How to stay
creative in
your charity

Watch our charity focused webinar from 24/03/2021 in partnership with Morever, featuring Diabetes UK, the Stroke Association and independent NGO consultant Bertie Bosrédon.


Watch David Somerville (Strategy director, Fresh Egg) and Abi Mellor (Managing director, Morever) chair the webinar on creativity in charity marketing.

Taking part in the discussion:

1. Who at your Charity is the champion/guardian of creativity? How do they realise this?

Jane Maber

Our brand and creative teams are the guardians responsible for keeping everyone on the same page regarding the boundaries of creativity for our brand's communications. We are trying to change the culture around this as historically, this role has gone hand in hand with colleagues generally looking to the brand and creative team for all the ideas. Which ultimately limits our potential in this area.

Emma Hook

It depends on what we mean by creativity - this can mean different things to different people. In a practical sense, we have a brand and creative team who provide guidelines on what our communications should look and sound like to the audience.

We then have brand champions across all teams at Diabetes UK to help upskill others in this area of work and prevent the brand and creative team from becoming a blocker or our 'brand police'. But creativity isn't just about innovative design - it's about coming up with new approaches, problem-solving and harnessing new opportunities, and there's no one team responsible for this. For me, it all starts with understanding your audience, and so data/insight is a vital step in any creative development.

Bertie Bosrédon

I have worked with about 130 different NGOs, and too often, I see the in-house teams' expertise is usually not considered. 

The perception is more like a "copy shop" executing the technical aspect of the brief. Or, yes, being brand guardians (or police) more than creative champions. Currently, I am working on a project with Trussell Trust, where in-house teams are undertaking all the creative work internally, and that's very refreshing. So I think there's a lot of work to do for creative teams to promote themselves. 

2. How can data help shape a creative idea and should it? Or should data drive the deployment of the idea?

Bertie Bosrédon

I am biased because I help organisations that need help, so it may not be the situation everywhere. A core area that I work on is internal processes and workflow as well as data workflow. From my experience, the use of data for actionable insight is in its infancy. CRMs usage is primarily as a donor database, and integrated journeys (not even creative ones) are rare.

My take on this is that we still have very divided roles between Comms/Creative vs Data and Technology. 

Jane Maber 

There needs to be a healthy tension between the use of data and unleashing creative potential. I've seen examples before where teams have followed data to the letter, and the product or marketing hasn't worked in practice. We need to be driven by audience data, but we need to remember that people's decisions are not always at the forefront of their consciousness. What they think and what they do are two different things! This is where qualitative data, in particular, comes into its own in creative development. It's a real skill to interpret the insight (which can be words, reactions, body language etc.) and turn it into an innovative idea.

Emma Hook 

Ideally, it should do both. We can develop the most 'creative', exciting, engaging campaigns, but if the messaging/look/feel of the campaign doesn't resonate with that particular target audience/meet their needs/acknowledge their pain points, then we're going to fail.

We have a big focus on user involvement here at Diabetes UK and frequently test our communications ideas with our supporters/customers. We also use existing data from our social and website platforms to drive what tactics we use to deliver the concept. But often, there are holes in either the data itself or the way we collect it - so we're working on an innovative data project here to help us harness data better and interpret it most effectively. 

3. At what point in a project/campaign life cycle is creativity most important?

Emma Hook

After target audiences and what you're trying to achieve has been decided. Once we know who we're trying to reach and what we want them to know, think, or feel, we can develop the 'how' - and that requires creative thinking. It helps when you have time and space to be creative, to think outside the box. And for lots of our campaigns, it's not just one burst, and then it's over - we're constantly testing and learning, looking at what's working and what's not, and then reacting to that. So creativity is vital at key milestones after deployment - external factors can change so quickly that we need to respond swiftly and creatively. Covid has shown us that.

Bertie Bosrédon

At conception. In reality, when it's too late.

Jane Maber 

If we're talking about creativity in its broader sense, then I think it plays an important role right from the start - from defining why you're running the campaign and what you're trying to achieve through to making it happen. The questions you ask yourself at the start can make all the difference in terms of your campaign/project's direction. That said, I would say creativity is most critical once you know what you're trying to achieve and you're developing the 'how'.

4. How do you think creativity can help to break down internal silos?

Jane Maber

We’ve started working in a much more integrated way on our campaigns over the last year, with reps from across all related teams (digital, individual giving, FR events etc.). The collaboration has worked well as creativity for all content has been a much more collaborative task, which has helped generate more shared ownership over the whole campaign than just individual bits of work. It helps us stay focused on a shared goal.

Emma Hook

It can be tempting for individuals outside of Brand, Creative, Content etc., to default to “I’m not a creative person, that’s not my area of expertise” - I know I’ve said that in the past. But creativity can blossom when you’re in a room full of different specialisms and opinions. My team often facilitate workshops to help our teams collaborate creatively. We use digital tools like Mural now that we can’t cover meeting room walls with post-it notes! We hold things like ‘empathy mapping’ and ‘customer journey mapping’ to get into the minds of our supporters. There’s space for everyone to contribute, and you don’t need to consider yourself a creative person to get involved.

Bertie Bosrédon

I have a case study. I’ll try to keep it short. Like Jane, I have worked on integrated campaigns (often emergency appeals for iNGO). And recently, I started working on user journeys (cross teams, not for emergency). I’ve seen teams moving from ‘flatmates’ to polyamory.

5. Can creativity be applied at a strategic level or is it purely related to tactics and implementation?

Bertie Bosrédon

I struggle with this one. It reminds me of trying to get senior managers to define digital for their organisation. It would be interesting to get their definition of creativity. But too often, being creative is associated with being innovative and taking risks. 

Jane Maber

A strategy can be creative - it has to be really. If the strategy wasn't, we'd all be doing the same thing as each other on repeat. There'd be nothing to set campaigns or similar organisations apart, and there would be no progress in terms of meeting the needs of our audiences.

Emma Hook

Creativity can and should be applied at a strategic level - but I think it's more challenging, and we should acknowledge that. I think the difficulties go back to what creativity means and how that is different depending on who you're talking to.

We haven't always been great at it, but COVID has changed that - we're working in new and more agile ways. We weren't able to follow our strategy. We had to divert our strategic goals because the world around us changed.

6. Going forward, what excites or inspires you creatively that you can or will apply to future briefs?

Emma Hook

Powerful storytelling! Whether that’s someone with diabetes who has shared their story with us about how they’ve coped with shielding for the last year or a big brand like Macmillan telling the story of cancer journeys. The Macmillan brand video relies on purely powerful imagery and music. Similarly, I like the new Air BnB adverts.

But variation is vital in my mind. I think we need to be careful of ‘user-generated content fatigue’. We’ve seen so much of it over the last year, e.g. various bank adverts of Zoom calls. We still need a mix of content to prevent our audiences from getting bored.

Jane Maber

For me, I love the use of the spoken word at the moment, e.g. Nationwide ads. There’s something about it that draws you in in a very emotional way - I think it’s to do with the rhythm and authenticity of the words. Plus, it’s different, which always helps. I’ve always been a big advocate for the power of music - it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it really can make or break a creative piece - again, lyrics and melody are so important.

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