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Combating the cost-of-giving crisis: why learning data best practice will help

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Many charities are fighting for survival this winter but there are some vital opportunities in early 2024 which could help fundraisers, explains Elise Hunter, Director of Marketing at the Data & Marketing Association.

Recent research from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) suggests that the cost-of-living crisis has created a ‘cost of giving’ crisis for charities.

Their research suggests this will force one in five (19%) to stop operations completely until the economic outlook has improved. With industry reports showing nearly 170,000 charities operate in the UK, this could equate to around 34,000 charities unable to help the people and communities they support.


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The climate remains extremely challenging – 54% believe it will even be tougher than last winter. However, there are opportunities in 2024 which could help in the short to mid-term future.

Upskilling data-driven marketing skillsets

According to the Charity Digital Skills Report 2023, data is a key priority, with 59% of charities wanting to use data and insights to improve their services or operations.

Data insights aren’t as overwhelming or time consuming as they might seem. In fact, data is the greatest asset an organisation has.

When you understand your data, you can effectively target the most receptive audiences and communicate what matters to the people who truly care about your cause – saving your team time and resource.

Training budgets are very limited, so, thanks to lobbying efforts from UK industry trade bodies, like the Data & Marketing Association, the government has recognised this need and has partnered with us to offer government-funded ‘Data and Analytics for Marketers’ Skills Bootcamps from January 2024. Plus, up to 90% of the total course cost will be funded by the government for charity SMEs.

A common issue we hear from charities across our membership is that they have a basic understanding of their data, but they don’t understand best practice on how to use it to benefit both their organisation and its donors.

The aim is for charities’ marketing talent to walk away with tangible skills and templates that they can immediately put into practice each week into their current set up – to be confident that donors’ data and best interests are in capable hands. During 14-day sessions over 14 weeks, fundraisers develop their skillsets in data strategy, analytics, and measurement.

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Law changes to boost data insights

The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (DPDI), which has just concluded its journey through the House of Commons, will make a series of reforms to the UK’s data protection laws early next year.

These important reforms will provide charities and businesses with additional pro-growth opportunities and legislative clarity, while simplifying administrative burdens on SMEs – but, crucially, it will maintain the UK’s high standards of protection and ensure we retain our adequacy status with the EU.

A key reform for charities is the extension of the soft opt-in for email to non-commercial organisations, which will enable fundraisers to communicate with existing donors and volunteers – affording charities the same opportunities as businesses for email marketing.

One of the most significant reforms within DPDI is the greater clarity offered on what constitutes a legitimate interest – attracting and retaining donors (through direct marketing) is now clearly identified as one.

This will give a lot more charities confidence to use it as a lawful basis for data processing where appropriate, helping them to better communicate and engage with donors. For example, by offering them opportunities based on previous interactions – Clubcards are a great example of how useful this type of relationship building can be to both the UK public and organisations.

Also included is an expanded range of exemptions to consent for cookies, which will reduce consent banners, especially for charity websites that do not take advertising. Exemptions include collecting statistical information, enabling the way a website appears or functions, and for necessary security updates. This could be a timely boost for first-party data collection.

Data is key for growth

Data-driven marketing insights will be more important than ever in 2024 to help charities survive the cost-of-giving crisis. But through government-funded learning opportunities and pending legislative reforms, there is some light in the not-too-distant future for fundraisers across the UK.

By prioritising upskilling for communications teams in data and analytics, charities will afford themselves the best chance of identifying, engaging with, and building meaningful relationships with donors in 2024.

Elise Hunter. Black and white photo.

Elise Hunter, Director of Marketing at the Data & Marketing Association. With nearly ten years’ experience in the New Zealand and Australian EdTech Industry, Elise joined the DMA UK as their Marketing Director earlier this year. The DMA brings together Elise’s passion for the innovative-nature of the SaaS industry—with their new bite-size Learning Hub for marketers—while getting to surround herself with the brilliant, marketing-minds that make up the DMA Community. Her core mission is to promote a truly customer-centric approach to marketing, ensuring organisations have the resources, opportunities, and in-house skillset to succeed. The DMA is the UK’s largest trade association for data-driven marketers.