Guest Blog by Sarah Younger, Communications and Development Officer for St Michael’s Fellowship
In late 2019 South London based charity St Michael’s Fellowship worked with Consultant Dawn Newton from Morello Marketing to look at how we could get our social media to work better for us. Here I explain what I learnt from running our first-ever digital fundraising campaign. The results were surprising.
It all started last Christmas…
“Can you help us get some Christmas gifts? It was just a week or two before Christmas in 2018. The gifts were for the parents and children we support. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help, but it planted a seed.
What happened in-between
Over the last year, I’ve been looking at how digital could change the way our charity works – help us work in a more streamlined and cost-effective way, improve how we all do our jobs. We are a mid-sized charity but with a shrinking budget thanks to cuts to Local Authorities funding, we are feeling pretty small.
The exciting thing about digital is that it can be a cost-effective way to test out ideas, which is excellent when you have a tiny budget and a leadership team who are the opposite of digital natives.
Making social media work better for us.
In 2019, we decided to look more closely at our social media. I am the only communications person and work three days a week. We have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin account. It was all a bit overwhelming, where should I be focusing my time? Like a lot of comms roles, my role was reactive.
So last year we decided to do an audit our social media and get some outside advice. We then looked for ways of managing it better.
I was also looking for some coaching around using paid social, so I could better target specific audiences and potentially growing our online following. I had spent a lot of time trying to teach myself the basics, but it was incredibly time-consuming. I was looking forward to having someone to bounce ideas off and keep my expectations in check. I was guilty of comparing our social media to that of much bigger organisations. It felt like I was putting in a lot of effort for little return. Although I had noticed that even the more prominent organisations were not getting the engagement, I would expect.
Looking for more support locally
We always got a good response from local mums and community groups on Facebook groups when I asked for help with furniture for local parents. Part of our organisational strategy was to look at ways of diversifying our funding streams. I wondered whether Facebook could help us do this if we looked more closely at our social media and targeted adverts. It was an excellent project to work on with Dawn while honing my Facebook advert skills.
To test out this idea, we decided to run the Warm Welcome Campaign for four weeks from November to mid-December.
How did we structure the campaign?
We focused in on what we were trying to achieve and finding the messages that would resonate with our different potential supporters.
We had a 1-2 page campaign outlined. It was simple to refer back to it and keep on message. It described our audiences. It answered important questions like
- Why should someone support your campaign?
- What makes us special?
- How can people get involved with the campaign?
- What does your organisation do
- What problems are you addressing and how?
- Why is this campaign good for your organisational goals?
- What will the money we raise support?
- What examples can you give that donations will fund?
- Will you link this campaign to any trends or issues?
It also had the three key messages we would be repeating throughout the campaign.
What was the target?
We set ourselves a £1000 target for Facebook donations and getting at least ten new supporters.
As a charity, we’ve never really tried to encourage individual donations. Our fundraising has been predominantly around securing money from trusts and foundations although we do have several long-term supporters who donate large sums once a year or so, few of these were on Facebook or if they were they hadn’t been actively following us.
Getting our story on social
Dawn helped me pull together our story and get our Facebook feed full of stories and trying to engage the few people that were already following us.
I spent a hectic few weeks getting content together, especially evergreen content (posts I could use again). We also made a plan to create a variety of content which meant that the fundraising asks were spaced out, not every post was requesting donations. We used a collaborative Google Sheet which had subheadings to help with focus and we could save things for later too. This helped me craft our charity, supporter and service user stories. It’s been incredibly useful and now saves me a lot of time, and I feel less overwhelmed thinking about what content I am going to use.
I also collected images and videos to support the campaign all filmed on our amazing Samsung 8 mobile phone. It was all done quickly and a bit rough and ready (but it worked). All visuals were created using Canva for nonprofits which is an easy to use online tool you can use on PC or mobile app, free premium account for charities.
The importance of getting the whole organisation on board
One of the jobs I hadn’t thought about was getting buy-in for a social media campaign. Our organisation had never done anything like this before I did a lot of work at galvanising our staff, trustees and current supporters. Asking them to help support me in getting the momentum going for the campaign.
See video update on Amazon Wish List gifts – On Facebook
I went and spoke to different teams trying to get them excited about what we were trying to do and showing them how it would support their work. I set up displays (of donated gifts), and posters across our offices helping celebrate all the different milestones (I had posters in all the loos – a tip I’d picked up at the Internal Comms Charity Meetup hosted at Facebook’s offices in London.) I had all the channels covered; everyone knew what was happening and what I was asking them to do.
We asked staff, trustees and current supporters to follow our page and share our messages with their friends and family. And if they could do a Facebook fundraiser for us.
Facebook Ad Campaign – With a tiny budget of £124, we created about nine different adverts during the campaign to test out what worked best on our target audiences. We focused these adverts on the local community and how our work was benefiting local families.
Selection of posts:
In the end, we raised nearly £2000 with 70 presents donated. We hit all our, admittedly low, targets. But all the people we support had got a gift and that had never happened before.
The best performing ads were the direct asks. When I say the best performing, I mean those with the most likes or engagements — we only had three donations via Facebook from people who saw the adverts.
We did raise £500 via Facebook Donate, £400 of that was from supporters already known to us or via my own Facebook Fundraiser.
Celebratory Video Post – Facebook
Hear from the people whose Christmas you helped make sparkle☺ – Email campaign
It reached well beyond Facebook
Where it surpassed my expectations was with the way the campaign made our staff feel and behave. Our charity can feel quite siloed. I had found something that united everyone (even our regular cynics). It was a wonder to behold. Not everyone got involved, but everyone talked about the difference the campaign was making to the people they were supporting. Feedback from everyone has been resoundingly positive, and everyone wants another one next year.
Another lovely surprise was how it helped us reconnect with lots of our old school supporters. People who hadn’t donated to us in a while gave money and bought gifts. The emails I was sending out to supporters were getting much better engagement than usual. Our fundraising manager was getting lots of emails supporting the campaign.
As a result of the campaign, we also made connections with other community organisations via our conversations on Twitter who got on board donating hampers and gifts too.
A big thank you to @angieforan and her team from @StreathamSYCT who last Friday came dressed as Santa and his merry elves, to our young parents party to share the children’s gifts their supporters and local people has collected. ??? pic.twitter.com/WR6CNxoZ87
— St Michaels Fellowship (@stmfellows) December 18, 2019
We shared details about the campaign to our followers on twitter (who are mainly professionals), and lots of them supported us by either buying gifts or sharing with lovely comments on their feeds.
Most of all, this campaign helped us to tell our stories in a way that inspired not only our supporters but our staff too.
Working and doing with young parents not to young parents https://t.co/ihsgXblnv3
— Hillary Rai (@hillary_box) November 27, 2019
What happened next?
This February our organisation had it’s first ever staff strategy away day. It was a big moment for everyone. Off the back of the campaign, I presented a session on how I had used digital and what I had learnt. I did this in a fun way, by telling them a story about a magical kingdom, the land of Facebook and how I nearly failed but then all the Merry fellows in the Kingdom helped make it happen. I even illustrated it using stick men and included my side-kick a monkey called Mailchimp.
I wanted to make them laugh but also get over some key messages about how we see digital and what is possible. I wanted to talk about the importance of the stories we are telling other people and each other in the organisation and how this combined with digital could change everything. I also talked about the importance of listening to each other and building trust.
I got a great response, and I had lots of people telling me it resonated with them. The next day I had two managers (who had never approached me before) come up to me and say they had ideas for stories we use.
View this post on Instagram
I had lots of fun last week doing a presentation to our charity about what I’d learnt from our first-ever digital campaign. ?? I also wanted to hammer home the importance of storytelling. To help them see how their input is so important to help us reach more people and raise more money. ?? I did this by using my creative prowess by drawing some stick people and telling them a funny story. It involved me as a nun, a band of merry fellows, a magical kingdom, the land of Facebook, the Amazon rainforest, a magic seed and side-kick called Mailchimp. ???? There was a lot of spitting out of tea and laughing -particularly when I talked about the the Mailchimp monkey munching on my coconuts (which were growing on my fab tree hat)?? It was worth it. The next day I had two new emails from our teams telling me they had stories they wanted to help me tell. Hoping there will be lots more❤️❤️ #Charitycomms #storytelling #mailchimp #charities
Was it worth it?
So the answer was yes, this little campaign was worth the time and effort because we learnt so much through the process. And I feel like It’s helped move the conversation on in our organisation and helped people see the value in communications.
“I love the Dove set, my boys loved their Christmas gifts too. It was the only present I got,” one of our young mums told us.
One mother told me that the gift we gave her was the only one she got at Christmas this year, hearing this really made me realise that it did make a big difference.
Guest Blogger: Sarah Younger
Sarah is the Communications and Development Officer for South London based charity St Michael’s Fellowship. Sarah has 15 years of experience in Marketing and Communication including PR, Journalism and Copywriting. She is also a regular participant at the Charity Meetup events.
Discover more about St Michael’s Fellowship:
Connect with Sarah:
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Want support to run your own campaign? Contact Dawn Newton, Morello Marketing.
Volunteer to help –
Sarah is looking for a volunteer to help with marketing and communications. Apply here.