According to a report published by Lloyds Bank earlier this year, 58% of charities don’t have basic digital skills, believing it has limited benefits for them in terms of return on investment from both a time and money perspective. As a result, 75% of charities, and small and medium sized enterprises (SMES) invest no money in digital skill and capacity development. Just over half of charities don’t believe that having a website will increase their fundraising; 70% feel the same way about social media.

The ‘digital world’ can seem a daunting one requiring hours of time and stacks of cash. In fact, digital can have a sizeable effect on a charity’s reach, growth and fundraising efforts with very little time or cash.

There are plenty of articles out there detailing how charities can maximise digital. They tend to focus on more traditional digital marketing techniques such as social media and lead generation campaigning. These methods can undoubtedly be effective fundraising and exposure tools– take for examples the ice-bucket challenge which raised huge amounts of both money and awareness for ALS, and the No Make-Up Selfie campaign for Cancer Research.

However, as the digital world continues to move forwards at a considerable pace, charities could be benefiting from sophisticated digital strategies. At SOS Children, we focus on two main areas of digital, search-engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC). Obviously, what works for one charity may not work for another, but both of these can be powerful tools if a charity wants to be successful online for the long-term and if they are serious about maximising online donations; Lloyds reported that digitally mature charities are twice as likely to see an increase in funding.


Engaging in some level of SEO is important for any charity that wants to make money online. For smaller, less well-known charities, targeting relevant search terms can be an effective and comparatively inexpensive way of marketing to a wide audience. It is not cost free – to excel, you need a technically high-quality website – but it can bring big long-term gains with relatively limited resources.

If you are just starting out, you will struggle to win highly competitive searches. For short-term gains, target a variety of lower competition keywords which are relevant and valuable to your business. Use tools like Moz Analytics, Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to monitor which searches are bringing you valuable traffic and make your landing pages as relevant to these keywords as possible. Try running A/B tests to make them convert well, too.

For more tips, read this blog by our Digital Marketing Manager Jamie Goodland.


PPC ads appear at the top of search results. In Google they can be distinguished by the yellow “Ad” label next to them. Since they appear at the top of search results, they get a high proportion of clicks, particularly on mobile. However, they have not earned their ranking by relevance. Instead, account-holders indicate a maximum amount that they are willing to pay to display their ad for their chosen keywords, and then compete against other bidders in an auction-type marketplace.

The perception about PPC advertising is that it is expensive – too expensive for charities, but Google offers a free account worth $10K/month especially for non-profits called “Ad Grants”. Many charities are not even aware that they are entitled. So long as you have official charitable status and a substantial website, you are probably eligible.

With a little time and effort, your charity account could bring you serious income. Conventional, paid-for PPC can generate high returns as well, and you can spend as little or as much as you want – though real profits will only come if you treat it seriously, like any other fundraising channel.

– Abi Calver works at SOS Children