Interview with Matt Collins of Charity Chap

Charity Chap interview

What is CharityChap.com?

  • The website of Matt Collins, a charity digital marketer
  • Includes blogs that cover the latest social trends, commentary on current issues that are facing charities, and actionable tips on steps that fundraisers can take to improve their operations
  • Visit the site at charitychap.com

Who is Matt Collins?

  • The managing director of Platypus Digital, an agency that aids not for profits
  • Has trained with with the General Assembly, and has spent 10 years working intimately with charities both large and small
  • Runs training sessions and does consultancy on a variety of different digital matters

What can I learn?

  • How your newsletter can change the way you fundraise and increase your interactions with volunteers
  • How social networks can best be used, and the impact they can have for your organisation
  • The importance of increasing digital skills across the whole of your charity, not just in the digital team

Hi Matt – for the benefit of those who don’t know, could you just explain who you are and what it is you do?

I’m the managing director of Platypus Digital – we’re a digital marketing agency that helps charities raise more money and reach more people online. That means we run digital fundraising campaigns, deliver training in using tools lPoppy Crowds, Matt Collinsike Google Analytics and help charities with their digital strategies.

What inspired you to go into working with charities initially? And why have you decided to stay in the not-for-profit sector for so long?

It was my dad that originally (if indirectly) encouraged me to work for charities. When I was younger and asking him what I should do for a job, he said whatever I went for to try and make it something that helped people. That’s always stuck with me – you’re going to have to spend much of your life working hard, so it might as well be doing something that benefits people.

I’ve stayed in it so long as I’ve never wanted to work in any other sector – few others can show so much positive impact, and that’s important to me.

Challenges like [the Ice Bucket Challenge] prove that lots of people are willing to give small amounts if they are asked to do something interesting and shareable. This isn’t new but it’s bound to continue into 2015.

You’ve worked alongside some of the largest charities in the UK. What would you say that your biggest success has been?

Each organisation I work with has different aims, so success is different for each one. Helping the RAF Benevolent Fund get 500 text donations to help repair the Bomber Command Memorial in London after it was vandalised Charity Chap, Movember Donationis one campaign that sticks in my mind – we had to move quite quickly and I was pleased it raised money via a new channel for them.

Your website – charitychap.com – says that you help charities reach more people and raise more money online. What have you found that most charities are doing wrong before you get involved?

It varies massively depending on what they’re after. I’ve definitely noticed a lack of widespread digital skills across the sector (not just with organisations I’ve worked with) – fundraisers, campaigners, communications professionals and even finance teams could do with a crash course in how social media, email marketing and analytics could work harder for them. Digital should never be confined to digital teams.

Email marketing is definitely the area charities are making the least use of.

Social media seems to be something that a lot of charities struggle to get a proper handle on – have you got any quick tips for people who are struggle to make an impact on Facebook and Twitter with their organisation?

First of all, understand what social networks like Facebook and Twitter are for. They won’t raise millions for your charity overnight, but they are a powerful tool for engaging with your supporters, helping them understand more deeply how your organisation changes the world, and spreading that message to even more people.

Then it’s a case of using them to tell as many emotive stories about the people you help – share images, quotes and above all statements of belief i.e. how you believe the world should change.

You also specialise in training people up on Google Analytics, e-mail marketing and a range of other things – what do you think is the area that charities are making the least of? And is there any way for people to change that?

Email marketing is definitely the area charities are making the least use of. Most charities have the email addresses of thousands of supporters (or potential supporters), yet only email them a long and often not Matt Collins, Charity Chapvery interesting newsletter every couple of months, if they remember at all.

These email lists are potential goldmines of volunteers, campaigners and fundraisers, each of whom has shown their willingness to support the charity by giving them some personal contact information in the form of their email address.

The way to change that is to email every couple of weeks at least (ideally once a week) with a single topic or ask. A more active supporter base is bound to result.

2014 was a year of huge change for digital fundraising, with the shift going from charities creating appeals towards individuals creating their own viral trends such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and No Make Up Selfie. What do you think is going to happen to fundraising over the course of the coming year?

In the immortal words of Paul Gascoigne, I never make predictions and I never will! The joy of digital fundraising is how impossible it is to know what will happen next – who could have seen the Ice Bucket Challenge coming for example?

That said, challenges like this prove that lots of people are willing to give small amounts if they are asked to do something interesting and shareable. This isn’t new but it’s bound to continue into 2015.

Finally, could you remind us how people can get in touch with you if they’d like your help and expertise?

Just drop me an email at matt@platypusdigital.com or tweet me at @charitychap.

Digital should never be confined to digital teams.