Published: 23 June 2017

From here to there – getting ready for 2022

The future isn’t far off. Our report written by Eden Stanley, Whatever Next? Public Engagement in 2022, explores the key trends shaping supporters, the media, and the wider world. How can we ensure we’re ready for the challenges the future holds? Here are our suggestions.

1. Be a facilitator, not a gatekeeper

In a world of greater connectivity, consider ways to provide a direct connection between supporters and causes, bringing them closer together rather than standing between them.

2. Embrace alternative funding models

Explore new ways for people to fund your work – from creative corporate partnerships to crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, and participating in the effective altruism movement.

3. Get smarter at segmentation

It’s no longer enough to identify target audiences based on demographics alone. Factors like where supporters live, their age and gender won’t necessarily give you insights rich enough to show what’s driving engagement. Nor will it help you broaden your appeal to new audiences. Smart segmentation takes into account people’s attitudes and values.

4. Tap into the younger generation’s enthusiasm for campaigning

If concerns about traditional supporters being turned off by anything that feels ‘political’ have previously put you off campaigning, it may be time to think again. You may be able to increase your appeal to younger supporters through campaigns that mobilise their support.

5. Track engagement

Gather data on how people are engaging with you, and then use it to help you do  better. By building a fuller picture of each individual supporter, you can personalise communications and develop a stronger two-way relationship. Data is a big component in this – but remember collection, storage and use of personal data brings its own issues and responsibilities.

6. Become a trusted source

Behave more like the media by producing and distributing high quality, verifiable content that satisfies people’s desire to be informed. Build trust in your content by providing peer review, video ‘explainers’, or quality marks, and by taking interactions offline and into people’s real-life worlds.

7. Keep telling stories

It may not sound new or futuristic, but inspiring and compelling human stories, told in simple and straightforward ways, is still one of charities’ most powerful ways of connecting.

8. Build trust by showing your roots or showing your reach

Emphasise your local heritage and/or your global connections. Focus on building, and rebuilding, trust with your audiences, and showing you’re accountable to them.

9. Foster innovation

There are many routes to innovation, from investing in digital transformation, to establishing innovation funds open to bids from staff looking to try something new. Find your own way in.

10. Be strategic

Combine the insights here with your own data to gauge how far you need a new answer to the question: why support us? The answer will be different for every charity. Once you know what it is for you, put it at the centre of your integrated communications strategy.

This article is an extract from Whatever Next? Public Engagement in 2022 by Sarah Fitzgerald and Eden Stanley. Download the report for free.


Sarah Fitzgerald, director, Self Communications

Sarah Fitzgerald is director of Self Communications, developing ambitious communications strategies for charities and not-for-profits. She has more than a decade of senior communications experience in the third sector.