Sprint Hacks: the innovative peer learning session by CAN Invest


Sprint Hack Can Invest

The Funding Plus programme delivered by CAN Invest, in partnership with the L&Q Foundation, is focused on supporting the capacity of the social sector.

It offers free capacity building support to strengthen organisations' ability to deliver community projects, whilst effectively navigating the challenges they and their beneficiaries are facing.  

The programme will operate over a 2-year period, with 20 social SMEs benefitting from 12 months of support (across 2 cohorts).  

The first cohort began in October 2018 and has already benefitted from significant 1:1 advisory on individual issues, tailored tools and templates to support their operations, and various dynamic peer learning sessions. 

The peer learning schedule of events is a mix of expert-led business workshops and CAN’s innovative ‘Sprint Hacks’.   

The Sprint Hacks are sessions based around a specific theme, facilitated for organisations to source solutions to particular issues that they are having, whilst encouraging peer learning and collaboration.  

January’s session was focused on Digital Marketing and Communication and the struggle that often small organisations live because of a lack of time, skills and resources. This session was also supported by CAN’s Marketing Team, who were able to offer supplementary ideas to those generated amongst the cohort.  

The team observed, that although there is a great variety of organisations on the programme, there were some common learning points which are important considerations for all social SMEs.  


Below are our top 5 issues and solutions for navigating digital marketing and communications:    


1)  Get to know your target audience   

Common problem:   

Organisations often spread their contents in a standardised way towards all their audiences, with little regard on the message they are delivering and the aim of the message itself.  

Our suggested solution:   

  1. Establish your specific target audience, for example: funders, service commissioners, partners, or beneficiaries.  
  2. Customise the content you want to deliver by considering the characteristics of your target audience. Different kind of contents can be more effective for different kind of audiences.  
  3. Be sure to communicate what is different about your organisation, i.e.your point of uniqueness compared to an organisation delivering something similar.  


If an organisation is proposing a new service for the community, it has to consider what the audience wants to know about the project.

A service commissioner could be interested in the social impact of the service on the community as a whole. The community residents could be interested in the potential benefits of the new programme to them as individuals. The SMEs should then consider where the different audiences would read the content: local newspapers, social media, leaflets, etc. 


Here is an example of how to target audiences. 


2)  Develop a Marketing Plan  

Common problem:   

Marketing activities are completed only when there is time to do it, without a calendar, maybe missing opportunities. 

Our suggested solution:   

Developing a marketing plan is useful to establish which kind of activity you have to deliver, towards who and when during the year.    

An effective plan will:  

  • Set up an annual budget that you can use for your different marketing activities;
  • Define the goals you want to reach (and how you will measure them – see point 5 below); 
  • Set out the marketing channels you intend to use, which are suitable to your target audience and the key messages you want to deliver. 


You can find different online resources to help you create it, as well as workshops. 


3)  Keep GDPR in mind   

Common problem:   

SMEs can find it difficult to understand how to be compliant with the new privacy law and still reach supporters and funders.  

Our suggested solution:   

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulates privacy and data collection for all organisations and websites. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a set of EU-wide data protection rules that have been brought into UK law as the Data Protection Act 2018.  

Every organisation in every sector that processes personal data, like email addresses, dates of births and so on, need to be compliant with GDPR.  

If you have a list of supporters or customers you want to keep in touch with, you have to be GDPR compliant.  


Be sure you read carefully this guide from Fundraising Regulator.

4)  Choose the right Social platform    

Common problem:   

Most SMEs decide to use multiple social media platform to communicate with their audiences, duplicating contents and spending a lot of effort to gain their attention, often with indifferent results.  

Our suggested solution:   

There are plenty of social media and platforms through which you can try to reach a wider audience or your base of supporters. But not every platform is the right one for you and your target audience. We recommend that in many cases less is more, especially if you are stretched for time! 

Establish which platforms are most likely to be used by those you are targeting and focus your time on those. 


If your goal is to reach a wider community within a specific area, digital advertising on Google Ads or Facebook could be the right tool to use, also with very little budget. If your aim is to spread awareness around a topic that is relevant for young people, probably Instagram Stories can do the job for you, instead.   

Once you choose the right platform, consider a digital tool like Hootsuite to plan and schedule content, so that you’ll have the time to do “real job” while the contents go online.   


5)    Establish goals and review your efforts    

Common problem:   

Organisations tend to direct all marketing efforts into generating and directing contents, without reviewing the effectiveness and results of these activities.  

Our suggested solution:   

As discussed in point 2 above, setting up a yearly Marketing Plan is really important, and allows organisations to strategically outline their goals. 

However, it is important to also set out how you will measure such goals. This is done by setting up KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for each of your key objectives.  

Remember, the purpose of KPIs is to provide answers to meaningful questions! Tracking your activities against a KPI will enable you to assess what worked and what didn't.  

Some interesting KPIs you could consider are: 

  • New contacts (leads);
  • New supporters;
  • The number of expressions of interest completed through the website
  • Reach of a campaign in terms of people involved;
  • The number of people engaged in a new project.

After setting up your KPIs, you could invest more time in those marketing channels and activities that were particularly effective.   


One of CAN's KPIs is the number of new contacts (leads) collected per year and per campaign. We measure it through tools like Google Analytics and Salesforce.  


Here some other example on KPIs that SMEs and charities can set and why they are so important. 


If you want to read more about this topic, we suggest these resources:   

- Know your target audience 

- Digital Trends for Charities in 2019 

- Content Planning for charities 

- 19 tips on how to reach your target audience

Category: Invest