Charity sector lagging behind on digital marketing skills, report
New research published by the training body Target Internet in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) reveals a significant lack of digital skills among just over 500 marketers working in the charity sector.
The charity sector scored below average in 10 out of 12 core digital marketing competencies. This lack of digital skills is particularly concerning given that online donations are rapidly increasing and without robust online strategies, charities risk missing out on important fundraising opportunities.
The results come from a benchmarking test of digital marketing skills of almost 9,000 marketing professionals, carried out by Target Internet in 2018 and repeated in 2020.
When comparing skill sets across professions, the charity sector was also significantly behind industries in the private sector. This is worrying at a time when charities, on average, are having to plan for a 24 per cent loss to their total income for the year ahead, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Implementing marketing strategies that leverage digital and mobile channels are vital today for raising awareness, acquiring and retaining customers, and maximising fundraising efforts.
However, only 32 per cent of those working for charities possess the skills necessary to develop digital strategies, in comparison to a 34 per cent average. Financial services, agencies, IT/Tech and retail all outperform the digital strategy skills of those working in the voluntary sector.
In addition, just 4 in 10, in comparison to a 47 per cent average, possess the skills required to carry out fundamental marketing activities such as strategy implementation, audience segmentation and brand building techniques. Another area outperformed by those working in agencies and financial services in particular
Online donations are expected to increase not only in volume but in value in 2020. Yet the charity sector is well behind in core digital skills that improve user experience, inspire action and attract new and possibly younger advocates.
The sector performed worst in some of the newest forms of digital marketing such as usability, content marketing and Search Engine Optimisation.
Just 27 per cent possess mobile marketing techniques. This compares to 35 per cent in agencies, 32 per cent in financial services, and 29 per cent for both IT/Tech and retail.
And 28 per cent possess the skills needed to take advantage of paid search advertising (PPC) techniques, in comparison to 36 per cent in agencies, 32 per cent in financial services, 32 per cent in IT/Tech and 31 per cent in retail.
The charity sector is however, well above average in email marketing at 57 per cent, where the average score is 48 per cent, highlighting a strong footing in traditional direct marketing techniques.
Gemma Butler, Director of Marketing, Chartered Institute of Marketing: “The complex nature of digital means that marketers need to be continually upskilling themselves just to stay in the same place. This is particularly true of the charity sector - a sector that cannot afford to fall further behind in digital skills while the pace of technology shows no signs of slowing down.”
Kimberley Ferguson, Brand manager, British Heart Foundation: “Like any other organisation, charities need to continuously adapt to an ever-changing market to ensure that they meet their customers’ needs. With digital advertising accounting for more than half of global ad spend in 2020, charities need to ensure that they have the skills to enable them to compete in this competitive market, so they don’t get left behind.”
Professor Ian Bruce, Chair, CIM’s charity and social marketing group: “The new pandemic world is pushing charities faster into the digital marketing world and we need to get better. The sector has good trainers, let’s use them more.”
Daniel Rowles, CEO, Target Internet: “The charity sector has historically struggled at many aspects of digital marketing and have often relied on agencies to assist them. The benchmark shows that across the board there is room for improvement as a sector, and these improvements in digital skills will help charities effectiveness, efficiency and directly impact the causes they support. For UK charities, this highlights a distinct problem with getting to grips with digital transformation; an area that is vital to ensure charities can continue to do extraordinary, life-changing work.”