What Small Businesses Can Learn From Not-For-Profits.

When we think about those brands which have stellar marketing strategies, non-profits are not usually the ones which come to mind, but there are definitely a few which deserve to stand out. Normally we think of the commercial brands likes of Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple, but when it comes to charities, especially on home turf, it’s very difficult to think of any which can compete with the McGrath Foundation. With the ability to broadcast a branded message to reach an enormous audience, the charity truly holds a unique position in the world of marketing.

With a story which is rather well known throughout Australia, being the cricket nation that we are, Jane and Glen McGrath’s journey with breast cancer is something we are all familiar with. What has come to fruition though is quite possibly, one of the most innovative, respected and forward-thinking charities we know today. There is much to learn from the marketing strategy of the charity, and we had the opportunity to find out just what SMEs of Australia and New Zealand can take away from the innovative Foundation, which also celebrated its tenth anniversary last year.

There is a point in your life that you can think back to and remember a time when you embarked on a fundraiser for a chosen non-profit. You will agree with me when we say that fundraising can be a fickle friend at times. As Petra Buchanan, CEO of the McGrath Foundation explains, “There is a natural tension in fundraising to maximise results while minimising resources and expense”. To add to this, ‘the times… they are a changin’! With electronic payment systems popping up left, right and centre, the traditional avenues are diminishing.

So when we think about charities, how will we make donations in the future? In fact, how do we make donations now, and how should charities go about encouraging them? Charities need revenue to be able to perform the precious, valuable services and work that they do, and so the marketing techniques they employ do not differ much from those utilised by businesses around the world. As Petra Buchanan illustrates, “Online fundraising platforms like Go Fundraise make it easier for people to donate and Social Media platforms make it easier for our supporters to share their story… ”. Reminiscing about where the McGrath Foundation began, Petra Buchanan states that in the early days, receipts were handwritten by Tracey Bevan and Jane McGrath, while an Excel spreadsheet made up their supporter database. “Fast forward ten years and our growth relies on our ability to embrace technology for things such as online donations and receipts, but the personal touch is still important to us – and technology also helps with this”.

As with all businesses in the current world, being relevant is integral. Jackie Quilter, Director of Media and Communications at McGrath Foundation, agrees that, “… remaining relevant and competitive boils down to clearly articulating the Foundation’s mission to the right audiences, using the right channels at the right times”. Harnessing the power of our advances in online innovation and technology is clearly the key to taking charities into this evolving digital landscape. Users’ digital footprints are now, more than ever, susceptible to analysis, which means that charities can better target people online who are in line with their values, and are more likely to become involved in fundraising. The McGrath Foundation is paving the way when it comes to digitised experiences which encourage engagement and aids in fundraising initiatives, and there is no reason why SMEs can’t learn from them.

Concept for charity online service. Medical donations, internet

Just like for many SMEs, utilising advertising and marketing space on Google helps the McGrath Foundation work towards their goals. As a charity, the Foundation has been able to take advantage of the Google Grants platform, which empowers and enables non-profits to advertise, promote their campaigns and initiatives through Google AdWords. Jackie Quilter aptly describes the situation when she says, “The charity market is extremely crowded so we need to ensure that people understand our mission and that when they want to support us they can find us,” and one of the ways the Foundation does this is through Google AdWords. “By having our brand and initiatives easily searchable, we can ensure that families experiencing breast cancer can find us easily and that our brand remains front of mind for those looking for a charity to support”.

Now gaming might not be an arena you would expect to find the likes of the McGrath Foundation, but all that changed with their ‘Digital Cup’ initiative which tied in with the Cricket World Cup. Human habits now shows that online gaming (to the exclusion of online gambling) is now hugely prominent in Australian households and women are major players too. There are countless opportunities to create platforms to meet these people where they spend their time online which is one of the reasons behind the Digital Cup initiative. “Not only did the game allow us to capitalise on our cricketing heritage, it sought to leverage the enormous growth in handheld devices”, Jackie Quilter explains. “The game has created a platform which can be built upon for future applications for fundraising and supporter engagement”.

The Foundation has also stepped into the online arena of ‘apps’ and have the ‘Curve Lurve’ app to show for it. With many apps also designed to link with popular Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the Curve Lurve app allows users to also share their app experience with family and friends online. The purpose of the app is, “Designed specifically for young people, its goal is to communicate the importance of breast awareness,” Jackie Quilter points out. “Curve Lurve encourages women to be comfortable with and get to know their breasts by regularly checking them. The massive explosion in smartphone use and popularity of free Apps amongst the demographic made it an obvious choice”.

For charities looking to take advantage of digital marketing, their innovative use of social media will be what helps them to grow. You can simply think back to the Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon to remember and understand what a powerful tool it can be. As it is now one of the Foundation’s most common platforms for communicating with the public, they can boast an enormous social following. Not one to shy away from the latest habitual trends either, Jackie Quilter reveals they, “…are currently examining how live streaming Apps like Meerkat or Periscope might allow us to connect our McGrath Breast Care Nurses with people around the country looking to find out more about breast cancer”.

There is a lot of ‘noise’ and crowded space when it comes to Australian and New Zealand SMEs competing for your business and the McGrath Foundation is no different. With approximately 60,000 registered charities in Australia* with a worth of roughly $55 billion, the desire to be heard is just as prominent. Gone (or going) are the days when charity volunteers would knock from door to door collecting loose change. People now meet in a virtual world from wherever they happen to be at the present time and this is where charity and not-for-profit organisations must meet them. You can reach a lot more people online than you can from door knocking. The same message applies to SMEs.

What can small to medium businesses learn from all of this? It’s important to remember that charities really do need to make every cent count, just like small businesses. In order to help those that need it, costs need to be as minimal as possible, while raising as much revenue as possible. They employ the most cost effective methods when it comes to marketing so as to ensure the most advantageous ROI is delivered. It’s why online marketing, through PPC with the likes of Google, SEO and Social Media platforms are so effective, because it enables them to highlight their cause. Building online visibility is just as important for charities as businesses, and with search engines being the most popular starting point for users to begin their searches online, it makes sense that charities use this to their advantage.

So what isn’t changing? Unfortunately, breast cancer rates continue to rise, which really is what remains at the heart of why the McGrath Foundation continues to do what they do. What remains at the heart and soul of the McGrath Foundation are the stories they tell and share, which compel us to do what we can. If you would like to make a donation, please visit https://www.mcgrathfoundation.com.au/.