Focus on Brazil: Successful Digital Fundraising
19th November By Cristiano Pereira
Cristiano Pereira has been working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Brazil for the last three years, focusing mainly on digital fundraising. Here, he outlines the pleasures and particular challenges of working as a fundraiser in the country.
I am the Individual Giving Manager at the ICRC in Brazil, managing a team of five people working on two main fundraising channels: digital and direct mail.
Digital represents around 75% of our income and expenditure budget. Creating a sustainable form of income can be difficult in Brazil. Our aim is to create brand awareness and be present on social media at all times, so we have campaigns running every day of the year and not just around a particular emergency. It's not easy to fundraise here, but it's not impossible, as long as you invest in testing and find the right audience and tone. Although digital works for us, several NGOs here struggled to make it work.
We have tested several platforms with content banners including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as using email campaigns to contact donors. Facebook works by far the best for us. We've had good results with Instagram, but their users tend to be younger with lower average gifts. We use paid posts on social media with images and links to donations forms.. We don't know yet what the lifetime value will be for these campaigns.
The main issue that prevents donors going on to donate online is our payment methods. Bank slips are a common method of payment in Brazil, but these need to be sent to the bank every month and can often bounce, so we don't offer these on paid ads. In addition, we can only accept direct debits if the donor has the same bank as us. Credit cards are our most reliable payment method; these have a success rate of 80% of money reaching us, compared to around 40% for bank slips.
Moving from the commercial world to the third sector.
I came to the ICRC after working in digital marketing in retail, combined with teaching English in poor communities in Brazil which brought me to the attention of a consultant from MSF who wanted help with a digital project. He went on to set up an agency working for many large international NGOs including the ICRC, who then had an opening and I moved here. I have had to change my perspective moving from the commercial world where profit comes before everything and budgets can be huge, as long as you bring money back in. In the NGO sector, budgets and goals are smaller and we have equal considerations such as our image and the integrity of our beneficiaries.
The ICRC has only been in Brazil for around 20 years, although the national Red Cross that deals mainly with emergencies and local issues, has been here for more than a century. People here confuse us with the Brazil Red Cross which can have positive and negative implications, but in general we have a good media brand recognition overall. That's helped by our active mass fundraising campaigns.
I enjoy working in the NGO sector and helping people. One of the most satisfactory aspects of my job is reviewing the comments on our social media campaigns - some are negative arguing that the government should be helping the poor or asking why we should be helping people overseas when people are suffering here. We explain that our mandate is to help people suffering in areas of armed conflict. Others compliment our work, stating that it is our responsibility or religious duty to help others, and how they are sacrificing their own spare time or luxuries to donate.
Comments also reflect the nervousness of some donors and a lack of trust in institutions. We have a new president now, but the economy is not strong and there are problems of corruption. People question why they should donate when they don't know where their money is going.
Working with AAW
I first came across Astarita, Aldrich & Ward (AAW) when they came to advise us on a new fundraising strategy. When I first started working at ICRC, there was only one person working in fundraising on high net worth individuals and companies. ICRC then hired a local agency to implement a strategy, but this led to problems with everything being externalised and a lack of control for us. The business model at that time was based on MSF’s success rate which had been carrying out fundraising in Brazil for over 10 years, with totally unrealistic targets for us.
We decided to bring everything back in-house and created a new strategy with the help of AAW. We are now achieving 20% above what we planned last year, mainly through the individual giving team’s efforts. By the end of this year we will break-even in fundraising, but we need to continue investing to generate long term income.
Working in this way is much easier than working with an external agency where you spend the first two months explaining how the organisation works, how we communicate and especially with providers that do not have experience of the third sector - not many providers in this country do. We can also struggle to recruit staff with a non-profit background and that can speak English.
In the future we want to expand our channels and replicate the success of digital. This is particularly necessary as more and more NGOs are using digital and we are concerned that our growth will be impacted and could stagnate.
The future of fundraising in Brazil.
The fundraising market in Brazil continues to grow. As NGOs we are trying to create a culture of giving and to combat challenges around transparency, accountability and money being well invested. People are willing to donate, but they have remaining doubts. We also need to offer more payment methods; Brazil is still a developing country, but we have to find ways for people to feel safe donating, especially online.
As NGOs we have to work together to explore the market and ensure we don't saturate our existing channels. We don't have yet any fundraising regulations like those that exist in the UK (although legislation is on its way) and we need to ensure we organise ourselves as a profession to avoid chaos and do things that benefit us all.