Is advertising for charities really necessary?

Last week a number of MPs and Thomas
Hughes-Hallet, chief executive of Marie Curie Cancer Care, criticised some
charities for spending too much on advertising.

The comments created quite a backlash on
the Third Sector site and a question has been hanging in the air over whether
some charities do indeed pump too much of their funds into this rather than
their frontline services.

I believe I have personally been motivated
to support a charity because of an advertising campaign.

The decision was coupled with the fact that
I was already looking for a charity that works with animals and the environment
to support because I felt guilty about no longer being a vegetarian.

But nevertheless I do think that, even if
subconsciously, this particular charity’s advertising was a major factor that
swung my monthly donation towards it rather than another with similar

A balance must be struck, though.

We are all bombarded with so many messages
and sales pitches every day, and the last thing any charity needs is for their
message to be put into the same box as all the other annoying noise in the
heads of would-be supporters.

Then there is of course the argument that
some supporters will become enraged that too much money is being ‘wasted’ by
charities on self-promotion. Whether or not you agree with this argument, if it
is a viewpoint some people have, then that is worth bearing in mind when it
comes to protecting your brand.

But no one is going to give to a charity
they do not know exists. Just as no one is going to buy a product they do not
realise exists.

There are, obviously, other ways that
people can come across charities, maybe through personal experience or

But for many charities, to be noticed by a
mass-audience a mass-awareness drive must be launched. And advertising was created to achieve
exactly this.

Inspirational, carefully placed advertising
does still play an important role for charities. It is usually this that will
raise awareness of their work, which will in turn raise funds, and it is only
with those funds that their frontline services will exist at all.