The last decade has seen a number of new and interesting innovations in technology and fundraising which have allowed Charities to break new ground and empower donors. As we enter a brave new era of donor-centricity it’s worth reflecting on a few of these improvements.
And perhaps getting a sense of what may come next.
1. Text to Donate
Text giving makes donating quick and easy removing a number of the procedural barriers involved. Facilitated by platforms such as JustGiving, 100% of donations + Gift Aid can go to charities. Donors here are in control – they can text when they want, quickly respond to appeals, receive reminders before any committed payments, choose to skip months or can cancel payments and subscriptions at anytime, all by text. Text donations are used by numerous charities such as British Red Cross, Save the Children and WWF for both emergency appeals and for longer-term giving.
2. Donor Portals
Donors can use these to manage all aspects of their respective charity accounts online. Not only can they update and receive payment information, they can amend amounts, add and remove commitments and are increasingly able to use these as platforms for communication between themselves, charities and even the beneficiaries of their payments. This helps all parties to build and maintain strong and long lasting relationships.
Charity: Water gives donors updates on their projects through its MyCharity: Water portal and also allows people to undertake additional fundraising and campaigning themselves through it. Oxfam‘s own portal allows users to keep track of their donations and store-purchases as well as manage some of its other donor offers such as gift & wedding lists.
3. Crowdfunding and peer to peer fundraising
Donors can support either individuals or select causes at their own discretion through sites such as JustGiving, Crowdfunder and Virgin Money Giving. They aren’t tied to any regular payments and can give whatever amount they like to whomever the like. They are in complete control, given total power and freedom when it comes to the destination and application of their donation.
Crowdfunding has the additional benefit of enhancing donor accountability. It gives donors greater choice and control when it comes to who they support and where their money goes but also, due to the nature of these platforms, keeps them informed as to how the fundraising is going and more often than not, provides them with proof of a tangible outcome at the end.
4. Social Media Integration.
2.3bil people worldwide use social media. Much like the text model, using these platforms to facilitate online payments enable quick and easy donations but also makes use of the captive and engaged audience charities have on social media. Facebook’s Donate Button and #DONATE/#PAY on Twitter can be used at the donor’s leisure but can collaterally engage their social media networks through sharing. The #DONATE/#PAY platform for example requires a retweet as part of the payment confirmation process which therefore spreads additional awareness throughout its donor’s followers.
Both work across desktop and mobile platforms to suit donor preferences and, although their use is currently limited to their initial charity partners and early adopters, they will no doubt become increasingly utilised as donors become more comfortable with the concept.
5. Charity/Donation Apps
In a world of smartphones, the majority of people, and therefore donors, are constantly connected and have access to apps that are easy and intuitive to use. In the context of fundraising, not only can these facilitate online payments but they can also take advantage of smartphone capabilities and functions to better involve and engage donors.
Charity Miles uses the motion sensor and location features to track how far donors walk/run and then donates accordingly to their chosen charity through Apple Pay, PayPal etc. These particular donations are directly linked to the user’s physical activity. The World Food Programme’s Share the Meal app allows users to make small donations and uses GPS to show donors where the meal they’ve donated goes to. Users can get live and up to date information about their donations.
6. Mass Participation Events
Donors get actively involved in fundraising and spreading awareness for causes with mass participation events. They can choose what to do, what to support and encourage others to join them in their efforts. Due to their scale, these events often achieve lots of coverage and attention for the actions taking place and their corresponding charities. They provide fundraisers with a focus and can encourage a collective sense of well being among donors, harnessing their strength in numbers whilst letting them choose their individual levels of engagement.
Started in 2003 in Australia, Movember has grown into an annual worldwide event, a month of global awareness and fundraising. Initially focused on prostate cancer, it now works across a spectrum of various other forms of cancer and achieves a great deal of national and international coverage and recognition.
Much like commercial micro-transactions, these collect small donations in high volumes with donors able to opt in and out of participation as it best suits them.
The Pennies Foundation and Change Round-Up act as a ‘digital coin box’, allowing customers to round up their card payments and donate the hypothetical change to charity. Similarly, ChangeIt and ChangeGiving are apps that round up card transactions and donate the difference to charity. WaterAid’s Hope Lockers see users of gyms and swimming pools pay for the use of these lockers as normal but, instead of taking their £1 back, can choose to donate it to charity instead.
8. Contactless Donations
Contactless cards and mobile payment technology allows people to make small and fast donations in an increasingly cashless society. They don’t need to fill in any forms, sign up for anything or even speak to anyone – they can just tap and be done with it.
Cashless payments overtook notes and coins for the first time in 2015. Innovative contactless donation points used by Cancer Research UK, smart charity pots and even Blue Cross’ donation dogs already making use of this functionality which, like text and social giving, make donations as quick and easy as they can be.
9. Social Media Monitoring Tightens Targeting
Monitoring and analytics programmes such as Social Mention, Hootsuite, Keyhole and many others can provide consumer insight and spot trends in engagement and interaction. Charities, big and small, such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Oceana are using this information to better tailor their donor experience. It enables them to run targeted, cohesive and cost effective campaigns across various platforms, engaging with donors and providing them with the information that interests them and the transparency they require, allowing donors to make informed decisions about their giving.
10. Blockchain via Bitcoin
Digital currency is not just a tool of payment, but potentially a whole new medium. As an online payment facility, the main benefits are ease of use, lack of transaction cost and immediacy of each transfer, but in particular with Bitcoin, how this applies on payments internationally.
RNLI are the first major charity in the UK to experiment with their pilot Bitcoin donation scheme. Furthermore, Charities Aid Foundation have expressed interest in the way ‘blockchain technology’, the ledger of all bitcoin transactions, could revolutionise transparency and donor accountability with its ability to track each donation as it goes through the charity and follow the course of each individual transaction through to completion of its goal.
It’s still very early doors for Bitcoin here but whether in the next decade or beyond, depending on how digital currencies integrate into everyday life, this could become a seriously valuable and viable option in the future. The charity implications of the underlying ‘blockchain’ distributed computing model are greater still. But that’s going to need a separate blog…
11. Campaigner-centric thinking
The final frontier of donor-centricity – for now – is to take the logic of donor-centricity and take it on into the world of advocacy.
To date, petition-hosting/activism-enabling organisations like Care2 and Change.org have run their business models largely on the basis that Charity ’cause-supporters’ could be engaged and then “upgraded” into establishing financial relationships with charities, through effective communications follow-through.
But there are tensions inside this 2-step donor conversion model, notably its reliance (but not dependence) on telemarketing, which places it under increasing stress and certainly robust public challenge.
The alternative approach is to focus the ‘clicktivist’ experience around the individual campaigners – leveraging their willingness to both give and promote. Supporters can then be invited to pay either to further their own personal campaigning ends, or to directly fund their charity – through an explicit, immediate financial ‘crowdfunding’-style ask.
This campaigner-centric thinking is arguably the most exciting frontier of giving today, with new entrants like Crowdpac – a system for allowing direct funding of (political) campaigning goals – led by visionary sector leaders like Steve Hilton and Change.org co-creator Paul Hilder. In the meantime, Change.org itself is adapting its model to follow this campaigner-centric logic. This all feels like a very positive step forward for donors…
Just one caveat remains in all of this activity. The embedded, but hard-to-quantify risk of more campaigner-centric models – and indeed of any true donor-centricity – is the potential for inbuilt economic bias.
Taken to its logical conclusion, the danger is that we redesign a system of social outcomes around the “democracy of the dollar” – in which money talks and then dictates the direction of social investment, rather than being led by social need.
Technology is never neutral. And financial technology even less so. True donor-centricity will be disruptive by its very nature. It moves power between donors, agents and beneficiaries. And that will have mixed consequences…
To try and sum up though… these are in fact extraordinarily exciting times for charities – with an ever-increasing array of new fundraising tools available to them. And the toolkit just keeps getting bigger.
Giving donors control over when, where, how and to whom they donate is increasingly important. It’s both necessary – and achievable.
Richness of of information, coupled with more cohesive networks and financial transparency empowers individual donors. This in turn, should improve engagement and help towards building meaningful and long-term relationships between individuals and their causes.
It’s a bold new world. Bring it on.