Managing charity supporter engagement throughout the Coronavirus crisis

Marketers and fundraisers are experts in reacting to insights and trends.

In recent weeks we’ve seen how the rapidly growing coronavirus pandemic has derailed many plans. It has been essential to cancel activities and focus on firefighting, but whilst events might be disappearing, causes of course are not.

We are a nation of charitable people and engaging supporters will still be necessary – especially if the ask becomes different. We’ve already seen a surge in the number of communities putting arrangements in place to help vulnerable and isolated neighbours. Clearly, staying engaged with your supporters and harnessing this desire to help in some way is vital – so where should the focus be and how can our present circumstances prompt positive interactions that pave the way for a stronger supporter community?

 

“Building and maintaining these relationships with supporters can help reinforce empathy and allegiance at a time when they’re badly needed.

Remind supporters and grow empathy

The likelihood is that you’ve already had to cancel events that many of your supporters have spent weeks or months looking forward to. Although supporters are certain to understand why this has happened, it’s a good idea to remind supporters of why they’re essential, reward them for sticking by you, and motivate them to stay involved.

This can happen through regular communications; keeping people in the know and promoting transparency – and where possible, a two-way dialogue. Building and maintaining these relationships with supporters can help reinforce empathy and allegiance at a time when they’re badly needed.

Thankfully technology can now provide an almost limitless number of ways to immerse people in your cause through storytelling and communication. This can mean building alternatives to physical events and activities too.

Keep things running

Already people are beginning to innovate alternatives in the face of adversity, just to keep things running – like helping make events and exhibitions work online, switching physical materials to digital ones and creating microsites to engage ever-more isolated networks.

There is already evidence of people making a virtue out of providing intelligent alternative ideas. Unapologetic, positive rethinks can underline how innovative an organisation is and further increase the reach of its community.

Rethinking and replacing planned formats with ones that can work virtually can boost morale, engage home-bound supporters and say something incredibly positive about your charity. For example, switching a sponsored walk to a home-based walk that counts steps and shares data live online alongside stories of impact could be very powerful and would capitalise on the nation’s desire to stay fit despite the movement restrictions that are in place.

It is worth noting that setting up digital interactions like these can also lead the way for building a longer-term digital platform for providing supporter tools, in order to not become just a quick or temporary fix. But in fact provide a long-needed tool for charities seeking real innovation and digital transformation.

Build easy-to-use supporter tools

Arming supporters digitally, via an online supporter platform, so that they can take action and give support, is more important now than ever before. A simple online supporter platform (which can be built on a pre-existing technology or platform) could enable the following:

  • Promotion of the charity’s voice, through the provision of nationally and locally-tailored materials
  • A two-way relationship where communities and individuals can share their stories and the charity can celebrate successes in return
  • A wider conversation via integration with other other sites and social channels 
  • Access to a library of on-brand fundraising materials that are customisable
  • Provision of surprising, emotive and immersive experiences
  • Supporter contribution to charity activities in new and extraordinary ways.

 

Given the current uncertainty we know that every organisation in the UK will be faced with huge challenges. We also understand that charities are powered by extraordinarily hard-working and passionate staff and volunteers. 

In many ways, we don’t look forward to the next few months, however we do believe that there are ways to keep supporters and charities moving forward together. Strategic use of digital interactions has the power to maintain empathy, provide alternatives to physical events and to enable you to build an online community of passionate supporters who want to continue to do good during this crisis… and beyond.

 

Dan Ridge is Campaign and Digital Director at Bond and Coyne.
dan@bondandcoyne.co.uk