Charity and digital marketing: raising money on a budget

At the end of August, ahead of the Vuelta a España, Spain’s national cycling tournament, we decided to do a virtual bike ride for charity.

The plan was to cycle the distance from our London headquarters to our Spanish office. The 1,718km bike ride would take place over five days on two exercise bikes situated in our home in Tech City, with the challenge of raising £1,000.

We estimated that for us to hit our target, we had to have both bikes in use for eight hours a day. The challenge was set. Pre-competition donations were slow and we needed to come up with an idea of how to increase sponsorships and promote the event.

Our marketing team were tasked with increasing visibility of the event, driving engagement and, importantly, raising donations… with just one catch – while everybody bought into the great initiative, this was still something that needed to be fit in around our day-to-day work.

CSR’s important to us, but instead of spreading our charity across many different avenues, we choose to support just one: the Hannah Memorial Academy.

Developing the microsite

The first stage was to create the Vuelta a Hotwire y 33 Digital microsite. Rather than just offering an opportunity to find the same information as stored on our event’s JustGiving page, we wanted to ensure that it was something worth visiting, engaging with and sharing.

We put simplicity at the heart of design of the microsite. We used a Creative Commons-sourced image for the background image to save on costs of image rights, and used our internal designer to create a logo, which was used as the main branding for the project.

The idea was to create something that engaged the audience while the cyclists were embarking on their journey. There were four elements of the page for the audience to engage and interact with. 

  1. The livestream. By hosting a livestream of the cyclists in action, it allowed for followers, friends and family to watch the cyclists as they embarked on the journey.

    We opted to use Google Hangouts for any extra level of engagement through conversation as the bike rides went on.

  2. The map. It was important to show the distance travelled throughout the journey. The initial plan, had we had a larger budget, was to have a bike that updated in real time for each kilometre pedalled.

    Given the lack of API on the exercise bikes and the limited budget to develop server-side scripting, we opted for the ‘light’ approach, which was to update the coordinates regularly throughout the day. 

    With each update to the coordinates, we provided visitors with fun facts about where we were staying that night.

  3. Tweet your support. In our office; next to the bikes was a large TV screen connected to a laptop, displaying a Twitter wall (we used Twitter Fontana) of the hashtag #HotwireFit.

    The ‘Tweet your support’ button at the bottom of the microsite provided a pre-written tweet using the hashtag to offer messages of support to the cyclists on their route.

     

  4. The cyclists’ Spotify playlistThe final idea was to put together the team’s perfect mix to exercise to. While the Hotwire radio played throughout the office, many took on their gym routine of putting earphones in and cycling away.

    So we polled the cyclists for their favourite songs to work out to, compiled them in a Spotify playlist and shared it on the site.

The microsite was hosted on a subdirectory of the UK Hotwire website, so from an SEO perspective, any links gained throughout the project would be beneficial to the main Hotwire website.

Social strategy

With the microsite established, we then promoted it and the event through Twitter and Facebook by regularly sharing photographs of the cycling teams, as well as status updates on both the distance travelled and the sponsorship received.

The results

  • By Wednesday, half way through the project, we hit our target of £1,000. The vast majority of this had been gained since the official microsite launch at the start of the week. Total donations reached over 50% higher by deadline.
  • Direct correlation between peak times visiting microsite and donating.
     
  • The most engaged users came from the JustGiving page, who at peak days would on average stay on the site for 13 minutes, compared to a microsite-wide average of 10.
  • There was a 220% increase in post reach on Facebook, along with an 81% increase week-to-week in engagement, with 83 photo likes.
  • 385 total tweets to the #HotwireFit hashtag, resulting in 287,398 impressions, 486 unique visitors, with 958 visits in total across the week.
  • Coverage in PRWeek, Gorkana and AMEC, which all mentioned the digital elements.

What we’ve learned

What could have been a very traditional charity approach, where people relied only on asking friends and family for sponsorship, became an engaging and highly successful digital project.

The microsite provided a level of interaction after the donation stage. These visitors were the most engaged users the site received, were more likely to remain on the site for longer, and more likely to tweet messages of support. 

For small projects, especially small-scale charity projects, where budget is limited, digital marketing can be incredibly beneficial.

We were able to dramatically improve the experience for those involved, exceed our donation target by 50%, and find a direct relationship between our digital marketing efforts and the all important outcomes and metrics of success: donations and engagement.

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Charity and digital marketing: raising money on a budget

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