Islamic Relief is an independent humanitarian and development organisation with a presence in over 40 countries. Established in 1984, Islamic Relief works with communities to strengthen their resilience to disasters and provide vital emergency aid when disasters occur.

Islamic Relief’s business model is seasonal and competitive, often offering just a short window of opportunity to get results. The charity’s goal is to be present in the moments that matter to donors, so a comprehensive digital marketing program is essential to engage donors at every level of conversion funnel.

Connecting donors with relief efforts through search

“Search advertising enables us to be on Google around the clock when donors are looking for causes to donate to. In the moments that matter, search ads help us to be there,” explains AIDA Director Digital Hassan Imtiazi. “During emergencies and disasters we can launch campaigns within hours. We don’t think there is any other media outlet available which can be as powerful as search ads.”

To effectively grab the attention of the audience during key times, the ability to add sitelinks to search ads provides a key advantage. “In peak campaigns, extended sitelinks contribute to an increase of conversions,” Hassan affirms. “During one of our major appeals last year, metrics show that we achieved over 10,000 conversions specific to the appeal’s sitelinks. Overall click-through rate for sitelinks in our brand campaign during the period was 16%. The stats show around a 50% uplift in conversions from the previous year during the same appeal type.”

Using search alongside existing offline campaigns has also proved a winning formula. “We use TV for branding and campaign awareness, as it’s all about visibility, huge reach and eyeballs – but it is difficult to monitor,” he says. “TV helps a lot with brand and there is a direct correlation between search queries and TV advertising.” For example, the charity has seen uplifts in brand searches of up to 15% during live fundraising telethons.

Innovative tools get the message out and donations in

Islamic Relief uses remarketing tools in the Google Display Nework to segment audiences based on their donation histories and to deliver tailored creative messaging. One campaign that combined YouTube TrueView ads with display ads on the Google Display Network produced a 51% reduction in overall cost per acquisition. Since then video advertising has formed an important part of all major campaigns.

Gmail Sponsored Promotions is another innovation that has proven successful in reaching potential supporters. One campaign produced a click-through rate better than 15%, a great result measured against industry benchmarks for display advertising.

Close coordination yields important outcomes

The transparency of the partnership between Google and Islamic Relief has been a vital factor to success. The charity shares its daily donation targets and results with the members of the Google team, who then optimise accordingly. “Google is our key strategic partner when it comes to online, helping us grow in our natural brand search volume year on year,” Hassan says. “In the last four years, we’ve seen a more than 300% increase in natural brand search volume per month on Google, and that can be attributed to search advertising.”

Innovation should be part of every non-profit organisation. Donors are transforming faster than we are, and if we are not advertising on Google, that means we don’t exist.

Hassan Imtiazi, Director, AIDA Digital Ltd

To develop insights and improve future and ongoing marketing efforts, Islamic Relief relies on Google Analytics. “Google Analytics provides a bigger picture about donors in order to make key strategic decisions, do segmentation, make relevant creatives and more,” he says. “Data from search marketing can be used to understand the user journey, which then contributes towards to our overall digital marketing goals. It is transparent and real time, so there is very low wastage from media spend in comparison with TV and traditional advertising.”

Real-time measurement is instrumental in helping Islamic Relief continue its good work, Hassan explains. “Data is key to any successful online campaign, and Google is constantly providing real-time data from AdWords and Google Analytics. It is also essential for reporting back to stakeholders within the organisation. Without feedback to these stakeholders, further investment is not provided – hence its critical importance.”