3 May 2018

Five ways to make a big impact on a small budget

How do you win the hearts, minds and pockets of the public with ever-shrinking resources?

Andi Davids, Senior Strategist

With further cuts to public services planned for 2018 and individual donations on the fall, it’s not an easy time to be in charity marketing. 

Andi Davids, Senior Strategist at Superunion, who has worked with the United Nations and the Royal Mencap Society, shares five tips for how to make a big impact with a small budget.


The most important thing a charity can do is know what it stands for, and be single-minded in its pursuit of achieving it. Causes are complex, and most require a wide variety of services to fully address challenges. While it may be tempting to develop multiple initiatives or campaigns to meet the needs of every stakeholder, this can often result in ‘mission drift’. The further an organisation’s services and messaging move away from its core purpose, the more confusing it is to supporters and the more resources are needed to manage the brand.

The solution: know why you exist. For Cancer Research UK, it’s to fund research to find a cure for cancer. For Macmillan, it’s to improve the everyday lives of those living with it. Both have a different purpose within the same general cause, allowing them to focus funds and attention where they can make the most impact.


Great brands tell compelling stories. The key is to have a clear protagonist and antagonist, and a powerful idea about the difference that can be made. For International Women’s Day last year, global children’s charity Theirworld launched #RewritingTheCode, to raise awareness of the embedded social values and hidden codes that that prevent girls and women around the world from achieving their full potential. The campaign had a clear hero (a new gender code), enemy (harmful, unwritten social codes) and a solid ambition (a future where no girl is left out of a classroom, a boardroom, a decision or even a conversation). Not only did it drive award-winning creative, it also provided a framework that could easily be modified to fit individual case studies.  


As much as we’d all like to develop the next Ice Bucket Challenge, many of the most successful viral campaigns grew organically after being created by supporters. The lesson: know when to step back and give them the stage. A great example of this is the Helen Titchener (née Archer) Rescue Fund. A fan of the BBC Radio 4 soap opera ‘The Archers’ started a JustGiving page benefitting the domestic abuse charity Refuge in honour of a powerful storyline involving fictional character Helen Tichener. To date the page has raised more than £170,000, with full support from the charity. 


Many charity comms professionals find there’s a fundamental conflict between brand and fundraising. Brands aim to create positive associations in the minds of stakeholders, while traditional fundraising efforts often position giving as a way to alleviate negative emotions like fear, guilt or shame. There’s sometimes a worry that positivity won’t drive donations, but that’s absolutely not the case. From Comic Relief’s ‘Red Nose Day’ to Scope’s ‘End the Awkward’ campaign, a bit of well-placed humour can be a powerful way to connect audiences to your cause, particularly if you’re dealing with serious or uncomfortable issues.


Finally, the landscape in which charities operate is increasing changing due to economic, scientific, technological and social shifts. To maintain relevance, it’s important to periodically reassess your brand. For the International AIDS Society, scientific breakthroughs in HIV treatment meant the perception of the disease had shifted from a life-threatening illness to a chronic condition people live with. As a result, AIDS-related issues had lost their urgency amongst the scientific community and wider public. What remained, however, was the personal and societal impact of HIV, with millions of its patients still experiencing discrimination, poverty and injustice. IAS found a renewed purpose in human rights, repositioning the brand to focus on the person, not the illness.