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WHY CHARITIES CANNOT AFFORD TO IGNORE DIGITALISATION

13/03/2019

James Armstrong, NFP specialist at managed service provider, Timico

 

Throughout the year, many of us donate to charities and causes that are close to our hearts, but the methods of doing so are now evolving. Gone are the days of dusty collection buckets and rattling a tin at passers-by.

 

With online donations accounting for £2.4 billion from the UK annually, the way in which we interact with charities has changed. Now, these organisations must embrace digital transformation to keep pace with the times.

If they ignore the way that people want to – and can – make their donations, charities risk losing that money completely.

 

Cards not cash

Less people are carrying cash in their pockets – according to research, 20 per cent of UK adults now never have it on them. This means that the notion of contributing via buckets or stalls has become old-fashioned. We’re not as dependent on physical money as we were in the past, and therefore we don’t carry loose cash that we can easily offload into a tin we are passing.

 

The government, in its call for evidence on cash and digital payments in the new economy, has predicted that by 2026,cash payments will account for just 21 per cent of all financial transactions – whilst UK debit cards transactions have now overtaken cash for the first time. In 2017, consumers used debit cards 13.2bn times, while the number of cash payments fell 15%.

 

In order to keep the donations coming in, charities will need to respond with technology that accommodates contactless – or miss out on vital contributions.

 

The Church of England is one such example. It takes around £580m a year in donations, and began looking at cashless payment due to the declining numbers of people carrying cash. It has now introduced contactless payment terminals in more than 16,000 churches, cathedrals and other religious sites. This means that churchgoers will no longer have to fumble in their pockets and purses for loose change or notes – and the donations should keep rolling in.

 

Tapping in to personal causes

The internet has given rise to personal fundraising. Online sites such as JustGiving make it easy for personal campaigns to be shared and brought to attention, raising money for Cancer Research and other worthy charities. Over 22 million people now use the site to support charity and personal causes – which could otherwise go unheard of.

 

People are more likely to give money to causes they have an emotional connection with, and particularly to those involving friends, family and acquaintances. We call this the ‘digitalisation of knocking on your neighbour’s front door’. Charities need to reach out and support members of the community that are raising money for them and give incentives for others to do so.

 

Other sites like Everyclick enable donations to be made to charities across the country. They are particularly key for encouraging regular donations from people who choose to support a range of charities, rather than give to the same organisation every month.

 

The power of social

Trends like #GivingTuesday have inspired a generation of volunteers and donors. By staying relevant on social media, people are more likely to donate. If charities are not optimising social media, they are missing a vital trick.

 

Social is particularly crucial when it comes to making trends go viral and spreading mass awareness. The Ice Bucket Challenge – launched in 2014 – came from nowhere but grabbed attention across the globe. Inspiring people to dump buckets of freezing cold ice and water on their heads is no mean feat, but more than 17 million people participated in the challenge worldwide due to the social media attention it received.

 

That figure included scores of celebrities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Anna Wintour, Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. These all helped raise widespread awareness of the ALS Association – whose work was largely unheard of before the phenomenon – and encouraged a combined donation figure of a staggering $115 million. This led to the organisation being able to fully fund a number of research projects, which has since led to medical breakthroughs.

 

Encouraging monthly donations

By utilising digital methods, including newsletter updates and online marketing campaigns, charities can help encourage regular monthly payments. These efforts are usually more effective if donors can see where their money is going. More often than not, charity donations are helped by tugging on some heart strings – with animal charities like Battersea using emotive pictures of cats and dogs to open wallets – so regular email updates of progress pictures can help keep people donating to a worthy cause. They enable people to see exactly what difference their contribution is making and encouraging them to keep giving.

 

For time-strapped people who don’t want to stop in the street and fill out paper donation forms, e-donations can also help charities encourage regular supporters – and keep them donating month after month by direct debit. These organisations can also save time – and resources – by minimising the physical presence of charity workers on the high street, and not having to process reams and reams of complicated forms.

 

As it always has been, charities must continue to tell their story and inspire people in order to keep receiving vital public support. But to spread awareness, and keep the money rolling in, charities must continue to innovate and invest in digital transformation to tap in to how we, as a society, want to and can donate.

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