European conference tour – what I learnt

Over the past two weeks, our CEO Jason Potts and I have been lucky enough to speak at three fundraising conferences in Europe and to attend sessions run by other fundraisers. While the locations (Austria, Slovakia and Holland) and themes of the conferences were different, I wanted to share some recurring trends.

i. There is no easy solution

A few times over the course of the conferences, I heard people say “I was hoping to come here and find the solution.” I pondered this for a while, before coming to the conclusion that there is no easy solution. How can there be one thing which every non-profit could implement which would work for them all? If fundraising was easy, would it still be the huge sector it is today, with thousands of people across the world working to raise funds for non-profits? Wouldn’t that easy solution have been rolled out and most of us have been made redundant? This takes me on to my second observation:

ii. People have a fear of interaction

The thought of sitting listening to someone talk to me for 1.5hrs or more fills me with dread. I would much rather be part of an interactive session where I can use my brain, work with my peers and learn by doing. It was therefore interesting to see that the majority of ‘workshops’ I attended were not in fact sessions where people were asked to ‘work’, but presentations from experts with a few moments of interaction during Q&As. This makes sense if what people are really looking for is an easy solution, and they want to come and listen to someone tell them how to do their job, but so much is then missed in terms of peer-to-peer interaction and learning.

iii. We’re still a very insular sector

At two of the conferences, there were no speakers from outside the sector. At the third, non-sector speakers made up perhaps 10% of the speaking roster. What is the sector’s fear of learning from other sectors, from being inspired by what’s possible when you have budget to spend and resources at your fingertips? No, we might not be able to then directly replicate what those in other sectors are doing, but we could at least be inspired by them.

iv. What goes around, comes around

In the same way that fashion comes around again and again, we shouldn’t be naive to think that old techniques can be pushed aside every time the next big thing comes along. However, we’re still seeing too much of those old methods at these conferences and not providing enough space for what’s new. Sessions entitled ‘What’s new, what’s working and what’s not’ don’t really seem to highlight the emerging trends. If we’re to catch up with the for profit sector, we need to think about leapfrogging what’s happening yesterday, today and tomorrow and look at what’s going to be happening next year.


I realise this post may be a little negative – this is not to say that I didn’t learn some amazing things and get to network with incredible fundraisers who are working tirelessly to do good, but I do think we need to start rethinking some of the ways that we engage at these conferences if we’re really going to accelerate our sector and look to learn all we can from what is happening in the wider world.

48 hours to build the most awesome digital campaign the world has ever seen

Following the success of our innovative and highly-rated hothouse session in Amsterdam last year, we are returning to the IFC in October with a masterclass running along the same lines.

Put simply, we are giving ourselves – and the delegates – 48 hours to build the most awesome digital campaign the world has ever seen.

We’ll start off by sharing the creative principles and successful studies from causes that have engaged support and raised real money online. We’ll then hand over to the delegates to work in groups to create campaigns around a brief they help to create.

As well as the speakers’ expertise, delegates will have access to virtual support from THINK’s specialist digital designers, online influencer researchers and social media marketing experts – all working remotely to build the awesome digital campaigns.

Working as a group to tight timescales, delegates will also be exposed to some of the theory and practices of agile working that will give an insight into the culture required to be a successful digital team.

Finally, the groups will feed back on their work to see if we really have produced the most awesome digital campaign the world has ever seen.

From this masterclass delegates will learn:

  • How to creatively build a digital campaign from scratch
  • How to work as a team in a very short time to agile working methodologies – so gaining insights into successful digital culture and working practices
  • How to plan a multi-faceted digitally-led campaign

If this all sounds good to you, then join us at IFC 2018!

Facebook’s News Feed Announcement: What does it mean for generating engagement?

Facebook has been under fire from several directions recently. Most prominently, the probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US Presidential Election dragged Facebook into the mud through its dissemination of fake news and openness to advertising from all sorts of nefarious clients. Elsewhere, social media executives have been admitting that their services are designed to be addictive, and neither use them themselves nor allow their children to.

In response to this, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a widely-shared post stating how Facebook would be toning down the content from businesses and news organisations in favour of making personal and conversation-based content more visible. In other words, going back to what Facebook started out as – a social media platform.

This has raised some concerns in marketing circles. Will content reach and engagement be dragged down? Will businesses become more irrelevant on the platform? Where will all those deliciously high audience numbers go?

In many ways, however, the announcement just signifies more business-as-usual for Facebook.

  • Firstly, Facebook relies on its customers. Its value of over $500 billion is dependent on continuing to attract advertising revenue from marketers hungry to get a bite of the two billion plus users currently on the platform. There is no way that the platform will neglect its business clients.
  • Secondly, driving down reach rates for organisations’ organic posts is nothing new. Facebook has been doing it for years in an attempt to encourage businesses to spend more money on advertising.

What the announcement does reiterate, however, is that organisations need to be adaptable in the way they speak to customers. A few years ago Facebook was pushing video content as much as possible. Then came Live video. Now, it appears they want posts to encourage conversation. Therefore, adapting your marketing strategy to ensure you’re able to maximise Facebook’s focus is key to getting the best results.

Making sense of Facebook’s placement tool

One of the more neglected elements when setting up a Facebook Ad Set in Power Editor is the Placement function. When configuring an Ad Set, it is easy to keep checked the Automatic placements setting – after all, this is the easiest option to take. The Edit placements option carries the warning that it “may reduce the number of people you reach and may make it less likely that you’ll meet your goals”.

It is natural that Facebook would want you to use automatic placements – after all, this places your adverts in more places, such as Instagram and other sister platforms. However, while using automatic placements will usually increase your reach, it will also likely drive down your engagement rates and cost per click.

For instance, while Instagram advertising is becoming more common and therefore palatable to Insta platform users, it generally produces far lower engagement rates than Facebook advertising. Instagrammers aren’t used to clicking on images that direct them away from the app – it’s not what Instagram was built for.

The same is true for other placement options. Few people look at the desktop Right Column in Facebook, and even fewer click on the ads there. Messenger, also, is only just starting to host advertising, so users will be unfamiliar with being marketed to through there.

There isn’t enough shared data to conclude which placements work best, and it will vary from organisation to organisation, and creative to creative. Testing out different creatives in different placements is always recommended, but if you’re working with a tight budget and short timescale, the best option is to go for Facebook-only placements, and stick to the simple Feeds option – the most visible and engaging advertising spots out there.

 

 

Facebook’s new fundraising tools: What to consider when using the new non-profit features

For several years, Facebook has been steadily turning itself from an individual-oriented social media platform into a business-oriented marketing machine. In pushing down organic reach and pulling up paid reach, making its advertising features more powerful and introducing Business Manager, it has been trying to entice more businesses to spend more money through the platform.

This is no different for non-profits – the potential reach and impact per dollar through Facebook far exceeds any other kind of current marketing tools, online or otherwise. Facebook, therefore, has been busy introducing new features for non-profits to use in order to maximise results.

Donate, Donate, Donate

The most obvious ‘new’ feature for non-profits is the Donate function. This has been extended to three areas.

1. In-page donation: Facebook has for a long time had a Donate button available for non-profits to use on their page, but in the past this just acted as a redirect to an external website – the non-profit’s own donation page. Now, supporters can donate without leaving Facebook – the Donate button can be added to a page or a post, and the user journey from sentiment to transaction is as short and smooth as possible.

2. Adverts Donate button: Facebook has expanded the scope for calls to action in Adverts Manager or Power Editor. Now, if a page is set up as a Non-Profit Organisation, a wide array of options for a call to action button have been opened up. Prime among these is the Donate button. This still just redirects users to the non- profit’s own landing page, but it makes for a clearer and more engaging call to action than the old Learn More button.

3. Live video fundraisers: Facebook has been pushing its live video function for a couple of years now – boosting the viewing figures to extreme levels, well beyond what the standard of the content actually deserves. Now, when non-profits are using live video, they can add a Donate button to the stream. This has so far been much under-utilised, requiring the kind of large digital team, technical know-how and forward planning that few non-profits have. However, the potential reach that live video has makes this an enticing option.

Don’t Get Distracted

It would be easy to get distracted by the new fancy charitable tools that Facebook is offering, and to rely too heavily on them to bring in results. However, the new Donate buttons are only as good as the campaign around them – there still needs to be strong messaging, imagery and other marketing components.

What also needs to be taken into consideration is the user journey. With the new in- Facebook Donate function, do you actually want to keep users within Facebook, or would you rather direct them to your own landing pages, with your own branding and response mechanism?

The answer to this is not straightforward. It can be cheaper and quicker to recruit leads or capture donations directly in Facebook, but without the opportunity to give the supporter more information about your cause, it can mean that they don’t go on to support you on a longer term basis.

One example of this is a lead generation campaign that we ran recently for a US environmental non-profit. It produced a lower cost per lead when signing people up within Facebook rather than directing them to the non-profit’s landing page. However, there was a higher conversion rate to donations from those that signed up through the non-profit’s landing page than those who signed up in Facebook.

As with all marketing, we would recommend testing approaches when activity begins and analysing which approach produces the KPIs you want to achieve. This can be frustrating when Facebook offers such quick wins, but this doesn’t always necessarily correlate with the best results long-term.

Creating Winning Digital Campaigns – A ‘hothouse’ session at IFC 2017

As part of this year’s International Fundraising Conference, Derek Humphries from DTV and I led a ‘hothouse’ session on how to create winning digital campaigns.

We wanted to try something a little bit different from your usual conference fare, and so we decided to invite the attendees to create and present a complete digital campaign. Utilising the wider THINK Digital team – labouring away remotely from the UK – the groups put together campaign copy, imagery, landing pages, influencer outreach, and audience profiles – and all in just three hours – before presenting their campaigns back to the wider group.

We were really pleased with the results. Groups representing notional charities Disaster Response International, Enough For All, Orangutans Forever, and The Freedom Campaign respectively were able to pull together compelling, forward-thinking digital campaigns within the space of a few short hours.

  • Disaster Response International focused on an emergency which had just hit Costa Rica. They needed to raise money from around the world quickly in order to provide relief on the ground. They pulled in influencers such as Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, and used Facebook profiling to target retired grandparents in the US and Spanish-speaking countries.
  • Enough For All produced a campaign focusing on Ramadan. Through Facebook advertising they targeted Muslim mums with young children and disposable income, and planned to bring on board influential activists such as Dr Basel Abuwarda and Refaat Esque.
  • Orangutans Forever centred their campaign on saving a piece of land to avoid Derek the Orangutan losing his home. They went beyond targeting influential naturalists and environmental activists, to try to reach more leftfield options, such as Planet of the Ape star Woody Harrelson. Through Facebook audience profiling they targeted wealthy outdoors-loving individuals – those into cycling and trekking, and those in professions such as banking and medicine.
  • The Freedom Campaign focused on Amal Clooney’s campaigning to free her cousin who had been wrongly imprisoned in Nigeria. Through Facebook advertising they targeted young activists in the US, Bernie Sanders fans, CND members and followers of the human rights movement. Their influencers included celebrities such as Adele and Madonna.

It was a fantastic experience creating these campaigns in such a short period of time. Beyond this, the session proved how effective international working can be – the remote THINK Digital team were able to put together the campaigns in real-time, making the ideas and imaginations of the session attendees a reality.

Watch this space for details of similar sessions at conferences next year.