Over the last few years, consumers have come to expect brands to support social and environmental causes with their products, services, donations, and/or volunteer work. However, the upsurge in Internet scams – not just phishing scams, but seemingly legitimate organizations swindling people out of their hard-earned money – might still make people think twice about engaging with online charities or corporate social responsibility (CSR) marketing campaigns unless they, the consumers, can be assured that the content they are viewing is legitimate.
Take, for example, the latest exposé of cancer charity scams. For five years, four sham cancer charities scammed donors across the U.S. out of $187 million, piggybacking on the reputation of legitimate organizations like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Since the names of the sham and the legitimate charities are so similar, it can be hard for consumers to distinguish between real and fake charities, making a good deed less likely.
This is bad news for the legitimate charities and their beneficiaries: Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index 2014 Year in Review shows that while most philanthropic organizations report that online donations still only make up a small percentage of fundraising revenue (in many cases less than 10%), the year over year growth rate of online giving is in the double digits, significantly outpacing growth rates in other forms of fundraising. Online charity scams associated with legitimate-sounding domain names are also bad for the brands behind CSR marketing campaigns, since digital has such potential to become an important component of philanthropic outreach.
The Earning Potential for Branded, Digital Outreach
According to the Blackbaud Index as of April 2015, which tracks approximately $16 billion in US-based charitable donations, overall giving increased 1.5%, while online giving increased 12.6% compared to the same period in 2014. Furthermore, branded giving pages have proven to have much more traction with users, raking in 7 times more money on average than generic giving pages. And lastly, digital campaigns are proving to be highly successful at engaging active participants and their peer networks who contribute to global messaging and fundraising efforts.
By associating CSR marketing campaigns with domain names with in their .BRAND or a trusted new .GENERIC, brands can provide memorable, engaging platforms for brands to talk about their campaigns, as well as secure opportunities for visitors to sign up for information or even donate to the cause themselves.
A Role for New gTLDs in the CSR Marketing
New gTLDs are a relatively new digital tool in the brand philanthropy toolkit, but there is already some traction with them: For example, shortly after the launch of .FOUNDATION, Lady Gaga’s charity dropped its .ORG site, opting instead to host the site at BornThisWay.Foundation.
Hosting campaign pages on a .BRAND site, however, can go a step further, not only providing a memorable campaign, but also providing the promise of security that can help visitors feel comfortable about sharing personal and financial information in support of a cause.
Easy access is important to capturing the large millennial audience: according to recent research, reported by the Guardian: 50% of millennials found it irritating when they could not access information easily. New gTLDs – which easily communicate their owner or purpose to the right of the dot – can be a quick, clear signal to users that they are on a valid site.
Brands may turn to the right of the dot to promote CSR marketing campaigns or provide secure portals for visitors to donate to an important cause. Whereas a savvy Internet user with enough time can do the online research necessary to check the authenticity of an online charity or look up a CSR marketing campaign, smoothing out the process can lead to a greater impact for both the brand and the cause that they support.
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