How are charities appropriating content marketing techniques?

07/Oct/2016 · 2 MINS READ

The idea of marketing an abstract concept like “goodwill” and “empathy” is a daily challenged faced by marketers for charity organisations. It is only recently that content marketing has opened new channels of communication for marketers to explore, with 25% of surveyed NFPs reporting a documented content marketing strategy.

So how are charity marketers adapting for-profit marketing techniques?

Influencers and partnerships

Charities don’t often have the same access to not-for-profit marketing budgets, which makes amplifying their content an uphill battle and necessitates the need to use what budgets they have in increasingly innovative ways.

Partnerships and influencer marketing are one strategy for circumventing budget issues and reaching a wider, Millennial audience.

Last year, UNICEF partnered with six Snapchat influencers like Branden Harvey to raise Millennial’s awareness of children running from the terrorist group, Boko Haram through the #BringBackOurChildhood campaign.

Snapchat was specifically chosen due to the immediacy of the platform and its resonance with the target audience.

The influencers were instructed to select a specific story of a Nigerian child based on the child’s drawing, and recreate the story behind the writing in their own way.

Playing to a social-audience, influencers encouraged their followers to submit their own drawings, illustrating what they would most miss about home. The campaign resulted in a 19900% increase in UNICEF Snapchat followers in 8 days and 1850 average views per story.


It is predicted that 74% of all internet traffic will be video by 2017. As a medium, video has an immediacy that makes it an invaluable tool for charities looking to strike an immediate emotional response in the viewer. With the ability to be shared across YouTube and Facebook and repurposed for Instagram, the adaptability of video makes it a key content marketing tool for charities.

Video storytelling also gives charities the opportunity to impact viewers through a range of storytelling techniques like shock tactics, immersive narratives and creating interactive spaces.

For example, Cancer Research UK created Play to Cure: Genes in Space, the first mobile app game developed with the help of Amazon Web Services, Facebook and Google. It was a world first, as it used the collective force of players to analyse real genetic data – plotting genetic faults as the game is played – to and help with cancer research.

In contrast, Save the Children UK is a prime example of a charity appropriating visual techniques in a disruptive manner. The Most Shocking Second a Day video utilises the ‘one second a day’ video format and brings the horror of living through the Syrian conflict into an imaginable state for every day Brits.

Voice, tone & messaging

Your brand’s tone and voice are integral to the way your brand is positioned. Traditionally, charity messaging has broadly focused on tugging at the heartstrings of the audience. The brand Charity: water, however, is redefining the status quo with a new approach to NFP messaging.

Charity: water’s messaging focuses on inspiring people through content that plays on opportunity rather than guilt.

Paull Young, Director of Digital at Charity: Water believes the key is to share stories that will engage the audience and that are fact-based, motivational and uplifting, rather than aiming to evoke sympathy.

For example, this six-minute video by Charity: water begun the charity’s campaign to bring clean water to 100,000 people in the Sahel region of West Africa. The film contrasts the lives of two women—one who returns every day to draw water from the well in which she and her infant daughter fell, and another who has just started her own business now that her day is not defined by the need for water. As Young notes, “Contrast that with the traditional model of nearly every charity you’ve seen – text-heavy direct marketing that leads to a ‘donate-now’ page. There’s no journey. There’s no inspiration. You can’t be inspired by content without really hard work.”

The act of co-opting traditional content marketing techniques enables charities to become storytellers, building a reciprocal connection with their audiences and inspiring them through content.