Creative planning for charities: art or science?

31 May 2017

Marketing campaigns in the charity and not-for-profit sector need to be innovative, targeted and creative in order to raise brand awareness, secure donations, attract new support and give people the tools and motivation to get involved. However, in order to reach the right audience, you need first to identify who they are and how they behave.


A post shared by Accord (@accordmarketing) on

Speaking at last week’s Third Sector’s annual Fundraising Week, Accord’s Planning Director Jasman Ahmad discussed the art of using creative planning to generate an emotional connection and, ultimately, drive donations. The question that he posed was one that has been widely debated in the past but remains relevant, some would say increasingly so.

Is planning an art or science?

The answer is simple. Marketing is an art and a science.

The art of marketing is the right-brained creativity that makes a brand unique and special. It’s the emotions that are elicited, the visuals that catch your eye and the story that is told. It’s a combination of clever copywriting, big ideas and stunning design.

On the other hand, the science of marketing is all about data analytics - the left- brained side of the equation. It involves testing, measuring and reviewing campaigns in a fixed, but fluid, way.

Essentially the two go hand-in-hand, working seamlessly together to strengthen each side of the equation and strike a perfect balance.

Getting the science right

The best way to gain a deeper understanding of those you are targeting is by profiling the members of the public who are most likely to become donors in order to understand their behaviours and media preferences.

Adopting this scientific approach allows you to ask, and ultimately answer, important questions such as: Who are your audience? What do they look like? What are their buying habits?

Once you’ve got a good grasp of who you’re targeting, you then need to develop a greater awareness of the wider market landscape, in particular, where and when your key competitors are investing their marketing spend. This way you can ensure that you are reaching the right consumers, through the right channels, at the right time.

Applying the art

You’ve got all your data collected and analysed, so it’s now time to start building your campaign strategy by applying the data to ensure that the campaign reaches its full potential - this is where the art comes in to play.

The best place to begin is by considering your audience’s path to donation – from awareness to interest, desire to action and finally to advocacy.

Each stage of this journey reflects where and how you should be targeting your audience. During the early stages, for example, your campaign should be centred on generating a meaningful connection and driving awareness. Visual and aural channels - such as TV, OOH, video and radio - are ideally suited as they are more likely to elicit emotion.

In contrast, a bit further along the donor journey, individuals may be aware of your charity, but still unconvinced whether or not they want to donate or get involved. At this crucial stage, to turn interest into action, a consistent brand presence and robust calls-to-action need to be maintained. By using digital, OOH, social media, press and email, you can remind everyone of your particular cause and the amazing work it delivers.

So, just to repeat, marketing is both an art and a science. Whilst science gives you the tools to research and analyse, there is no algorithm human behaviour. To truly reach your audience, you therefore need to take an artful approach to the data: understanding where your key demographics are in their consumer journey and adjusting your campaign to cater to their preferences.

At Accord, creative planning is at the heart of everything we do. As a marketing agency that specialises in the charity and not-for-profit sector, we brilliantly blend strategy, creativity, content, planning and data to deliver award-winning campaigns.  For more information, get in touch today.