Which Charities are Getting Creative with Technology?

By Carmen James

24 Jul 17

We explore how technology is impacting the fundraising world, and how charities are keeping up with trends

According to Blackbaud's Charitable Giving Report, in 2016 7.2% of all individual charity donations in the UK were made online. This may seem like a low percentage, and indeed online giving is only part of the wider picture, but it's actually the growth in online giving that has sparked interest following Blackbaud's analysis. Online donations seem to be growing in popularity, with a 7.9% increase on the previous year alone! As may be expected, the number of donations being made via mobile devices is also increasing year on year. As consumers, we are constantly adopting and subscribing to new tech and smart apps, and for charities tech developments are certainly opening up new opportunities. Many third sector organisations are getting creative to stay ahead...

Oxfam are using digital technology not only to drive donations, but also to establish better relationships with their donors. Oxfam now use Work Mobile's data capture system at UK festivals, which has put an end to paper registration forms for interested members of the public. Their new campaigns use mobile devices and tablets to sign up new donors and make new connections, and by taking creative photos with passers by, a richer and more interactive experience is provided. Participants receive the personalised photos to their phones by MMS, and can easily share them on social media and increase awareness of the campaign. When compared to a simple donor sign-up form, we can see how much more engaging the process can be.

Perhaps even more vital in terms of building trust with donors is assuring them about exactly where their money is going to go. Oxfam's new 'My Oxfam' app gives updates from around the world about current aid projects. The app also includes stories from all corners of the world about the impact of Oxfam's work on a small scale. The special mapping feature enables donors to see the exact date and locations of donated humanitarian items. One pin on the map reads: 2x solar panels 1m x 1.5 m dispatched from Juba, South Sudan. We think this is a great way of making the donation process far more personal and accessible.

More tech innovation can be seen in the UN's World Food Programme. At the end of 2015, the programme released a simple mobile app by the name of Share the Meal. In order to reach a greater number of potential donors, the app allows individuals to simply tap on their phone and make instant 0.50 micropayments to feed a child for a day. As it stands, almost 13 million meals have been shared using the app.

The importance of embracing technology in the third sector cannot be understated. Grant Morgan, chief executive of Louis Kennedy - a corporate social responsibility and cause-based marketing consultancy - recently said: "We have a disenfranchised millennium community, not brought up on giving but on technology, so we need to find ways to engage and encourage them to give using the devices they understand." Indeed cultures are changing, and charities are having to keep with the times. Many charities are already adopting contactless donation boxes to keep up with our increasingly cash-less society.

Smaller organisations, which too play a huge role in the charity sector, have consistently faced a number of challenges when it comes to keeping up with the fast-paced digital world. These can be as simple as a lack of funding for tech knowledge and resources, to unwillingness to change from traditional methods of fundraising.

But it isn't just the small charities who are slow to react, very few of the larger organisations are doing much beyond creating websites and pushing their social media presence to encourage younger individuals to donate. The vast majority of bigger charities still generate most of their funds through more conventional fundraising activities, for instance mass sponsorship events such as marathons and sporting activities. Not to say these are out of date, but there are certainly oppertunities for charities to be more innovative by using new technologies and creative ideas.

Following controversy over large fundraising websites taking hefty fees from public donations to fund their running costs, it is imperative perhaps now more than ever for people to be educated about the catches and caveats, but also the advantages associated with online fundraising and donations.

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