Waiting on the World to Change: Nauman Akbar, Founder and Owner of MessageMuse, a Full Service Digital Marketing Agency, Discusses the Use of Digital Marketing for Charities (Part 6)
Interviewer: We continue our interview with Nauman Akbar, the founder and owner of MessageMuse, a full service digital marketing agency. Nauman, we have talked about what is offered by a full-service agency and why people and businesses should avail themselves of those services. But there is one group we have not discussed—Charities and Foundations. I would like your initial thoughts.
Nauman Akbar: Charities have a unique need for digital marketing services and those needs tend to focus on only two things: Telling their story and gathering financial funding so that the charity can continue to exist. In all my years in the business, I have yet to work with any charity that didn’t need funding. It is imperative. Even telling the story of the charity is for the purpose of getting donations.
Interviewer: So these two functions—telling their story and donations—can you explain a bit more about that? Let’s talk about the story of the charity first.
Nauman Akbar: Absolutely. The telling of the charity’s story usually has three components:
- Telling the story about what the charity does, why it was founded, who the founder is, and any personal link the founder has to the charity.
- Documentation of interaction with donors to include events, fundraisers, and activities of volunteers
- Success stories about who the charity helped and the impact on the recipient’s life.
This information is critical to the charity for awareness of the need, their work, and for donations. It legitimizes the cause. With so many “fake” charities out there these days, showing the charity in action becomes imperative.
To meet this need, the charity has to have lots of excellent content, photos, and frequent updating. They will need a dynamic website design, blogs and updates, SEO, and a social media presence.
Interviewer: Now let’s talk about the financial aspects of the charity. How does a digital marketing agency help with that? Is it the same as the non-charity customers?
Nauman Akbar: It is very similar. Usually charities get funds from several sources:
- Sales of products or tickets to events related to the charity
- Crowd funding
Each of these, while based on a similar technology requirement, may require more or fewer components than others.
Interviewer: Can you give us an example?
Nauman Akbar: Yes, crowd funding is very popular these days. We have all used GoFundMe. So, if the only capability the charity chooses to use is GoFundMe, then their website and Facebook pages only need to have a link over to their GoFundMe page. However, if they want to sell products and event tickets or collect donations without paying a portion of their donations to GoFundMe then they have to build an
e-commerce component into their website. That requires a much more sophisticated capability.
Interviewer: What are the benefits of a charity investing in its own e-commerce capabilities?
Nauman Akbar: There are many. First, most crowdfunding sites charge upwards of 5% of the donation amount. For a charity collecting $200,000 per year, they will pay $10,000 in services fees in a year and they still have limited use. That $10,000 will more than pay for an upgraded website that will take payments directly or through a free source such as PayPal for charities.
Furthermore, it gives the charity an expanded capability for merchandising as another source of income.
Interviewer: Are there any good examples of what can be done in the arena of charities using digital marketing?
Nauman Akbar: Yes. The first is a charity called Wig Out. This charity provides wigs to women who have lost their hair do to cancer treatment. It has been one of my favorite recent projects here at MessageMuse. This charity tells their story and what they do. Those in need of their services can request help through their site. Volunteers can sign up here too. And as important, the charity can collect funds using a Paypal link. It is probably one of the best executed charity websites for basic function.
Interviewer: So, there is the basic function of taking donations and then charities can move to merchandising too?
Nauman Akbar: Yes. A good example of that would be the merchandising site for Villalobos Rescue Center, the pitbull rescue charity made famous by the TV series Pitbulls and Paroles. While I did not work on this project, it is an example of a charity getting into a new merchandising initiative. The rescue website is actually separate from the merchandising site but there is a link that moves the customers to the sales site for purchases. Take a look at the number of items this charity has for sale, all of which promote the rescue and at the same time provides funding for the charity.
Interviewer: So, charities really have to be “in business” too?
Nauman Akbar: Absolutely. They need to get their message out to the public so that they can build a following and financial support for their cause. To do that they must have a creative website design, engaging content, an SEO plan, and reputation management activities.
If they don’t use digital marketing tools available to them, then they will simply be waiting on the world to change instead of driving that change.
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