Insights from a new study suggest donors and prospects are most receptive to charity messages via ‘traditional’ channels such as websites, TV advertising and direct mail, Liz Henderson reveals. 

A study has found the so-called ‘traditional’ channels are most effective for charities to communicate with prospective and existing donors. Noteworthy revelations were that over-65s are strongly influenced by websites while social media advertising ranked low except with under 25s.

The Creating connections that matter: How Australians want to hear from brands report published by Australia Post and ADMA in October 2013 explored which advertising channels Australians nominated as being most useful at different stages of the relationship process across 10 industries, including the charity sector. The findings have interesting implications for the marketing mix charities choose to reach different demographics and segments.

In terms of retention, the report found that Australians preferred personalised direct mail (65%) and websites (57%) followed by e-mail marketing (48%) for being updated on how their donation was being spent.

Insights into reaching new donors

With charities continually seeking to build their donor base, of particular note were the report’s insights into the channels people look to when deciding whether to give to a new charity:

 Channels people consider for supporting a new charity

Australians named websites (52%), TV advertising (48%) and personalised direct mail (44%) as the top three most useful channels when considering whether to donate to a charity they hadn’t previously supported, while social media advertising ranked eighth (12%) most useful and online display advertising 10th (8%).

Key differences between demographics were that a smaller number (29%) of younger professionals (no children; income of $50,000 to $150,000) rated direct mail as useful, although it was still third most useful.

Radio advertising also ranked fourth for 28% of younger professionals, suggesting the channel as an effective option for reaching the demographic at this point in the donation evaluation process. Social media advertising was in eighth place, indicating it has influence but to a lesser degree.

Retirees (those aged over 65 years; household income under $50,000) strongly favoured direct mail (59%) but interestingly, nearly half used websites (48%) while press advertising was nominated third most useful (45%).

When making a final decision to give to a charity they don’t currently donate to, study participants also favoured the same channels of websites, TV advertising and direct mail.

At this stage of the process, social media advertising ranked fourth with youth (under 25s).

For younger professionals websites were clearly preferred (57%) to TV advertising (46%) and direct mail (30%). Outdoor display advertising was also considered more useful (22%) by this demographic, giving an insight into when this channel may be most effective, while online display advertising ranked seventh.

 As for older professionals (over 40 with an income of $150,000 plus), a greater number (41%) preferred direct mail to clinch their choice of donating to a new charity and rated e-mail marketing more useful than the general population (33%, compared with 26% for the total sample), implying they may be more receptive to electronic targeted messages when making a final decision.

Not surprisingly direct mail was an obvious favourite for retirees (63%) but again nearly half ranked websites second most useful (48%). This group was also more strongly influenced by press advertising (46%).

About the study

The Creating connections that matter: How Australians want to hear from brands study was commissioned by Australia Post and conducted by an independent research company, Quality Online Research. Initially nine focus groups were conducted with a wide cross-section of Australians. A survey was then used to canvass advertising preferences and gauge information channel usefulness based on a sample of 9,641 Australians nationally that was conducted in July 2013.

The survey investigated the perceived usefulness of different channels in 45 real-life scenarios addressing the key steps in the decision-making process in 10 industries. Each respondent was randomly assigned six of the scenarios which meant each was completed by a sample of at least 1,000 respondents.

Liz Henderson is the editor of Fundraising and Philanthropy Magazine.

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