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As a sector we tend to target audiences who already hold attitudes supportive of our goals and whose previous behaviour suggests that they are likely to engage. We choose channels, calls to action, issues, messages and messengers which experience shows us work for these ‘warm’ and ‘dependable’ audiences.

But they aren’t dependable any more. Engagement with global poverty in Great Britain is in decline. As the Aid Attitudes Tracker stats in the ‘Action’ section of this website show, the percentage of donors who gave to global poverty organisations is down a third over the past three years (from 36% in November 2013 to 23% in November 2016 ). Moreover, the sector has lost a third of fundraisers (down to 4% from 7.5% over the same period) and about a fifth in the number of people using their voice to impact the issue through social media and online petitions (down from 21% to 17% over the same period).

There are lots of things which contribute to declining engagement; including changing perceptions of how popular it is to engage with global poverty and the degree to which reduction of global poverty is seen as a moral cause. In my judgement, a major factor is that most organisations in the sector are focused on increasing market share – that is, getting as many of the already warm public to support a particular organisation – rather than putting more focus into market growth (increasing the total number of people engaging with the cause). As a sector, we need to significantly and urgently adjust that balance.

Think of the sectors’ support base as a pie. At the moment almost every organisation is focused on getting the biggest slice of pie it can. But the pie is shrinking – partly because we are all clamouring to get a larger slice of pie. And, in aiming for an ever bigger slice of pie, we are often simply trading supporters who move from one organisation to another.  What we need to do instead, for the good of our mission to end global poverty, is work together to make the pie bigger.

There are a number of factors that can help us to prioritise market growth, but here are a few key suggestions:

  1.  Work together – there’s significant reluctance to be the first or the only organisation to invest in market growth because there’s a perceived danger that by reducing focus on market share, an organisation will lose out to those who don’t switch strategy. Working together on market growth strategies, and specific projects which will grow the market, will enable organisations to agree not to target one another’s support base so directly. Working together will also enable organisations to pool risk and share learning – both of which mitigate risk for individual agencies. If you are keen to work with other organisations on this agenda please get in touch as we are keen to help organisations collaborate on this.
  2. Accept that long term health might mean short term hardship – the mission is not going to be solved next quarter, or this year, but if current trends continue, as a sector we will lose tens of thousands of supporters. We may need to take a short term hit on our income in order to work out how to engage ‘new’ audiences effectively and grow the pie. Senior leadership is essential to prioritising long term rather than short term income targets.
  3. Get to know your growth audiences – using the Aid Attitudes Tracker’s Behavioural Engagement segmentation these are the ‘marginally engaged’. You can find out more information about them on our Audiences page and keep an eye on this blog over the coming months for more tips on engaging the marginally engaged. You can also subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of the page.

Are you focusing on market growth? Share your suggestions for what’s working for you in the comments below.

 

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About the author(s)

Will Tucker

Will is a communications and advocacy consultant. He leads partner and sector engagement with the Aid Attitudes Tracker in the UK and works on behaviour change, public attitudes and advocacy strategy and delivery with a range of charities and philanthropic clients.

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