Debbie Birch is Head of Marketing at the Countryside Alliance, a non-profit organisation which promotes issues related to the British countryside, including farming, rural services and country sports.
Econsultancy spoke to her about the skills she needs to be effective in her role, the tools and KPIs that underpin her work, and the importance of vision in the midst of organisational change.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Debbie Birch: I head up the marketing and fundraising team at Countryside Alliance. We are responsible for awareness, membership communications, acquisition and retention as well as fundraising which includes raffles, legacies, trusts and foundations, direct marketing, partnerships and some events.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Debbie Birch: I report directly to the CEO and collaborate with our Political Campaigns team as a content source while overseeing the awareness raising and income generation for the organisation through fundraising and membership.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Debbie Birch: Vision is important – there have been many changes in the nearly three years I have been working at the Countryside Alliance and clear vision has certainly helped with the transition.
Leadership skills are also very important during a time of significant change as buy-in is critical to success. Soft skills such as clear communication and an understanding what motivates people both as a team and as individuals are also key.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Debbie Birch: Hahahaha! There is not much typical about any of my days – I tend to spend a lot of time building and developing collaborative relationships. A great deal of my time is also spent planning and negotiating and supporting my team to ensure they are on track to deliver their objectives.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Debbie Birch: I love the variation of my job and how it allows me to see the bigger picture. Its great to be able to have this view to communicate it to the rest of my team and show how we are making an impact.
Countryside Alliance is a ‘Marmite’ organisation, and that comes with many challenges, which I love. With each challenge we learn something new and by learning, we are growing not only as individuals but as a team and as an organisation.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Debbie Birch: Revenue is obviously important for us, and as I am responsible for Fundraising and Membership revenue – this forms the basis of our KPIs.
For membership, we measure not only acquisition but also conversions of existing members to direct debit, upgrades of memberships, membership renewals, cancellations and membership engagement.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Debbie Birch: We have recently implemented a new CRM solution which I am loving – we chose Microsoft Dynamics for its relative ‘ease’ of integration (dare I say that – integration is never as easy as it initially seems) into our mailing platform (dotMailer) and CMS (Kentico).
The supporter insights we get from this mix are great, and we are seeing a significant increase in member engagement and upgrades due to dynamic targeting. We are also about to launch our new website which will help us even further with the delivery of our marketing strategy.
How did you get end up at Countryside Alliance and where might you go from here?
Debbie Birch: Having worked in the charity sector previously, I was tempted by the challenge of moving to a not-for profit membership organisation. The Countryside Alliance also has a Charitable Foundation and runs a number of programmes for women recovering from breast cancer and programmes where we teach disadvantaged children how to fish.
The Countryside Alliance has been going through some significant changes and I was drawn to the potential these changes could bring. From a marketing perspective we have delivered a new CRM, a new brand, a new magazine and are about to launch a new website all in the space of two and a half years – it has been busy and we are delighted with the results we are already seeing.
Which recent campaigns or digital work have inspired you?
Debbie Birch: It being Christmas time and all, and because I am a huge Elton John fan, I have to say that I am loving the John Lewis Christmas ad – it has a great emotive story that really tugs on heart strings and inspires hope.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to work in marketing for a non-profit?
Debbie Birch: It is a particularly challenging and exciting time in the third sector. With the introduction of GDPR and the ever-increasing pace of technological change, it is important to be able keep abreast with any developments and figure out ways to exploit the opportunities and minimise risks that come with all these changes.