From the global sensation that was Gangnam Style to the plethora of 'Cat On A Trampoline' videos on YouTube, it is hard to grasp what it is that makes something an online hit. It can be a particular challenge for small charities, doing invaluable work but not necessarily having enough resource to carry out effective marketing and publicity campaigns to share their message.
Yet now is the time that small charities desperately need to be heard. In an era when public services continue to be cut at the local level and private sector organisations are competing for scarcer and scarcer opportunities, small charities - who number over 70,000 in the UK - are increasingly holding our communities together. It is crucial that they can be found amidst ever increasing white noise online, but they do need help.
This was the thinking behind a campaign launched this week by Google, Media Trust and the Charity Technology Trust, called 'Grow Your Charity Online.' The campaign will provide free training and tools for charities across the country, including an online learning hub, workshops and live events that aim to bridge the e-skills gap. Charities will learn how to harness a range of online platforms to amplify their reach, bolster their fundraising and boost their volunteer engagement. For the first time ever in the UK these small charities will also have free access to Google's online services such as advertising and business apps and Media Trust's Community Channel, available on Sky, Virgin, Freeview and accessible via BBC iPlayer.
Matt Brittin, vice president of Google's northern and central European operations, believes that just like in the private sector, small charities grow much faster if they can utilise online channels. Speaking to The Guardian earlier this week he said, "When you compare small businesses who are online with those who aren't, the small businesses that are online and are doing online marketing are growing between four and eight times faster than those that aren't. If you look at the business experience, there's quite a big differential in growth and in employment and in activity and we think the potential for charities is just the same."
Grow Your Charity Online plans to hit the road and travel across the UK during 2013 to meet with charities face-to-face as well as hosting a regular series of online educational events, enabling charities to join advice sessions remotely. This partnership with Google, Media Trust and The Charity Technology Trust allows us to help thousands more charities at scale. This was always going to be immensely valuable - and in a climate where charities are being asked to deliver more for less, this kind of support from the tech industry has the potential to be game changing.
Innovation and social enterprise underpin the work of small charities; they are often at the cutting edge of proactive campaigning and have some of the most fantastic stories to tell, for example HI Kent, a charity that provides information, assessment and provision equipment to deafened and hard of hearing people in Kent. The charity took part in our Untold Stories Scheme having a professional film made for a fraction of the normal cost and was able to use it to share stories of some of its service users including 93-year old Ena who as a young woman trekked to the base camp of Everest and has struggled to overcome the isolation of losing her hearing. Exploring opportunities for charities to learn new skills to manage their online presence can enable them to change the world by giving a voice to communities and inspiring more people to make a difference, to get help, volunteer and donate. At Media Trust we believe that effective story telling is the most powerful way to engage audiences - it is creativity that takes people into the heart of an issue, that provides the inspiration to engage, to turn 'passive viewing' into 'active doing', and it is by effective use of media channels, and increasingly online, that this can be achieved.
Charities have a duty to give a voice to their users and beneficiaries, and to give validation to those voices by ensuring that they are heard. It may be easy to upload content on to YouTube but finding audiences on YouTube can be a massive challenge. The more charities are empowered to spread their stories through social media, the more they can engage in two-way conversations with their audiences, and build their communications for the greatest possible social impact. So here's to getting back to the heart of the story.
To find out more about Grow Your Charity Online, please visit: www.growyourcharityonline.com
Follow Caroline Diehl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@carolinediehl