SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

charity digital marketingDigital marketing in the charity sector has experienced a boom in the past few years.

Charities like the British Heart Foundation and the NSPCC have paved the way for better website experiences and mobile apps for charities, and the introduction of mobile based services such as Just Text Giving have enabled the third sector to capitalise on the opportunities digital marketing presents.

The recent “No Make Up Selfie” campaign for Cancer Research and “Ice Bucket Challenge” have further demonstrated the fundraising power of digital communication for charities.

Yet despite this apparent move forward in digital marketing, the third sector is still missing out on some of the basic opportunities of digital. There is also a huge amount of scope for charities to excel online in the future.

Here, we’ll explore how charities can perform better in digital marketing and what the future might look like for this incredibly important sector.

Why Charities Should Invest in Digital Marketing

Of course, budgets always come into play and smaller charities like Rainbows or Framework might not have the budgets that the likes of Cancer Research or the RSPCA might, but nonetheless, charities of all sizes should be doing more to raise awareness of their cause through digital marketing.

There have been some great examples of charities using digital over the years. From giving a voice to the unheard to helping people help each other, charities have proven the effectiveness of digital engagement.

Investing in digital marketing can make a huge difference to any business, charities perhaps even more so. Here’s why:

A Wise Investment for Budget Conscious Business

Charities often work with very restricted budgets and it’s important that every penny spent helps the charity to spread the word of their cause and to ultimately achieve their goals, be it awareness, fundraising or recruitment.

Digital marketing is the most cost effective way to reach the largest audience possible. When done well, digital techniques such as search engine optimisation (SEO), paid search advertising (PPC) and social media can enable charities to speak to huge numbers of people very quickly.

Digital is also an arena in which brand advocacy really comes into its own. Consider your charities loyal supporters; no doubt they’d relish an opportunity to help you to further build cause awareness and if you check, they’re probably doing it already through social media posts and the things they share online. By investing in digital marketing, charities can better equip their supporters to be really valuable brand advocates too.

Building Cause Awareness

With so many charities (there are 180,000 charities registered in the UK today according to the Charity Commission), it can be difficult for charity supporters to find the charity that’s right for them. Everyone wants to support charities but it’s impossible to support all 180,000 – so each charity needs to let people know exactly what their cause is and how support can help them.

charities in the uk

Digital marketing can enable charities to highlight their cause – even if you don’t have the bigger budgets that the likes of Macmillan, who advertise on TV etc., do. Search engine optimisation, as an example, is a really strong place to associate your charity with its cause, by ensuring your charity appears when people search for relevant terms like ‘how can I help people with disabilities in my area’.

Reaching a National or International Audience

Whilst many businesses we meet seek to target specific geographic areas, charities need to reach a far wider audience and causes are often not limited by location. SEO helps your charity to be found online, whilst social media marketing enables charities to stay in touch and engage with their supporters and fundraisers across the country and even the globe.

Digital Marketing for Charities: Tips and Advice

Charity Websites

The website is the online shop window of a charity. It is where the charity can showcase its values, highlight its cause and encourage people to donate.

But despite the importance of websites, many charities are missing out because they simply fail to address the basics. Here are our tips for charity websites:

Calls to Action

The first step any charity should be taking is to get the website right. This means ensuring that the website is easy to use, accessible and that it has strong calls to action – meaning it tells visitors what is wanted of them.

Take the website of the NSPCC as an example:

nspcc website

In this example, it’s immediately clear what the charity does thanks to the large headline across the middle – “Working to end child cruelty across the UK”. This allows website visitors to quickly understand what the purpose of the charity is.

One of the most striking visual elements of the website is the green ‘donate now‘ box, which lets visitors know exactly what is wanted of them. It makes donating a simple process, and clearly states below the donation amount the benefit the donation will have for people supported by the NSPCC.

Compare this to the website of Nottingham based charity Framework:

framework website

In this example, the ‘donate’ button sits right at the top of the page and is the same colour as lots of other areas on the site.

Framework would benefit from giving the donate button more prominence, by moving it to a more prominent position and changing the colour so it really stands out from the rest of the page.

Charities should be very clear on their call to action – likely to be ‘donate now’. The future of digital marketing in the charity sector will depend on charities getting their calls to action right.

Website Design: Tips and Tricks

Psychologically, we’re drawn to human faces and, as a very human topic, charities should be making better use of the faces of people within their website designs.

Take this example from Unicef:

unicef website

The use of the forward facing girl is incredibly important in communicating the message of the charity. It also uses a convention of web design which taps into the psychological predisposition of the human eye to gravitate toward faces. In this way, Unicef is doing a great job of drawing people in, thus making their message even more powerful.

If we look at the website of Cancer Research UK, it’s a very different look, and one which is not using the power of forward facing faces and is actually not displaying a strong call to action either:

cancer research

Charities  investing in digital marketing for the future should be reviewing their website design and making use of strong calls to action and the power of faces.

SEO for Charities

SEO (search engine optimisation), as mentioned earlier in this report, is the process through which companies can improve their website’s visibility in the Google search results.

For charities, it’s a particularly important digital marketing discipline because it enables them to build brand and cause awareness.

Whilst big name charities can invest in TV advertising and so on to spread their message, charities across the UK should all be investing in SEO to build their visibility in search for terms related to their brand and also relevant to their cause.

For example, if you search on Google for ‘cancer charity’, you’ll find Cancer Research UK very easily. Search ‘children’s charity’, and the NSPCC is right there.

Does your charity’s website rank highly for terms relevant to what it does?

Beyond this, charities need to be thinking more laterally too. For example, here at Hallam, we like to participate in fundraising events and recently raised money for Rainbows. In fact, in every company I’ve worked at, we’ve had a chosen charity for the year – and we search for new charities to support via Google search.

So, I searched ‘nottinghamshire charities’ and, even though I know then to be just down the road from us, Headway didn’t show up in the list. Nor did the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance.

These charities would benefit from reviewing their SEO strategy to ensure they are optimising their websites for their location, perhaps building pages on their site about ‘corporate charity fundraising in Nottingham’ to attract more businesses to support them.

Think about other ways people might look for your charity. Did you know, there are nearly 2,000 searches every month in the UK for ‘charity fundraising ideas’? 140 for ‘charity days’? It is using SEO that charities can ensure their websites appear for these search terms – thus helping them to build brand and cause awareness to people who might not already know their name.

charity seo


The future of digital marketing for charities will see savvy charities taking advantage of the opportunities of SEO by:

  • Reviewing their keyword strategies
  • Focusing on cause and benefits as well as brand awareness
  • Investing time in blogs, videos and infographics

Charities on Social Media

Social media marketing is an important element of any business’ digital marketing strategy. It provides a huge opportunity for charities in particular to spread their message and engage with potential fundraisers and benefactors.

One notable example comes from the Underheard in New York project. By giving smartphones to four homeless people so they could use Twitter, the project gave followers a way to gain real insight into the lives of homeless people in the city. It now has over 2500 followers and shows the importance of exposing the cause behind the charity.

Another charity making social media work for them is the NSPCC. With over 135,000 fans on Facebook, the NSPCC boosted its donations and continues to build its profile through its Page. And what makes it so successful? The Page is kept up-to-date, content is posted regularly and the charity interacts with its audience.

charity social media

Charities looking to grow their digital presence in the future will be innovative in their use of social media and make use of the many channels available, such as:

  • Twitter for direct conversation
  • Google Plus Hangouts for face to face chats
  • LinkedIn advertising for corporate sponsorship

The Importance of Mobile Marketing for Charities

Mobile is no longer a developing technology. It’s huge and it’s here to stay – so an optimised mobile website is the least a charity should be looking at to keep their users engaged.

Does your charity’s website work on a mobile phone?

It’s also important to remember that the mobile web does not just mean phones; tablets are also hugely popular and creating an experience around the tablet technology will be an important step for the future of digital charity communications.

The example below shows the NSPCC website compared to the mobile site for the East Midland’s Child’s Voice Appeal from 2010, where you can see the mobile version of the site differs significantly from the desktop version to ensure it appeals to mobile users and works well on their devices:

nspcc mobile

The future of digital marketing for charities will rely very heavily on mobile marketing because it is a format which allows charities to engage with their audiences at exactly the right moment. See a fundraising event taking place in your local town? Donate now on your mobile phone. Just donated? Tweet us now from your mobile phone to let us know. Taken a ‘selfie’ with one of our fundraisers? Put it on Instagram and we’ll share it with our followers too.

The possibilities of mobile marketing for charities are extensive. We’ve already seen the popularity of Just Text Giving and the online craze that was the ‘no make up selfie’, taken on mobile phones. Savvy charities will capitalise on the existing opportunities of mobile marketing and use their creativity to reach audiences in new ways on mobile devices.

Mobile Apps for Charities

Mobile apps are another great way for charities to engage with their audiences and we’ve already seen a number of charities doing a fantastic job of using mobile technologies.

The Breakthrough Breast Cancer iBreastCheck app received widespread acclaim. The app helped women self-check for the early signs of breast cancer, providing a useful tool, while highlighting a key health issue.

The British Red Cross has an app for first aiders, which shows how to deliver CPR and how to care for people who need first aid. It puts power into the hands of the mobile phone user, reinforcing the important messages of the charity:

british red cross app

The use of mobile apps for charities will continue to grow, and charities that want to succeed online will be investing in mobile.

Digital Marketing for Charities

The charity sector has experienced a boom in digital in recent years. Big name charities are using digital technologies and techniques to raise brand awareness and to increase donations.

But there are still many opportunities available to charities, both large and small.

If you’d like to talk to us about digital marketing for your charity, give us a call on 0115 948 0123 or email

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