like you. Since Google Grants allows you to advertise on Google for free, this is a no brainer even if you needed a consultant to set things up for you.

With social media, your ‘fans’ or ambassadors often do the work for you. Your role is to provide interesting things to talk about. The key is in the word ‘social’. When everyone is rushing to share their ice bucket challenge video or the pictures of themselves wearing bright pink bra’s, they are doing so because it is social. By the way, ‘going viral’ is something that happens, not that is engineered. You can’t guarantee it and you don’t need it. Just do things that will genuinely be shared by the people that matter.

As you are more active on social media, being mentioned more by others on social media, then the search engines begin to notice too. So, the more social you are, the more your name will appear at the top of the search engines.

Then finally, email marketing. Often charities are either blind to the fact their mail may be spam or the complete opposite and they don’t send because they don’t want to be spammers. The truth is nobody likes a spammer, so make sure you don’t! However, to make sure you don’t, you need to know what spam is. It certainly isn’t the frequency. It is all to do with whether the mail is wanted. Don’t send out newsletters full of how you had coffee and cakes in the office for Doris’s birthday. Don’t send only requests for help. Think about why people are involved in helping your organisation. They want to see their time or money having a positive effect. On the flip side, don’t just send lots of lovely stories. Unless you are sat on a stock pile of cash or have plenty of volunteers twiddling their thumbs, at the end of every story, include a ‘we’d love to do more’ section that requests further help.

To summarise, there is no such ‘tangible’ thing as a perfect online marketing strategy. Technically, it exists, but finding it is nigh on impossible and if we did, it would soon change. All you can do is test, measure, improve and repeat. Use the social media sites that your target audience use. This helps your natural search positions, which should be backed up with Google’s free adverts. When people get to your website, don’t waste them. They have made the effort, turn them into your next biggest fan (that means volunteer or donor typically). Then, once you are already connected with someone, keep in touch by email and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You obviously did it in the past if they are already helping you.

[Elton Boocock is a speaker, author, columnist, BBC panelist, business owner and internet marketing coach/trouble-shooter. He began Urban Media (his internet marketing company) in 1997, some 2 years before anyone searched in the newly created ‘Google’. Since then he has seen many changes in the ‘digital’ arena but has remained focused on the need to ensure organisations make effective use of any new opportunity rather than simply join the bandwagon. He has a particular passion for helping not for profits and works with charities large and small, new and established. Elton is running a workshop (The Future of Marketing – Make the Digital Revolution Work for You) at Community Impact Bucks ‘Big Impact’ Not for Profit Conference on Tuesday 29th September – find out more here ]