25th March, 2012

When you’re feeling a bit lacklustre

No matter how worthy the cause, there often comes a time when the charity train runs out of steam, when donations start to dip and when support seems to ebb onto the next big thing.

A case in point has been the ongoing battle for publicity between two major charities that provide support for wounded servicemen and women. In one corner you have the well-established and highly respected Royal British Legion – a fantastic charity that has been tirelessly campaigning and supporting our wounded service personnel for decades.

Then you have the newcomer – Help for Heroes.  The astonishing success of this worthy organisation has been meteoritic, and in five years H4H has raised millions in donations throughout the UK for wounded service personnel.  But has it been at the expense of the Legion?  And why is the new kid on the block suddenly so much more high profile than the old guard? 

The media’s support

We highlight some of the shrewd decisions that have led to Help for Heroes’ rapid success in a recent post (normally exclusive to newsletter subscribers), including their use of media to engage supporters. 

Help for Heroes is seen as a go-getting, vibrant charity with a transparent policy on where its funds go. People can physically see what H4H is doing, what the results of its campaigns are and how wounded servicemen and women are benefiting through their grants programme. While the Legion works tirelessly in the background, its public persona only really raises its head during the annual Poppy Appeal, when once again attention in the media focuses back onto its most important yearly campaign.

How the Legion responded to H4H’s domination of the public’s heart is key, and is a good example of how to breathe new life into a flagging campaign. The Legion learnt from H4H’s success and is upping the ante, reminding people that it isn’t just there on Poppy Day, but all year round. A concerted effort by their promotional team has focused on a different demographic – the younger generation.

A new lease of life

It is this shift in focus that can be a cornerstone of any non-profit organisation’s new lease of life. As with any organisation, charities face fierce competition from rival worthy causes.

The key, I would argue, is not to languish in bitter jealousy of your competitors but to learn from them.  If you were to write a case study on your competitor’s successes what would you say?  It can be tempting to think ‘if only we had their publicity …’, but if your strategy isn’t sufficiently robust to make your own success then your strategy is wrong.

So why not write a case study on your key competitor?  Consider their strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of funders, donors and beneficiaries.  And then use your learning to inform your strategy.

See our case studies on Charity:Water and Help for Heroes for inspiration.  We do a case study on in our monthly newsletter (sign up here); and please leave a comment to recommend any future charities for review. 

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