7 Tips to Make Your 2023 Christmas Charity Campaign a Success

Author information: Amina Iqbal , Head of Paid Media , Post information: , 7 min read ,
Related post categories: Digital Marketing ,
Christmas lantern hanging on tree with snowflakes falling

I’m sure there is some rule about when you’re officially allowed to talk about Christmas, but you’ll have to forgive us for breaking that rule because now is the time charities and nonprofits should be planning their festive campaigns if they haven’t already started.

A few things spring to mind when we think of Christmas: presents, Santa, Christmas jumpers, spending time with family and friends, and on-repeat Christmas songs. But the one thing that Christmas has always been closely linked to is generosity and giving. During this time of year, people are more likely to support charitable causes than at any other time. This has only been heightened by the cost of living crisis as people become more selective about when they donate to charity, and Christmas is the perfect time for that. This makes Christmas a critical time for charity fundraising, but with its importance and significance comes increased competition.

In 2022, we saw an 11% rise in cost-per-click (CPC) across our client base compared to 2021, while average client-wide cost-per-acquisition (CPA) floated around £10.28. Notably, we found that average donations for cancer charities stood out as being particularly generous, while animal welfare charities and international aid organisations saw typically lower average gifts. The cost varied significantly across organisations as factors such as brand awareness, creatives, messaging and channel mix played a huge part in campaign performance. But in preparing for Christmas now, you can give your organisation the best possible chance to stand out from the crowd and leverage the opportunity that Christmas has to offer.

So if you haven’t started yet, we’ve pulled together insights and tapped into the wisdom of our brilliant team to put together 7 key insights to guide your winter campaign this year.

1. It’s all about timing

A noticeable trend we saw last year, and in previous years, is that campaigns that launched in December lagged behind in performance compared to those that launched in mid to late November. Why? Firstly, platforms like Facebook and Performance Max require at least two weeks to generate actionable data for optimisation. So if you want to run an effective campaign, your campaign needs to be in full swing by December and backed by the right amount of data.

Secondly, while people might not “officially” be thinking about Christmas until December, the chances are they’re already making decisions about how they will be spending their money ahead of time. While December might be a great time to focus on acquisition, use October and November to raise awareness of your charity; build up engagement and showcase what your charity does.

Last year, we ran GOSH’s annual Stocking Appeal which raised over £1.1 million—a 10-year high for the organisation using this approach. Firstly, we focused on driving awareness and increasing brand recall in November, this helped us to build up a list of highly engaged supporters that we could remarket to with a donation ask we moved into December. We harnessed the power of storytelling in these early stages, using channels such as Spotify, Display and Performance Max to tell the story of 4-year-old Henry. Using platforms such as Search and Meta, we were then able to capture audiences ready to engage and make a donation to GOSH during the later stages of the campaign.

GOSH ad examples
(Left: Gmail ad. Right: Discover ad.)

2. A cash ask just won’t do the trick

The evolving digital landscape means the same old cash asks won’t be enough to cut through the noise this Christmas. Think about the different ways you can take your users on a journey to donation and hopefully to more long-term engagement. Here are some ideas from the sector for inspiration.

  • Christmas gifts: Both Freedom from Torture and Action for Children show how these can be delivered successfully. One of the reasons these campaigns are successful is that they have a clear and tangible ask—the supporters know what they’re going to get when they purchase an item. The donation totaliser used by Freedom from Torture gives the campaign a real community feel, that we’re all working towards achieving a goal, and you can see how your support is contributing to that goal.
  • Lead generation: One of the problems with one-off cash donations is that you may struggle to garner long-term commitment from supporters. While Christmas is a time for raising money, it’s also an opportunity to reach new supporters and encourage long-term engagement. Refugee Council’s Message of Hope is a great example of this. The ask is simple: leave a message of hope to a refugee spending their first winter in the UK. Once you share your message, you then receive follow-up emails with information about the support Refugee Council provides, and how you could support them, which ultimately led to many supporters leaving a donation.

3. Campaign integration all the way

Individual components of a Christmas campaign should not be solo acts, they will thrive on synergy. It’s not enough to be running just one channel during this period, instead think about how channels like paid social and email could integrate for maximum impact. Here are some tips on getting started:

  • If you’re running paid search activity for your Christmas campaign, start by reviewing your Google Search Console data to identify your high-value keywords (high competition and drive lots of traffic) and your opportunities (you don’t rank well organically so you could plug the gap with paid activity). Our combined PPC and SEO strategy for MND Association resulted in a 130% increase in revenue.
  • Don’t just focus on acquisition, invest in the long-term journey of your users. For example, when a user has signed up to donate to your Christmas campaign, don’t just add them to your existing email marketing list, create a dedicated email journey throughout Christmas and the New Year to deepen engagement and invest in creating long-term supporters. Consider splitting your Christmas budget into two to plan for this: acquisition budget and stewardship.
  • Create a centralised UTM tagging spreadsheet for accurate conversion attribution. This will help you understand which channels drive conversions, the value of that channel and where that channel sits on the journey to conversion. If you’re working on channels where the primary action isn’t to “click” on (e.g. Spotify) then think about other channels that can help with attribution. For example, consider having a clear call to action at the end of your Spotify ad (e.g. search GOSH Christmas) that you can bid on as part of your paid search campaigns to capture users who have come from the Spotify campaign.

4. Offline and online efforts need to work in harmony

Many of the festive digital marketing campaigns we’ve been asked to run in the past have had their roots in products primarily intended for direct mail campaigns. A mailshot through someone’s letterbox that contains a nice cardboard cutout of a bauble to hang on your Christmas tree that advocates for your charity’s cause is a nice idea in an offline context. In an online context, it won’t necessarily work in the same way.

When your team is ideating on ideas for Christmas campaign hooks and CTAs, involve your digital teams and/or external partners and task them with the simple job of asking (and answering) the question: how will this product work in a digital context?

Offline and online activity won’t always work in the same way. If you can’t find a way for a brilliant offline ask to translate, don’t force it: ideate on a separate digital angle instead.

5. Unwrap the power of creatives

Given the increased competition, Christmas demands attention-grabbing creatives. This doesn’t mean you need highly polished creatives and an extravagant budget, we’ve seen small-budget creatives punch above their weight in a crowded space. And with broader targeting becoming the norm on many platforms like Google and Meta, your assets have to work harder to convince a wider pool of people to take action so it’s critical your creatives showcase how support for your organisation can make a difference—make your creatives tangible.

Secondly, don’t forget to spread some festive cheer. Include references to Christmas in your creatives (appropriately) instead of repurposing old content that doesn’t fit in with the festive period. For instance, we A/B tested creatives with tinsels and festive decorations in them with the same or similar creatives without reference for a cancer charity, and we saw the Christmas creatives outperformed the less festive creatives.

Lastly, add video creatives to your wish list because videos are no longer nice-to-have, they’re essential. With users being overloaded with information, a compelling video can immediately grab a viewer's attention. The combination of visuals, sound, and motion makes it easier for potential donors to engage with a message compared to static content. Channels like Performance Max and Meta are increasingly more transparent about how videos can significantly improve the performance of your campaigns.

Just like static creatives, you don’t have to pay above the odds for video creatives. Our designers have worked with organisations to create motion graphics using a few static images, which has been perfect when budgets and resources are limited.

6. Factor in current world events

Think about your donors and how they might be affected by world events. The impact of COVID-19 is still being felt by many people, and the squeeze the cost of living crisis is having means there is less disposable income for people. To make sure you’re factoring these into your campaign, you might try something as subtle as looking at the data you have available on your key audiences, and how average gifts and donation habits differ across demographics. For Samaritans, we used this information to personalise price points on the landing page based on the demographic personalisation functionality available within our A/B testing tools.

You could also incorporate wider societal context directly into your campaigns. Last year, Action for Children ran a campaign promoting their Parent Talk service as they acknowledged increasing living costs can be worrying as we move into the festive period. They linked to tips and resources for support—this highlights how you can be sensitive to current events and show that you’re here to support.

Action for children ad examples
Action for Children ad example

7. Make data-driven decisions

Chances are you’ve run a Christmas campaign before, and if you haven’t then you’re likely to have data from other campaigns to help inform your decisions. So reflect on your previous campaigns, and recognise your key strategies and areas of improvement. When planning GOSH’s Stocking Appeal campaign, we removed a significant portion of keywords that didn’t drive value for the organisation in the previous year, allowing us to focus budgets on high-converting branded and non-branded keywords.

For organisations with smaller budgets, Christmas can be particularly challenging, especially with a sector where competitors might have significantly more budget available. This is where using your own historical data will allow you to focus budgets on the channels that drive the greatest value for your charity. Alternatively, your data might show that there is another period in the year that drives more cost-effective donations for your organisation, so it’s worth saving your budget for that moment and avoiding this expensive period of the year.

And if you don’t have the data? Then look at what you need to put in place now to make sure that you can assess performance. Do you need to run a small test campaign ahead of November to understand your audiences? Do you have e-commerce tracking set up to track donations in GA4?

Looking for support with your 2023 Christmas campaign?

We can support you and your teams to plan, build and implement digital marketing strategies that deliver results this Christmas. Get in touch via [email protected]

Author information: Amina Iqbal , Head of Paid Media , Post information: , 7 min read ,
Related post categories: Digital Marketing ,