As digital technologies advance, donors are changing the way they interact and engage with organisations. In 2018, the total amount given to charity by individuals was £10.1bn (CAF UK Giving 2019), similar to levels seen in 2017. Although the average donation size is up, the number of people giving to charity is falling. This drop coincides with the decline of traditional fundraising methods, demonstrating the need for charities to remain relevant with new and existing audiences.
Disrupting traditional fundraising methods
Our everyday lives are increasingly moving online and the ways in which people donate to charities are evolving at the same time. In a recent survey of people who work in the UK charity sector conducted for The Future Charity report, 55 per cent said they think disruption to traditional fundraising methods will be the biggest challenge to the sector between now and 2030 (Kivo, massive, Manifesto, The Future Charity report).
Younger generations continue to drive the digital revolution and charities are adapting how they communicate. For example, many organisations are developing their presence on social media platforms to expand their reach. The Nonprofit Digital Marketer Survey found that 91 per cent of non-for-profit organisations think social media is the best digital marketing channel, with most respondents favouring Facebook. Numerous successful fundraising campaigns have been conducted through Facebook, including 2014’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge raised US$115m for the ALS Association and increased the charity’s capacity to invest in pioneering research.
In addition, Workplace by Facebook is an online collaboration tool that enables charities to increase awareness around the world. For instance, WWF used the tool to broadcast its annual conference live to all global stakeholders. The service also enabled Save the Children volunteers to highlight the refugee crisis through real-time video streaming from boats in the Mediterranean back to their headquarters. The service is free and available on the Facebook website, making it easily accessible for the social media company’s 2.38 billion monthly users.
Moving to mobile
In an increasingly cashless society, charities are turning to apps to encourage donations and raise awareness. For example, Give as you Live enables shoppers to raise money for charities when they make purchases at more than 4,300 retailers. Meanwhile, the Border Collie Trust in Staffordshire may have to relocate its kennels to make way for the HS2 high-speed rail link. However, through the app and other digital services supplied by Give as you Live, it was able to raise money to cover some of the costs.
Another app is Thinking of You which is an app that aims to make donating more personal and flexible. Supported by the Charities Aid Foundation and used by organisations such as Shelter and Make-A-Wish, the app offers people a range of ways to give. Users can let someone know they’re thinking of them and add an optional donation, donate directly to a charity or organise fundraising events.
Apps are not only a popular way to increase donations but can also directly support important research. For instance, GameChanger, a project led by the University of Oxford and supported by the Alzheimer’s Society. By downloading the associated app and playing free brain games for five minutes every day for a month, participants will help researchers as they look into the causes of dementia.
Charities are also adopting more innovative methods to attract increasingly connected audiences. Artificial intelligence is a key area that presents a range of opportunities for the not-for-profit sector. For example, organisations such as Breast Cancer Care and the British Heart Foundation are now able to accept donations through Amazon Alexa. By developing this capability, charities are tapping into the growing trend of voice-activated devices. More than 100 million devices equipped with Alexa have been sold since the technology was introduced in 2014 (Kivo, massive, Manifesto, The Future Charity report).
The rising use of cryptocurrencies also presents interesting opportunities for charities. Cudo is a technology that turns unused or wasted computer power into cryptocurrency and aims to revolutionise the act of giving. It has so far been adopted by The Children’s Air Ambulance and War Child, and founder Matt Hawkins is aiming to raise US$1bn for charity within the next five years. He believes cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies could eliminate the hassle of donating through methods such as direct debits, as well as alleviate security concerns.
Advances in technology offer a broad range of opportunities for charities, but they also present many challenges. Younger generations tend to be less motivated by brand loyalty, and instead opt to give to a wider range of causes instantly through a variety of digital channels.
While larger charities have more resources to embrace new technologies, small and medium-sized charities could struggle due to underinvestment and lagging digital capabilities. According to The Future Charity report, most survey respondents (54 per ceng) did not think their employers were investing enough in technology. Despite the challenges, many were optimistic about the potential benefits of new technologies – 75 per cent believed changes in technology would affect their organisation in a positive way.
Andrew Pitt is head of charities at Rathbone Investment Management
This content has been supplied by a commercial partner. Rathbone Investment Management is the overall partner for the Charity Awards.