Posts Tagged: Charity communications

Google Poetics: the charity edition

You might be familiar with Google Poetics – a website and Twitter feed showcasing ‘poems’ created by the autocomplete function in the Google search engine. The premise is this; if you type the word ‘David’ into Google, it’s likely to give you autocomplete suggestions like ‘Cameron’, ‘Beckham’ and so on. Try it with all sorts of things, and the resulting poems are funny, bizarre or even disturbing.

This is thanks to a tool called Google Instant Search, which predicts what you’re about to look for, based, Google says, “on what other people are searching for and the content of web pages indexed by Google” – i.e. you’re getting a sense of what the rest of the internet’s users have been looking for already.

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Changing media coverage of charities won’t be easy

The idea that negative media coverage doesn’t affect charities’ income seems to be losing credence. Last summer, the head of Oxfam’s market insight team told a Market Research Society event that charities should stop wasting resources defending themselves against critics of charity administration costs and salaries because such critics wouldn’t donate to them anyway; and the RSPCA told me in November that the Daily Mail’s open season on the charity over the past two years had had no effect on its bottom line. Read more on Changing media coverage of charities won’t be easy…

Social entrepreneurs: Lord Sugar wants you! (Probably)

It’s easy to mock the BBC TV series The Apprentice. Very easy indeed; so easy that even the BBC does it. That notwithstanding, it is perhaps the single most prominent showcase for entrepreneurship in the UK. Read more on Social entrepreneurs: Lord Sugar wants you! (Probably)…

Bad news might be better than you think

Here are three headlines that you didn’t read on in recent weeks: ‘Police take swift and appropriate action after charity discovers serious crime’; ‘Charity Commission steps in to stop abuse of charitable assets and sector’s reputation’; and finally ‘Researcher reveals issue charities must understand in order to improve its standing’.

You might, however, have comes across the headlines ‘RNLI employee arrested on suspicion of fraud’, ‘Muslim Aid one of thirteen charities named as subjects of statutory inquiries’ and ‘Nearly half of business leaders ‘concerned about professionalism of charity heads’. Read more on Bad news might be better than you think…

Why I’ve been put off donating to one major charity

I have been annoyed by a big-name charity after I gave it what was, by my standards, a pretty generous donation.

I made the donation in response to a high-profile campaign, and was quickly thanked by the charity. I thought that would be the end of it, and from my point of view that would be fine – I don’t expect the chief executive to come round to my house to thank me personally for my incredible generosity. Read more on Why I’ve been put off donating to one major charity…

Charity websites are self-centred and confusing

In the past seven days, I have written two stories reporting that charity websites have been criticised as inaccessible and frustrating to use.

The first was on a report by the agency Bluefrog claimed more than half of the UK’s 100 largest charities used hard-to-read design styles on the legacy giving sections of their sites.

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Because It’s Good is rather good for charities looking for digital media tips

Should charities tackle malicious groups created by Facebook users? How do online mentors keep professional boundaries in place? And are elaborate email templates worth the effort?

Such digital media quandaries are tackled in a series of articles on Because It’s Good, a newish community blog that functions as an online salon for charity digital media geeks. The idea is to allow experts to share clever thinking on emerging trends, and it’s free to join and contribute to. Surely there must be a catch?

Well, perhaps not. True – the site is hosted by digital agency Enable Interactive – it’s upfront about that – but account director Nick Torday is keen to bat off suggestions that the site is a cynical commercial exercise. It is, he says, a spirited attempt to allow charities to simply share their critical insight.

It’s an idea that certainly chimes with current thinking on how “free” can be a business model for charity suppliers and just about any other commercial enterprise. Academic and blogger Jeff Jarvis argues in his influential book What Would Google Do? that the businesses best placed to survive the digital revolution will be those that offer free online tools to clients and potential clients. They won’t necessarily expect anything in return, or even to secure any business.

Charities should make the most of Because It’s Good. There are some intelligent and absorbing bits of bite-sized wisdom and some interesting debate here. Would-be members can sign up, create a profile, then either just stick to reading articles or, if they like, write the odd piece. The site promises to publish at least two new articles a week.

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Gravity could make virtual chugging a reality

Gravity is a new social networking site that could prove extremely useful for charity campaigning and fundraising. A number of charities and sector organisations, such as Whizz-Kidz and UK Fundraising, are already there.

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Charities’ public image on runners’ online forums is extremely low

A contributor to an online running forum I frequent recently told the tale of someone who’d secured a place in the London Marathon through a gold bond owned by a well-known charity, then pulled out because of injury. But she was being chased by the charity for the full amount she’d agreed to raise.

The thread eventually ran to nearly 300 posts, and threw up a range of issues we’ve all seen before, including pay rates for charity chief executives and the amount charities spend on administration. If we didn’t know it already, these are topics that stir up public passions – and not always in a positive way for the sector.

According to the contributor, the charity later relented and deferred the injured runner’s place: a sensible move that might well have kept the supporter onside.

As with any message board, some extreme opinions were voiced. One poster attacked the fundraising ‘feeding frenzy’ of the London Marathon, claiming charities had taken over an event founded only to improve the quality of British distance running (not entirely true: one founding principle was to raise money for sporting and recreational facilities in London; another emphasised the ‘fun’ element of the event).

It was even suggested that by becoming so charity-focused, the London Marathon was actually driving down standards of British marathon running – a debatable point at best, but sadly not the point of this blog post (unless anyone out there has an opinion).

It was predictable and hardly surprising that a large number of contributors said they would shun the charity involved in future and tell others to do the same, even after it had apparently changed its mind. More disturbing were those who said such indefensible actions as this were why they never ran for charity and rolled out their own stories of perfidious fundraisers attempting to extract money from them in all sorts of ways short of actual mugging. In some quarters it’s clear that the public image of the sector is extremely low.

Of course, some people spend their whole lives being outraged, and naturally I’m in danger of over-emphasising the importance of one tiny corner of the internet, a medium in which the most extreme voices – or, perhaps more correctly, the most negative voices – tend to shout loudest.

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Digitial media: put someone senior in charge

News online doesn’t just travel fast – it’s live. Twitter and other social media mean stories are published and read as they happen, which presents charities with a problem if they want to react quickly to events.

When news of the earthquake in Haiti broke on January 12, the American Red Cross didn’t hang around; it launched an email fundraising campaign three hours after the first story was published online, according to Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of digital media agency Blue State Digital, the company credited with the success of Barack Obama’s online election campaign.

I met him and his colleague, Matthew McGregor, the agency’s London director, last week and they explained why such organisational nimbleness is, for charities, in their words, “absolutely crucial to fundraising success”. Charities, they say, need plans in place to cut through hierarchies of sign-offs and approvals.

So what would a digital media-ready organisational structure look like?

McGregor describes digital media as “a thread that should run through the whole organsiation.” Gensemer suggests a senior member of staff coordinate digital media across all departments, including fundraising, press and so on. That way, he says, it’s taken seriously.

“It’s likely to be where we’ll be in a couple of years time,” he says.

Will senior charity executives take digital media seriously enough to take the tip now?

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