TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2020, with user numbers skyrocketing over the past year. Fundraising Europe interviews Nana Crawford, social media manager at the British Red Cross, about her approach to TikTok, the organisation’s best performing content, and how they are using the channel for fundraising.
With almost one billion monthly users worldwide, TikTok is seeing huge growth in Europe. While the channel is far and away most popular with the under 25s, audience age groups are creeping upwards. TikTok’s high engagement rates make it all the more appealing to brands and marketers, with nonprofits increasingly using the channel to inform, interact, engage and entertain.
Organisations like Macmillan Cancer Support are making a big success of influencer-led content on TikTok. Meanwhile, the Norwegian Sea Rescue Society launched a fantastic recruitment campaign on the channel for the ‘coolest job ever’, asking applicants to post educational and light-hearted TikToks about water safety. The campaign succeeded in recruiting Max and Torkel as TikTokers for the Summer and their posts reached a phenomenal 63% of Norwegians aged 16-25.
The British Red Cross – one of the first adopters of TikTok’s Donate button in Europe – certainly seems to have taken TikTok by storm, winning awards for their inventive and engaging use of the channel. Currently, the charity has 401,000 TikTok followers and 6.6 million likes, and has raised over €105,000 (£90,000) via the platform.
In this interview, Nana Crawford shares how the combination of topical, fun but informative posts has enabled them to reach new audiences and open up critical conversations around first aid, hygiene, vaccinations and healthcare, as well as raising funds.
[Fundraising Europe] Why does TikTok work so well for British Red Cross?
[Nana Crawford] With TikTok, we can talk about who we are and what we do, but in a fun and engaging way. It gives us the freedom to show the charity’s personality with posts and content that people wouldn’t find on our other channels. We want people to see our work and that we help people, but that we are human too. It’s so important to bring that sense of who we are to the channel if we’re to make meaningful connections. And, particularly for us as a big global organisation, this is our chance to show people that we’re not out of reach. We’re doing vital work, but we are real people and that makes us all the more relatable.
What types of content performs best for you on the channel?
We always try and make sure we focus on what the public is talking about and that we align it with the work we are doing. We plan our monthly themes and we won’t stray far from our messaging, but we know that our posts have to be relevant and topical. The best ones are often the most spontaneous.
Last year it really took off for us with some simple handwashing and social distancing posts. More recently, the content that’s working really well is breaking down the facts around Covid, vaccine myth-busting and that sort of thing. We show people what they need to know and how we are helping. TikTok is great for taking information from a crowded space and presenting it really simply.
Our best performing post was shot in the office, featuring one of our fundraising team members. We wanted to showcase that we are part of a wider global response. She sat clicking her fingers, and the sound really worked for the platform. We used a green screen effect and on that we posted shots of the Red Cross’s work around the world. It wasn’t planned in great detail, but it all just came together with the sound of her finger-clicking in the background. It was really popular; that post gained over 46 million views.
Last April, we were approached by TikTok for the launch of their Donate button. At that point, we questioned whether this was the right space for fundraising. People go on there to escape, to scroll and laugh. In this context, how would we approach fundraising? But it worked really well.
We quickly found that the best method for us was to develop videos that showcased our work, but that also caught on to trends. So, for example, we might use gamer sounds to accompany footage of volunteers in action. The fundraising element came from influencers or celebrities who would do a livestream about us and our work. When it comes to successful fundraising on TikTok, you have to do it live – that’s the secret!
More and more charities are fundraising on the platform and that’s great to see. You do need to set up a Tiltify account, but then you can apply to TikTok for Good to get it all up and running.
What tips can you share for fundraising on TikTok?
It’s really important to build up a persona and a following before you start fundraising. After all, you wouldn’t walk into a room and just ask everyone outright for money. You need to build your community first and the same applies on TikTok. Put time into helping people understand who you are and what you do. Then you can think about what’s going to be the best way to raise funds.
When we do a livestream, I prepare a briefing pack of what we want our gamers and celebrities to communicate, but we know how important it is for them to post content that fits around what they do. So, we asked Gordon Ramsey to prepare a dish, while Rita Ora did a dance. The challenge is often to find the celebrities that are a good fit. Then it’s a case of exploring how to get them engaged with your work, what livestream you can ask them to do and how they will weave in your call to action.
What’s your advice for fundraisers that are completely new to the channel?
Just get on the platform and have fun. When you have a strong mission, people often feel the pressure to jump into the deep end, but you can dip your toes into TikTok and get a feel for it. Start by creating a private account where you can post and test your videos. Explore how it all works, what looks best, where you need to put the captions and so on. You only find this out by giving it a try.
When you’re ready to post to a public account, it’s a good idea to have a few posts prepared and a sense of how often you intend to do it. Although we tend to develop a lot of our content off the cuff, having some posts on the backburner can take the pressure off. And make sure there are others involved – encourage team members to get creative, particularly those who already use the platform.
About Nana Crawford
Nana Crawford is the award-winning Social Media Manager for the British Red Cross. With over a decade of experience in leading on seamless and effective social media strategies, pushing creative boundaries and challenging perceptions, she’s worked across retail, hospitality and entertainment, government and now the charity sector. Nana manages an innovative and creative social media team, who have brought new life into the channels of the British Red Cross and raised over £90,000 through a partnership with TikTok for the British Red Cross.
Related feature: How to approach influencer marketing for fundraising
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