Standing out in a crowded marketplace

Australian charities have 0.013 percent chance of receiving a donation – how do they fight these teeny odds for the marketplace to notice them?

As of 2015, there were 50,908 charities in Australia fighting for the hearts and minds of all of us. On average, Australians donate seven times a year. So for NFPs to stand out is crucial.

ygap, which launched the popular Polished Man campaign, has grown its revenue from $233,000 to $1.65 million within four years (and helping over 580,000 people along the way). ygap uses a marketing mix to stand out from the crowd.

Its CEO, Manita Ray, told The Pulse that encouraging men to paint a fingernail blue was a way to get men (and women) to talk about ending violence against children.

“A lot of it is how we empower the individual Polished Men to fundraise,” said Ray.

“Today, people want to feel that they know their influence and power over something in a positive way, and that’s been the difference with the campaign.”

“It’s not just about the paper trail and a receipt going out at the end of financial year.”

Ray also said the campaign tapped into peoples’ desire for community and belonging.

“I think it also works because it gives them something to identify with,” she said. “It’s something which resonates with them and makes them feel good about what they’re doing.”

She said the need to stand out in a crowded marketplace was vital to making an impact.

“If you don’t make it compelling and you don’t make it stand out from the crowd, people don’t resonate with it,” said Ray.

The need to be so visible in such a huge crowd has led ygap to embrace marketing techniques more linked with private businesses – but with social impact at its core.


Building partnerships, getting help


Ray said a great way to extend the Polished Man campaign was by teaming up with high-profile individuals and companies to help.

For example, in 2016 burger chain Grill’d and Polished Man teamed up so delicious burgers made their way into hands with a polished fingernail.

BuiIding partnerships is now so important that one of the campaign’s three full-time employees is dedicated to the task.

“The campaign was volunteer-run for many years, and it’s a big campaign. It’s amazing how efficient you can be, but there’s only so much you can ask from a volunteer,” said Ray.

“You never demand specific things from a volunteer if there are other time pressures on them. With a paid staff member, you know they’re going to come in and do the work.”

By bringing in outside expertise purely for marketing rather than the day-to-day business tasks, ygap was able to turbo-charge its marketing efforts.

“It has helped to become really strategic in how we plan for the campaign because we know the staff are there,” said Ray.

But there’s one option ygap refuses to pursue.


“Can I have just a minute of your time?”


“Donor fatigue” has emerged from years of people being politely accosted by charity groups when walking out of a train station or into a supermarket.

Ray says this campaign method persists because it’s successful, but only for well-resourced organisations.

“Only certain charities can afford it. But those things work,” said Ray.

The marketing equivalent is to spam the marketplace with messaging to force your way onto consumers’ radar.

This costly exercise creates a lot of wastage that smaller companies can’t afford.

Thinking the key to cutting through is frequency of messaging isn’t the best step.

Instead, embracing new communication styles and trying new things is a key way to move into the spotlight of a crowded marketplace.


Try new things


Ray says the need to communicate their message in fresh ways is something the team “talks about a lot”.

“You’ll find some people love the same thing every year. To get new people on board, people will always want something different,” said Ray.

Last year at a gala event, ygap embraced VR technology to help people see how their donations were spent.

“We see the impact on the ground every day, but people don’t necessarily see that impact,” said Ray.

“By using something a bit different in VR we’re able to show people that, instead of us standing on a stage and telling them about it”.

By trying something new, ygap was able to reach out in a new way to grab attention.

“I think you’ve got to do find new ways of doing things. Just doing the same thing year after year –you don’t stand out,” said Ray.