Digital Leadership Ltd


Thinking and reports

Supporters are changing, transform to catch up

The recently released Global Trends 2017 survey from Ipsos Mori provides some fascinating insight in how our world is changing.

Overall, the world is anxious – people in developed economies are worried about losing the benefits their parents’ generation had. In emerging economies people feel that they must work to succeed and achieve more at any cost. People are overwhelmed: 55% of people in the UK wish their life was simpler, 56% are too worried about their own lives to worry about others one on four Brits measure their success by the things they own.

Media consumption across all traditional channels (TV, magazines, radio and outdoor) has fallen by a tenth these past 5 years, but consumption of digital channels has rocketed: internet has doubled and mobile quadrupled according to Zenith Optimedia Media Consumption Forecasts 2016. Digital advertising is entering a new era – people are put off by rubbish, lazy and cheap content and many use ad blockers. Industry is responding to this trend by trying to improve the quality and production values of advertising content.

Purpose-driven companies are increasingly entering the ‘do good’ space which is blurring the distinction between charities and businesses as the Whatever next? report from Eden Stanley and CharityComms suggests. Ipsos MORI reports that 60% of people in the UK think that the successful brands of the future will be those that make a positive contribution to society, beyond providing good service/products.

From most people’s point of view, buying fairtrade, Tom’s shoes or a RED product instead of a non-ethical brand is a charitable act. While for charities the most meaningful action, most of the time, is a direct debit donation. So what are we doing to bridge this divide between consumer understanding and charity expectations of what ‘doing good’ means?

The pace of change consumers (who are also charity supporters) are experiencing in their day to day is simply not being matched by charities. While consumer brands are transforming their businesses to help people get ahead and overcome their concerns, many charities are still focusing on trying, in effect, to educate people, often making them feel guilty about their lifestyles in the process. A far better focus would be finding the way to appeal to people as they are and inspire them to join a cause.


Are you ready?

I’ve created a digital maturity test which helps non-profits assess how well they are doing in developing their digital capacity and what they need to prioritise to go up a level.

What I see is that technology is one of the weak points for most charities.

At best charities have a new platform for publishing their website (Content Management System or CMS) and some level of data exchange which allows for some relatively sophisticated segmentation in email and on landing pages. But more often than not, organisations simply lack the systems and data processes which are crucial for establishing a single supporter view.

Why is the single supporter view so important?

As the Ipsos MORI Global Trends 2017 research underlined, digital change is happening everywhere and commercial brands are using personalisation, data and creative content to cut through the noise and people’s impulse to switch off. Everyone is exposed to personalisation and people like it if it’s done well.

Sending generic emails, segmented based on internal silos, will not help us compete for attention in this space. Doom and gloom messages will not appeal when people feel overwhelmed by their own lives. A relentless focus on regular giving will engage only a certain type of supporter.

This challenge cannot be resolved without appropriate technology in place. Charities need to invest in real CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems), built for the 21st century. And not only that, you need to be ready to manage organisational change as this investment is not only about changing your technology, it’s about changing your organisation’s culture.

Where to start?

The process of introducing a CRM can feel overwhelming, so start by:

  • Developing audience journeys. Start with an understanding of people’s views and motivations and how much they understand about your issue. Then introduce the story of what you do to resolve it bit by bit.
  • Identify what data your CRM needs to collect and share so you can create personalised communications.
  • Clarify how you need to collaborate across the organisation – de-silo, accept that no one team owns an audience.
  • Design your business processes to match audience journeys. Be open to change, it’s very likely you won’t keep doing a lot of what you’ve been doing for years.

The Ipsos MORI report also points to some opportunities. In the UK 59% of people agreed that we need guides and mentors more than politicians and 40% say they need a more spiritual dimension in their daily life. Transformed charities can respond to these needs. But we need to start the process of (digital) transformation now. Wait a few years and it will be impossible to catch up. Don’t be left behind.

A version of this article has been published in the June 2017 edition of Charity Finance magazine.

Branislava Milosevic