With the country in lockdown because of coronavirus, charities are being pushed to the limits to provide services and raise funds, while managing a remote workforce. What tech tools can you use to help your fundraising teams keep generating income?
Taking fundraising digital
Facebook and Instagram live streams, and Twitch live streaming, can be great ways to take an event virtual. They allow not only the broadcast of video but also people to like and comment as the stream progresses, giving a social aspect to the event. Some platforms also support the ability to add a link or a donate button, allowing you to direct attention to a fundraising ask as the event progresses.
Being open and honest in your communications about the financial challenges facing the organisation due to the coronavirus restrictions – be it reduced income, increased demand or both – is key. Online donors often respond best to a sense of urgency and injustice, and this situation has both in spades – don’t be afraid to let that come across.
Tools such as Facebook fundraising pages and posts can be a good way to encourage donations and social sharing of a fundraising ask around your event or campaign (but not in an actual live stream). Better yet, if you can empower people to set up their own fundraising pages for you, these will convert better among their friends than if they just share your fundraising page or share the fact they have donated.
Maintaining team spirit
Not only do you have to keep your supporters engaged but also you will need to keep your team motivated. Having a single online hub for people to gather together digitally helps keep everyone up to speed with office culture and replaces those all important water cooler moments. It also helps people keep each other up to date about their work progress and priorities.
Persistent group chats are the best because they store a searchable history so people who have been off work can still catch up on what’s been going on or can search for a piece of information shared weeks ago.
Slack is an online collaborative workspace where teams can use private and semi-private channels to work together to send messages, share documents, make voice or video calls and make use of extra functionality through plug-ins. It has a range of free or heavily discounted options for charities regardless of their size through the Slack for Charities programme. The standard package is available free of charge for charities with fewer than 250 employees.
Facebook Workplace is used by charities including Comic Relief, the RNIB and Unicef and is free or discounted for eligible charities.
Having a staff chat group on WhatsApp or a mass SMS list of employees can help get information across quickly. WhatsApp is free and easy to set up. You can invite people by using their phone number or emailing them all a link or QR code. Doing it via a link or code also allows them to decide if they would like to be contacted in this way.
Let people know that joining a WhatsApp group shares their phone number, name and profile image with everyone else in the group.
Slack and Microsoft Teams both allow you to make video calls, which makes it easy to meet face to face when everyone is working from home or is in social isolation.
If you can’t use these, there are other third-party services. Whereby (formerly appear.in) offers a free tier for a single user to host a meeting of up to four participants, then increases to $9.99 (£8.50) per month for a pro package for more meeting rooms and larger meetings.
With the Zoom platform, only the host needs an account to set up meetings and invite participants. Discounted licences are available for individual users or for groups from the Charity Tech Trust.
People may already be familiar with tools such as Skype and may prefer to meet that way. However, Skype can incur calling fees and is better for one-to-one meetings than video conferencing. The business version, Skype for Business, will be retired from next year in favour of Microsoft Teams.
Naturally text, emails and the good old-fashioned phone call can do a lot here. However, tech can facilitate one-on-one video interactions that can help keep the rapport going with your supporters. Skype and WhatsApp FaceTime functions are useful and easy but only for Apple users.
Keep in mind safeguarding issues, if that’s relevant. You can lessen these by using a service such as Whereby that allows people to join a virtual conference call by clicking a link.
Remote project management
A simple Google Sheet can help you keep track of tasks and progress, individually or in a group environment. There are plenty of free or inexpensive personal productivity tools, too. More advanced online tools, such as Trello, Microsoft Planner and Asana, let you manage more complex group tasks. Microsoft Planner is included in some versions of Office 365, while Asana offers a 50% discount for non-profits.
Using the agile project management trick of having a 10-minute daily meeting (or video call) where everyone in your team is looking at the to-do list can help you see how everyone is doing. It also builds in some social interaction at the start of the day.
There are more complex enterprise-level project management tools such as Basecamp and Microsoft Project. Basecamp Free offers basic functionality for small teams and projects, while Basecamp Business replaces the need to use several other collaboration tools and it offers discounts for non-profits. Microsoft Project is available as a cloud-based or desktop apps for a discounted price through the Charity Tech Trust.
If you prefer to collaborate visually, tools such as Miro, Microsoft Whiteboard and Google Drawing can provide a virtual whiteboard to place and move around items on a digital canvas that multiple people can contribute to.
Kit for home working
Of course, not all work is meetings and calls – sometimes you have to get down to business and actually write a report or pull a spreadsheet together. For that you are going to need a few things in place.
Obviously, working remotely is easier on mobile devices, so consider running an audit to discover whether the people in your team already have the hardware they need and what their technical capabilities are. Consider getting in touch with contacts at local businesses to find out whether they recycle older or secondhand technology such as laptops and whether they would consider donating them.
Relaxing restrictive policies around using personal devices could help people work remotely, such as allowing employees to connect their work email accounts to their personal smartphones or computers.
However, the appetite for loosening such restrictions is likely to be variable, particularly in larger charities. You may need to check whether you are using any third-party services that are restricted to your office location. If so, you may need your IT provider to set up a virtual private network so your employees or volunteers are appearing on the internet as if they were working from the office.
Microsoft Office 365 and Google’s G Suite are useful for online collaboration outside the office. G Suite is available free as part of the wider Google for Nonprofits programme, which also offers free access to additional fundraising tools for YouTube and Google Ad Grants for digital campaigning.
In a time of social isolation, organisations that find a way to keep their supporters and staff connected will be valued most. Tech is one of the few practical things that can do just that. It’s fast and it’s cheap or free, and can help you keep your fundraising team together, communicating and working.
Coronavirus is certainly disruptive and will have effects long after the peak of infections has passed, but we can use this time to experiment with new ways of working that will have a positive, long-term impact. It is far from ideal, but if we play it right, the legacy of this can also be that you have a more resilient and agile fundraising team thanks to technology.
Matt Haworth is the co-founder of Reason Digital @acrim