January 14, 2020

How Charities can positively harness the Power of Influencers

In 2018, the proportion of the UK public who gave money directly to charity dropped to 57%, compared with 60% the previous year and 61% the year before. Following scandals surrounding various charities in recent years, it seems that people do not find charities trustworthy, with 48% of people in a recent CAF survey stating that they did not completely trust where their donated money was going. This is a huge challenge that the charity sector needs to tackle head on, by finding new ways to inspire people and instil a level of trust to assure people their money is going directly to an important cause.

Influencer marketing provides one channel that can have a positive impact in helping a charity drive more donations and build a level of trust. 63% of people say that they trust influencer messaging over brand messaging, particularly with a millennial audience, with 84% saying they don’t like traditional advertising and would prefer to purchase through a third party recommendation. Influencers have the ability to spread a brand message in a more authentic way and reach a wider audience - the key is to have the right influencer strategy and work with the right people in culture that really fit what your brand represents. The beauty of influencer marketing in the charity sector is that there are so many cultural leaders that are interested in supporting important causes for free and are happy to post and create content that can help spread awareness and drive donations. While donations may be down, awareness and action around social causes definitely are not - the climate strikes are the perfect example of how passionate people are about helping to solve world issues and how powerful social media can be to give a voice to a movement.

Some of the biggest viral trends in the history of the internet have been charity focused, the most notable being the Ice Bucket Challenge which raised $114 million in donations towards ALS in 2014. As the various viral campaigns show, people are receptive to good causes on social media and are more than willing to support if it is presented to them in the right way. Below are a few steps you can take to create an influencer strategy that can support your wider activity and really take advantage of the opportunities:

Step 1: Identify

The first step to any influencer strategy is to identify what you represent as a brand and what your values, communication and aesthetic are. It is vital that you really understand how your brand behaves and how you want to position yourselves before you think about what type of influencer you would like to work with. This will be an important step to make sure the influencer you choose to work with shares your values and is an authentic fit.

A good way to filter down the type of influencer you want to work with is to look at subcultures or micro-communities that you can tap into and work with. An example of this could be sustainability influencers, with a whole community of sustainability influencers like sustainably_vegan and Madeleine Olivia promoting an eco friendly message through their content and platform. This is a great type of influencer for a charity to partner with as they are using their platform for good and will most likely be interested in supporting a wider positive message. By targeting sustainability as a sector it helps you to focus in on a wide selection of influencers that all fit the same narrative and brand theme. When looking at the type of influencer to work with it’s always important to look at the engagement rate as well as the reach of the page, because some influencers will have an impressive reach but very little day to day interaction, making them less relevant.

Step 2: Onboard

In order to get the best out of an influencer relationship you need to really sell the influencer into the business and emotionally connect with them. If an influencer can buy into your mission and what you are trying to achieve and they feel that you as a brand are supporting them, you are likely to get a lot more value out of the relationship. Always start a relationship with a potential ambassador by learning more about what they have got coming up for the year, how they feel they would like to support a charity and how they feel they can bring value to your charity across the year. By understanding this from the influencer from the beginning you can then understand what expectations there are for sharing content and what the influencer can commit to across the year.

Relationships with influencers, particularly with a charity nature are usually a lot more successful when the relationship is long term. By creating long term relationships with a variety of influencers, you can build a network of ambassadors that are willing to support various campaigns across the year on various levels. If you communicate this from the beginning and express that you’re looking to create a long term relationship it usually results in a more productive conversation and influencers won’t feel like you’re just using them to just get reach on a post. The network you’re building will thrive if you invest time and effort into developing the individual relationships with ambassadors and make them feel like they are part of a wider mission. Small things like inviting ambassadors into your office to learn more about the charity or sending out a welcome pack can go a long way.  

Step 3: Brief

An influencer brief clearly outlines the campaign objectives, expectations, guidelines and deliverables for a specific campaign. As these ambassadors will most likely be supporting for free the key part of this is to really sell them into the campaign before briefing, as the process of briefing and creating content can take time and mean people drop off. The briefing needs to be very clear, concise and make it as easy as possible for the influencer to understand how they are going to support. Setting realistic expectations for the influencer is important unless you have a very close relationship and they have specified that they are willing to deliver a lot on the campaign. In our experience asking an influencer to post more than 1-2 times per campaign is unrealistic.

For our campaigns with WaterAid, we have found that asking an influencer to add a call to action within their post always achieves the best results. If the main objective of the campaign is to follow the brand page then make sure the influencer posting adds that CTA within the text and encourages people to take the action you want them to. There is a lot of content on social channels that looks great but does not make it clear enough on how people can help or support.

Step 4: Follow Up

After you have worked with an ambassador and you have finished a campaign, it is vital that you have a follow up engagement strategy to keep the ambassador engaged and make them feel like they are still part of the wider mission. This can be as simple as sending an ambassador newsletter out every month to people within your network, or could be a level above where you send out gifts, personal updates/packages around the charity and what you’ve got coming up. At the very least a thank you letter goes a long way to make the influencer feel valued and appreciated for giving their time away for free.

One thing that is absolutely vital with an influencer strategy is that you create a database of all the influencers you have worked with, alongside contact details and information around the last campaign they supported. Having this database at the heart of your network will be a great way to stay on top of communication to ambassadors.