The challenges for charities in a post-GDPR age are many. In fact, back in September, a survey from nfpSynergy in conjunction with Third Sector magazine found that, for 53 percent of respondents, complying with the new data protection rules had seen their email database shrink. Postal databases were also been affected, with 37 percent of respondents saying theirs had shrunk.
But many charities are rising to these challenges and using tech in innovative ways. In 2018, Save the Children teamed up with Visa to create contactless donation Christmas jumpers. The jumpers were worn by the charity’s face-to-face fundraisers at London tube stations on Christmas Jumper Day. Givers could just tap their card on the jumper to donate £2.
Elsewhere, at Christmas in 2018, the Samaritans offered electronic listening vouchers (promoted on social media with the hashtag #GiveTheGift) as Christmas presents in an effort to get people to encourage loved ones to open up about their problems and raise money in the process.
Feline welfare charity Cats Protection turned to Facebook when it needed to promote its weekly lottery campaign. The charity’s research showed that there are 5m cat-loving Facebook users in the UK, 1.5m of whom regularly give to charity. By 2020 82 percent of consumer internet traffic is expected to be composed of internet video. Cats Protection’s primary objective was testing social channels such as Facebook to recruit new regular givers. By December 2017 it had increased its year one media ROI by more than five times its target and reduced its cost per player to an average of just £33.
The campaign won the charity the IOF (Institute of Fundraising) Insight Award for Best Use of Data in Digital Fundraising. Says Emily Casson, the charity’s digital marketing manager, “We’ve also been working on our supporter emails – no small feat with over 250 branches and GDPR implications, programmatic advertising and SEO, and other digital opportunities. Over the past year digital has transformed our fundraising and digital fundraising is now a substantial income stream for the charity, which has enabled us to support even more cats. It is an area we’re working to build and innovate and further develop next year.”
“There are many digital innovations and startups popping up, but as charities are non-profit they tend to be the last to benefit from the latest tech advances,” says Varun Bhanot, co-founder of non-profit technology startup, Unhoused.org, an ambitious organisation which uses innovative tech solutions to help the homeless. Unhoused is the first Amazon.com for homeless supplies, where where people can order their own clothing from an online store, but for every one bought, one is donated to the homeless. Unhoused then takes a photo of the donation happening and feeds it back online to the customer to show full transparency.
There is a slew of technologies available on the market. But are charities making the most of this? Research from digital agency Reason Digital finds that, though smartphone users are the biggest source of traffic to charity websites, the vast majority navigate away from sites after viewing just one page.
Digital marketing entrepreneur Howard Lake says that Crisis’s Reserve a Place for Christmas campaign is worth a mention as an example of best practice, “The focus on a set and unusual sum – £28.18 – breeds an assumption that it relates to a specific cost. Plus, by contrast, the focus on impact rather cost of a donation. Donors are invited not to increase their donation to a set sum, but to consider how many individuals they will benefit.” However, says Lake, “it is pitched courteously, avoiding putting it into those stark terms: ‘Will you help someone take their first step out of homelessness today?’”
Fundraisers have a lot on their plate mastering current digital trends but, says Lake, there are innovations on the horizon: “While voice search might well not reach the much-trumpeted ’50 percent of all search by 2020′ claim, its growth still represents a challenging opportunity for charities and fundraisers,” he says, “Look around you and see how many homes this Christmas add another voice assistant like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. These prove a challenge for charities in terms of SEO. On screen, Google shows 10 results for a search. With voice, you get one spoken answer. Being second or third on searches for valuable keywords now becomes not good enough.”
Charities certainly need to move towards more digitally advanced solutions which better reflect how donors now interact online, says Bhanot, “People generally have ‘donation fatigue’, nowadays where they need a more compelling reason now to donate constantly, with so many causes asking for attention. By harnessing more modern, digital models they can keep people engaged, while making the whole donation process more transparent too.”