This may be a tad early but… what the hell MERRY XMAS! No we’ve not gone crackers just yet but strangely there was a lot of Christmas (or seasonal holiday for the politically correct) excitement in the office last week starting with the confirmed booking of our annual jaunt (a legendary night of sophistication and the only time most of us will put on a suit) to the careful planning of our Xmas e-card/message/online activity (stay tuned for more info). Naturally with all the holiday period magic in the air my thoughts turned to what charities and non-profits big and small would be doing with their e-cards and digital Christmas campaigns this year, and what handy ideas would be useful for nonprofits who might be looking at their own plans or have considered something similar.
I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of us have either sent or received an e-card at one point in our lives, it is the year 2012 so I’m guessing that an explanation of what they are is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. For the most of us they’re great because they are free, are often amusing or at least nice to look at, are environmentally friendly and for the most part very convenient too – we can read them in an email and write them in a discreet window when the boss isn’t looking. So for that reason I’ll just jump right into why they are a useful tool for nonprofits.
3 Reasons Why Nonprofits Should Facilitate E-Cards On Their Site
Data Capture – increasing that all important supporter base by asking people to fill out their details before sending out the cards. Sign up for email newsletters can be offered as well as the key personal info which can be stored and used to send targeted communications to.
Drive Donations – either as a set price for sending out a number of cards or by building a donation option along the journey of creating the card, e-cards are a great way to get people interacting with the site and feeling like they’ve directly received some value from their donation, in addition to all the good their funds will be doing too of course.
Brand/Cause Awareness – Despite the cheesy references from old movies and marketers it is a great time for people to be brought together to enjoy good times and equally to spare a thought for those less fortunate. Many people will be sending each other cards over the holidays, businesses will be sending them out to their clients and in these economic times any saving which can be made which also allows you to support a cause is a great win-win.
For nonprofits it has to be a no-brainer really – once the organisation and/or the agency have developed your online functionality and a suitable user journey through the process it’s all automated from that point forward meaning that resources can be deployed elsewhere while the signups, donations and social media sharing handle themselves.
Since I am not receiving any royalties from the inventor of e-cards (one Judith Donath according to Wikipedia) I’ll stop the sales pitch and offer a few examples of charities who are using them and what their strategies are.
Examples Of E-Cards and Digital Christmas Campaigns
Great Ormond Street – http://shop.gosh.org/ecards/Default.aspx
This is a great example of a minimum donation e-card strategy with very interesting animated designs. This works fantastically well. Users are first encouraged to select their design and enter their personal message followed by data capture/email sign up and then the journey offers further donation options to the minimum of £3. The journey does not end there though as users are invited to visit the store once the cards have been paid for and sent and this smoothes process out very nicely - a bit like the museum gift shop at the end of your visit.
Scope have an excellent e-card site which uses the open donation strategy. The disability charity for kids creates an even closer correlation between the cards and the children they help by featuring cards which are designed by the children themselves, adding even more depth for the people who send and receive them. Users are able to access their Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and other email provider contact books to provide an easy way to send out to a large group of individuals. The journey ends with a donation page which is open for the user to donate any amount they feel is appropriate but also features an explanation of what different amounts are used for – an effective way to show the good each donation does.
The charity which helps the homeless has taken a very different approach to the previous two mentioned above. Whilst I couldn’t specifically see a Christmas/holiday period related card there were a number of animated options which could be used for things such as moving home, some general open ones, celebrations and so on. The process is much more straightforward and doesn’t request that personal details are mandatory. There is an optional email sign up box and of course it ends with an optional donation form but by the time you have reached the last page the e-card has already been sent (social media sharing options are also present here). So what is the overall aim here? Well that becomes apparent when you open the e-card because very clearly at the end of the animation is a message which informs you where the card was sent from, what the charity does and what they would like from you – a donation. There are three calls to action; to donate, to replay the animation or to send one of your own – clearly the idea here is to spread awareness of the organisation as far as possible whilst also collecting funds.
The Crisis Christmas card campaign had to be mentioned as a prime example of how support from corporate sponsors could be gained by creating a targeted campaign. Explained in greater detail in this article by Creative Boom the charity has teamed up with the Financial Times who will be publicly thanking businesses for the donations in the newspapers – a fantastic return for buying xmas cards which they do every year anyway. In return for donations the businesses will receive a number of e-cards with branding options. In an interesting twist the e-cards will be in the form of videos people singing traditional xmas songs, the people are also those who have been directly helped by the charity itself. The strategy is a great example of how e-cards can make a massive impact through corporate sponsorship and a little creativity. The aim is to raise £600,000 and if I have understood the microsite correctly they are already at 39% of the target.
Every charity has the common goal such as spreading their messages cost effectively through an extremely personal approach, with limited financial and human resources. Allowing their website audiences to engage in the interactive experience of creating and sending their e-cards is a fantastic way of developing closer ties with their supporters while also attaching their brand to content which is designed to make people feel good and generally speaking that is usually a good precursor to a more generous and charitable emotional state. Whether the charity takes a long or short term view to gaining donations directly from their e-cards they will all benefit from the viral spread that digital channels allow. For the charities who are unable to budget for the development of the functionality on their websites there is of course always an option which requires a lesser commitment. Many sites such as 4c for charity exist, which provide customisable e-cards for businesses. There are others such as charitecards who allow charities to sign up and be selected as benefactors and work to a less direct model where a minimum £10 donation allows the user to send an unlimited number of cards, there are a number of options in this area as a quick Google search will reveal.
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