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How Oxfam is Using Engaging Marketing to Change the World

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Over the past year, Oxfam has had to cut 125 jobs to make up for dwindling donations; in 2013 the organization reported an income of just £367.9m, down from £385.5m in 2012. While the marketing team has taken quite a cut, new leadership like Chief Executive Mark Goldring and Director of Communications Jack Lundie are trying their best to reverse the dip in the face of some serious digital competition.
Besides the countless other charitable institutions that are vying for supporters, the ongoing economic decline has taken its toll here, too, leaving more and more people opting to try and sell their clothing online instead of heading to one of Britain’s 700 Oxfam shops. Nevertheless, the nonprofit keeps coming up with new ways to engage its audiences and potential donors, whether it’s through their annual Oxjam music festival (which has raised over £2.3 million since 2006), clever and relevant content marketing (like this image that was created on the day of Prince George’s birth and subsequently shared over 11.5k times), or everything in between.
Oxfam Every Baby is Headline News


Following the success of the Shwopping scheme with Marks & Spencer, in 2013 Oxfam decided to beef up its partnership with Nectar, the UK’s largest loyalty card scheme with over 19 million members. The initiative builds upon Oxfam’s pre-existing Tag Your Bag scheme, which works with HM Revenue and Customs’ Gift Aid to reclaim tax on donations by UK taxpayers and encourage people to donate better quality clothing that’s more likely to sell. Now, those sold donations can earn their donors Nectar points as well – 100 upon sign up and then two for every £1 their items raise.
Oxfam tag your bag Sainsbury's Nectar
As a result, 20,000 new people joined 600,000 existing participants within just two weeks last April, and as of 1 May of this year, the venture has raised £2 million. To get the most out of the partnership, Oxfam has also set out to leverage Nectar’s data well and expertise to better understand their own audiences and improve targeted marketing and outreach efforts for their current and future backers.
It’s a brilliant move that has opened the doors to an influx of new donors while setting the charity apart from the rest with an exclusive partnership and by offering something valuable to their contributors. Are you making your users feel like they’re getting something in return, while making the most of your synergies? If not, take note.

Emergency Challenge

Speaking of combined efforts, never underestimate the power of experiential marketing via team-building. Oxfam hit the nail on the head with its Emergency Challenge event, which invites teams of four to enter and experience a first-hand simulation of what goes into the lives of rescue-workers worldwide. Groups of friends, families and co-workers are welcome to put their minds and bodies to the test, as long as they have enough for the entry fee and can raise £1,000 to participate.

Last year’s inaugural event raised over £100,000 for charity and 80 percent of the original teams have already signed up to come back for the next round in October. It’s an especially smart idea in terms of corporate giving, making the occasion an attractive activity for many companies that are also likely to pledge an equally attractive sum of money for their teams. Not every brand or organization has the capacity to throw events like this, but Emergency Challenge could serve as a great jumping off point for some creative brainstorming. Might there be other possible ways to actively engage your audience, in-person, while providing them with a worthwhile and unforgettable experience?

Happiest Mother’s Day

Oxfam Happiest Mother's Day
Having used experiential marketing to illustrate what happens on the front lines of disaster relief, Oxfam turned to the concept again this spring for a way to engage with people in their everyday lives. Few ideas are as universal as honoring one’s mother, so the organization turned to Mother’s Day this past March in an attempt to draw attention to mothers in need around the world as well as the work that Oxfam is doing to help.

Over the course of five days at London’s Westfield shopping centre, artist Lizzie Marie Cullen created an ever-evolving Mother’s Day card, which grew larger and larger with every dedication that came in. Proximity London, the creative agency that came up with the project, reported that Oxfam’s main site traffic was up 200% throughout the campaign, which registered over 80,000 hits, “including over 4,300 dedications online and hundreds more through social media.
There’s no doubt that Oxfam is full of great ideas, but something seems to be getting lost in translation when numbers aren’t as high as they could or should be. The organization had originally aimed to break the Guinness World Records, after all, for “most inputs to a greetings card, which currently stands at 5,339” and hoped for 10,000 dedications to Happiest Mother’s Day. Instead, the project garnered barely half.
Last summer’s successful marketing campaign with Coldplay and Scoopshot suggests that one idea would be to encourage more user-generated content – much more. The project’s aim was to use UGC submissions to make a video that would create buzz and push world leaders to put an end to land grabs. The venture pulled in 5,600 photos and 800 videos for organizers to work with and the finished product got over 300,000 views across the web, leading to the World Bank agreeing to most of Oxfam’s demands.

When it comes to charity, the power really lies in the number of people backing your cause. See what an even greater difference you can make, when you start getting supporters to not only donate, but to create as well.
By Anastasia Dyakovskaya, NewsCred Contributor

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