How creative campaigns can help NGOs to plug their funding gap

By Sam Sutaria | vice president of strategy and development

WaterBear Network


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June 30, 2022 | 5 min read

As part of The Drum’s Deep Dive into Creativity, Sam Sutaria, vice president of strategy and development at WaterBear Network, looks at how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and non-profits can work in unison with brands to deliver creative content that builds awareness and drives investment.

Even before the pandemic, UK NGOs were struggling to raise the funds they needed to stay afloat. But Covid compounded the problem. In 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the UK would not provide its mandated target spending of 0.7% gross national income to official development assistance, leading to some 40% of NGOs teetering on the edge of collapse.

The added challenge of a cost-of-living crisis now threatens them again, reducing donations, subscriptions, and sources of revenue. Adding to this, non-profit campaign effectiveness has been declining, defined by benchmarks such as donations, brand recognition, brand trust and traffic generation. A study in Meaningful Marketing Measurement: Charitable Sector Focus, by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) showed effectiveness has declined dramatically since 2020.

Sam Sutaria, vice president of strategy and development at WaterBear Network smiles

Creative storytelling coupled with evolving streaming habits holds a solution.

To overcome short-term shocks and long-term change, NGOs must tap into new ways of telling their story. As consumers increasingly seek out content that reflects their values, digital channels that provide impact-led materials can provide a platform for NGOs to promote their missions and generate engagement, while bridging an endemic funding gap.

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Using creative content to support non-profits and NGOs is becoming a proven model for success. Havaianas has been partnering with All Out, an NGO and initiative that advocates for LGBT+ rights worldwide, for several years now. By using content creators such as Gabi Lisboa and activists such as Jorge Madruga, All Out and Havaianas were able to tap into new audiences and achieve further reach.

Likewise, in March 2022, CRIS Cancer Foundation used video games as a platform for change. They created a ‘The Battle Inside' mod on the video game Doom, which emulated the experience of leukemia and highlighted the importance of research.

The opportunity for collaboration has never been greater. Now platforms like WaterBear are giving both brands and non-profits the ability to reach new audiences, engage consumers, and allow value-driven audiences to take action.

Through inspiring content, our brand partnerships provide an entry point by creating a multichannel hub of resources containing the information and means for viewers to live their shared values. Whether that be interacting with NGOs or actively contributing to tackling critical social and environmental issues: from raising awareness of post-natal depression to ocean protection and the fashion industry's effect on the environment.

For instance, Nikon’s storytelling program supports and celebrates the important NGO work happening on the ground. By donating cameras, providing one-to-one training, and connecting like-minded stakeholders, NGOs are empowered to tell their story through film and photography. Through creative content, NGOs were able to make powerful statements and invest in the stories that need to be told.

We are just one model of a collaborative approach to delivering impact that will continue to grow as consumer content habits evolve. The bigger picture is providing NGOs and non-profits with new avenues to market themselves, increasing awareness and finding pathways for donations.

Brands have begun the shift to give consumers an avenue for active interaction, aligning with the minimum expectation set by their consumers. Tommy Hilfiger, for instance, partnered with learning platform FutureLearn to offer free digital learning courses covering a range of topics such as community building and LGBT+ allyship. But it is time for NGOs to tap into this.

Global brands are seeking out new ways to communicate their purpose and issues-led stories to increasingly values-led audiences. It’s now an opportunity for NGOs to utilize collaboration and open new pathways for donations, subscriptions, and sources of revenue.


Content by The Drum Network member:

WaterBear is a ground-breaking streaming platform showcasing award-winning documentaries as well as original content - spanning biodiversity, community, climate action and sustainable fashion. WaterBear members can stream video at any time, and on any device, all for free, as well as take direct instant action to support NGOs around the world and shape a better future for our fragile planet.

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