An article by Gethin Edwards, Team Leader with the Commissioner’s Hybu Team for charities and businesses
With so many charities and good causes competing for attention and donations, they need to make sure that they stand out and make that special personal connection with supporters. Research by Accenture showed that 62% of millennials would give 10% more for a personal experience.
Speaking with people in their own language is one way of creating that personal connection.
We asked 800 people from across Wales what makes them support a charity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the key driver in choosing a charity is that a person believes in the cause or that a loved one has been supported by the charity.
We went on to ask whether people thought that charities operating in Wales should market themselves bilingually. An overwhelming majority of 70% said yes, and this was reflected amongst Welsh speakers and non Welsh speakers alike. What we also found was that using the Welsh language is closely linked to being a local charity with a good reputation. Here are a few comments:
“Because we’re in Wales – we have our own language and charities should acknowledge that”
“It’s more homely and relates to Wales and feels more personal somehow”
“I’m donating my hard earned cash [and] I want to see it spent in Wales, and if it’s bilingual I know they have a Welsh influence”
We also asked whether they would be more likely to support a charity that uses bilingual marketing. 30% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that this was a deciding factor. Any fundraising manager will agree that this is the kind of competitive edge that is worth seizing upon.
Here are a handful of examples of how charities have worked with us to embrace the Welsh language and how it’s given a vital boost to their fund raising campaigns and general public awareness or their work.
Save the Children
Rhian Brewster, Media and Communications Manager - Wales
“We have a strong relationship with the Commissioner’s team, and their research has helped us to lever more support from our head office and to tailor national campaigns to have a strong Welsh feel in Wales.
“Schools are the main audience of our Christmas Jumper campaign. With so many Welsh medium and bilingual schools in Wales and nearly half of 5 to 15 year olds able to speak Welsh, it made sense for us to take a bilingual approach. This approach has grown over the past four years. All the social media content about the campaign is now bilingual; and we have bilingual brand ambassadors who are able to give radio and TV interviews in Welsh. This has definitely increased the engagement and reach of the campaign, and the take-up of the pack for schools has grown year on year.”
DEC Cymru (Disasters Emergency Committee)
Casia Wiliam, External Relations Manager, Wales
“At the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) we bring together 14 leading UK aid charities in times of crisis overseas to launch appeals to raise money to help those affected by disaster. These are often natural disasters which means we must communicate with the public quickly, to raise the funds needed as soon as possible.
“In Wales, however swift the turn-around is for an appeal, we strive to deliver fully bilingual campaigns. For instance, for our most recent appeal, The Cyclone Idai Appeal, which was launched in March 2019, this entailed: ensuring all our press releases were available in Welsh and English, ensuring we had Welsh speakers available for interviews, communicating bilingually via our social media platforms, ensuring our marketing materials were fully bilingual, and producing bilingual assets as needed for our donors and partners.”
British Heart Foundation
Siôn Edwards, former fund raising manager BHF Cymru:
“We developed a bilingual community speaker network, and as a result, several new opportunities have opened up for the community fundraising team in Wales. Through 15 bilingual volunteer speakers this helped us to secure 3 Charity of the Year relationships, worth in excess of £150,000. This support would not have been possible had we not personalised our approach and engage with local groups in their first language.”
Macmillan Cancer Support
Kerry-Lynne Pyke, Senior External Communications Manager:
“I don’t think we would be as successful without using the Welsh language. It makes us relevant to people in Wales who have cancer, their loved ones and our supporters.”
“We use the language on our social media platforms and marketing materials. With our major campaign, the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, we have designed resources that people can edit and download in Welsh to promote their events.”
The Welsh language can mean a lot of different things to different people. Fluent speakers have a strong personal connection with the language; but it can also create a whole host of personal connections with people who don’t speak Welsh. It’s a way to connect with people’s emotions and their sense of belonging. We would summarise that:
Welsh = local, personal, sensitive
Welsh = respect, ‘my language’
Welsh = language of my children
Welsh = loyalty
We get an overwhelming feeling from speaking to fundraisers and communications officers that using Welsh is a vital ingredient in a successful campaign. It’s hard to be definitive about the effect of using Welsh as part of a campaign. But these examples show that it’s a vital ingredient to success in Wales. As you look to better understand your current and potential donors, and tailor content to what drives them to support you, Welsh needs to be in the mix.
What’s clear from these examples is that using the Welsh language has been a key driver in clinching the deal with groups of key supporters or with local schools. But we do need more hard data that shows the value of investing in Welsh. With charities increasingly developing personalised approaches to understanding and targeting their audiences, it looks like we’ll get a more accurate picture over the coming years.
To discuss your experiences and to develop your use of the Welsh language you can contact the Welsh Language Commissioner’s Hybu team by: