Tight operating margins, fierce fundraising competition and ever-expanding service demands mean that technology is crucial for helping third sector organisations survive and thrive.
Yet according to a recent report from experts Tech Trust, although 53 per cent of charities fundraise online, 58 per cent don’t have a defined digital strategy.
But with the UK Government launching a £30 million tech fund and several groups bucking the trend, it’s worth celebrating those at the digital vanguard.
The internet has democratised fundraising opportunities for charities of all sizes and scope — National Philanthropic Society statistics show that in 2017, online giving increased by 18.5 per cent and 21 per cent of online donations were made on mobile phones.
In terms of fundraising platforms, JustGiving has the biggest market share, with 22 million users and almost 26,000 charities supported globally.
But smaller platforms like the BT-backed MyDonate and Wonderful are worth consideration for third sector startups — supporter communities aren’t as large, but less cash is lost through transaction fees.
Tools and training
The non-profit sphere isn’t immune from the digital skills gap, but it’s making a sterling effort to plug it.
For instance, the Charity Excellence Framework has launched a free online toolkit consisting of a suite of accessible questionnaires that enable organisations to calculate financial resources, improve impact and boost performance across operational areas.
And through pooling resources, the Charity Learning Consortium makes eLearning solutions more affordable for non-profits and plugs members into a lively network with opportunities for information sharing and collaboration.
Used wisely, digital marketing allows charities to connect with customers in exciting and cost-effective ways.
One of the most ingenious recent campaigns was A Moment of Dyslexia for the British Dyslexia Association by ad agency Leo Burnett.
Digital display screens in public areas used facial recognition technology to measure attention time as passers-by stopped to read a message — which was then scrambled in a realistic representation of what it’s like to suffer from the condition.
But simple campaigns can be just as effective. For the past few years, youth charity St Basil’s has encouraged local businesses to donate their home pages on World Homeless Day — a full-screen takeover ad allows visitors to click through and donate or continue to the site.
Other charities are grasping the opportunities offered by alternative tech innovations to attract new audiences, empower beneficiaries and hone processes.
The Big Issue magazine heralded a new era of interactivity and interconnectedness in January 2019 by publishing an AR (Augmented Reality) special edition — with exclusive audio and video content unlocked through a partner app.
And if you love plugging into a good podcast, it’s easy to find timely transmissions by organisations like Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the Mental Health Foundation.
Finally, the Charities Aid Foundation think tank is turning its collective little grey cells to the benefits of blockchain and cryptocurrencies — which could range from radical transparency of donations to ‘smart contracts’ that govern philanthropy, and more agile and accurate monitoring and regulation.
As you can see, the appliance of digital tech to the charity sector is deep and diverse — watch this space for increasingly clever and creative developments.
A Charity and Social Enterprise Management Cert HE could be your passport to a career that changes lives for the better
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