‘Donor behaviour has changed and it won't change back,’ says JustGiving boss

12 May 2017 News

Charles Wells, chief marketing officer, JustGiving

Donor behaviour has changed in response to new technology and if charities don't adapt they risk being left behind, JustGiving's chief marketing officer told an audience of charity technology workers today. 

Charles Wells, chief marketing officer at JustGiving, told delegates at the at the Institute of Fundraising Technology Special Interest Group’s annual conference this morning that technology using artificial intelligence is "disrupting giving and the charity sector".  

He said charities which do not adapt "risk being left behind" but said that there is an "amazing opportunity for charities who want to embrace it". 

Technologies using AI can process and analyse data much quicker than previous methods, which Wells said gives "any organisation in any sector a competitive advantage" and that charities could use it to understand donors better and create "better giving experiences for donors". 

JustGiving uses AI in its products to match up donors with other causes that they might be interested in.  

'Regulation is never going to keep up with innovation'

Wells also urged charities to go beyond the legal minimums when managing data.

He said that given the pace of change "regulation is never going to keep up with innovation" and that it was up to charities to build in ethical considerations as they start new things.

“My challenge to you is build the ethical principles into your project that the law will always defend", he said. “Respect the rights of individuals, never forget that their data is loaned to you, never yours, treat them as a person not a data point.”

He also said charities should not fear incoming GDPR rules as unlike the commercial sector charities are able to ask for people's data to do good work. 

"You have a value exchange for data that others don't," he said. 

Behaviour change

Wells said that donor behaviour shifted in 2015 and that charities need to adapt their approach. 

"Once behaviour changes it doesn't change back," he said. 

This can be seen in how young people engage with the sector, he said. 

"Young people care as much, if not more, than some older people," he said. But they prefer to support individuals and give spontaneously when prompted by something on Facebook or the news, "when they feel that moment of caring" and not because someone has stopped them in the street to fill out a direct debit form. 

"They want to have an impact in that moment," he said, and it needs to be "as easy as possible". 

He also said that younger people wanted to be able to share stories and feel rewarded for their support. 

"It is not because they are young," he said, and it is "not something they will grow out of". But it is because "they have passed the tipping point" in how their behaviour has changed, and are unlikely to ever want to start filling out long direct debit forms.  

Crowdfunding is an opportunity

Wells said that he expects crowdfunding will become increasingly popular with donors, especially younger ones and that he expects it to become bigger in terms of total amount of money raised than any single charity by 2019.

He advised charities to use crowdfunding techniques and produce socially shareable content with the potential to go viral and engage younger people.

Wells said that crowdfunding stories are “specific and powerful” and “tell the story of a person in need”.

So far this year crowdfunding stories have been shared more than 1.2 million times, with people four times more likely to share a crowdfunding story than a donation to a charity.

He said JustGiving Campaigns, which enables charities to tell individual stories, is the fundraising platform's fastest growing product.


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