Innovation: Time for smaller charities to take centre stage.

Integration. Multichannel. It seems to be all you hear in the fundraising and communications community today. Some charities are still having trouble defining what it is. Some people are also questioning whether it’s the right thing to do. But I think the general consensus is that integration and multi-channel work, coupled with genuinely engaging content is definitely the way to engage and build relationships with our supporters in this brave new world we find ourselves in.

So why are there so few examples of where it has been done successfully?

Process, bureaucracy and headaches

There’s a multitude of reasons. Internal silos are still prevalent in our sector. Integration needs processes, commitment and cross team working. It needs buy in from the top, and long term commitment is also important. And it needs A Big Idea, one that a lot of internal stakeholders will have an opinion on. All this on top of the day to day job of hitting financial year income targets. No wonder many charities haven’t taken the plunge yet.

Large charities struggling

Interestingly, a lot of the larger charities are finding the transition the hardest. Larger teams mean more stakeholders, which means more noise and more conflicting opinions, resulting in slower decision making. Bigger organisations need to take a bigger leap in terms of internal processes, pulling teams together and unifying everything under a single proposition.

We’re big, but let’s pretend we’re small

We’ve also seen larger organisations set up tight working groups of key decision makers to try and make this process a lot more agile. Interestingly it seems that to really get integration and to focus on multi-channel, the best model is sometimes to act like a much leaner, smaller organisation.

Digital democracy

With the sector wide shift to a more digital first approach, there is also some hugely exciting developments emerging. For me the key to success with integration and a multi-channel approach is not about big brands, or even big budgets. It’s about leadership and vision. It’s about a single-minded proposition, that’s backed up with solid internal processes, and with everyone in the organisation getting behind it and being advocates.

How multi-channel works best

A lot of the most innovative work we are doing at Audience is with small to medium sized charities. Some of the best integrated campaigns, taking a multi-channel approach is also with smaller charities too. Why? because we can get all stakeholders in a room together. We can build something from the ground up together. Proposition, audience, channels, supporter journey. We can manage everything from a single point and make big decisions on the hoof. We all become storytellers for the campaign. This is how multi-channel really works.

Now really is the time for smaller charities to lead the way with innovations in our sector. These are the guys that are making integration and multi-channel really work, It’s no longer about brands and big budgets. It’s about vision, effective decision making, solid internal processes, clear direction and bravery.

Time for the smaller charities to take centre stage with innovation.

George Milne

Founding Partner

Audience: Fundraising and Communications