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20 May 16

Digital Fundraising Is The Future

Digital fundraising was the hot topic at last night’s monthly Future of Fundraising Meetup, hosted by our Director Rory White and SolarAid‘s Chief Fundraiser Richard Turner. There were some fresh and engaging conversations about the direction that fundraising is going and how charities are responding to digital change in the sector, and we came away with some great ideas about how they can adapt to the constantly evolving funding environment in which they operate.

Embrace the change

A digital strategy shouldn’t be something in and of itself for a charity; a fundraising strategy and organisational strategy should combine digital elements to keep up with generational shifts. It’s important that the people who are responsible for the digital work aren’t seen as separate entity who are on the fringe of the organisation, but instead they should be supporting the incorporation of digital into every role.

Accessibility is key

The charity sector should be making digital accessibility a priority for their disabled audiences. The more inclusive their digital communications are, the wider their reach and the higher their engagement will be. It’s a win-win scenario, so nobody should be dragging their feet in making these kind of improvements.

Who is your audience?

A lot of conversations about transitioning into digital fundraising are based on an assumption that the next generation of donors, or ‘millennials’, are obsessed with digital – always on their phones, constantly connected to an online sphere of selfies and self-indulgence. But focusing on this audience closes you off a lot of ideas about how you can improve digital services for other age groups as well. The audience for digital fundraising needs to be properly defined and strategised for.

That being said, the millennial market cannot be ignored, and charities should always be on the lookout for innovative platforms for giving. Donative‘s Laurie Ainley was at the Meetup last night, and his online giving service is a youth-focused platform (currently in beta) where people can make donations to the charities of their choice while also having access to a personalised feed of stories that show the impact that their donations are making.

Consider your social strategy

There seems to be an overwhelming idea across all sectors (not just the third sector) that just because social media exists, you need to be on it, and when you’re on it, you have to talk about yourself. This idea doesn’t take into account the concept of value creation. What value is your social media audience getting out of your content? Basically, who cares? A good social strategy doesn’t focus on content creation, but instead content sharing. Think about the value of sharing stories and how you can engage with your audience on an emotional level. With charities, your audience is either donors or potential donors, so think about how your social media gives value to their lives so that they’re able to engage with your cause.

Invest in learning and development

Some at the Meetup expressed concerns that there was simply not enough engagement in the charity sector towards improving their digital presence. There is an expectation that the creation of digital roles will attract candidates who not only understand the fundamentals of digital communication and social media, but have a sound knowledge in direct marketing and fundraising in the charity sector as well. From a recruitment perspective, this attitude is entirely unrealistic. The charity sector’s resistance to invest in meaningful digital upskilling combined with a reluctance to recruit from the private sector is resulting in a skills gap that could easily be closed by supporting digital teams with valuable learning and development training.

Everybody calm down

At the end of the day, digital fundraising isn’t a new concept. Willow Foundation’s Digital Manager Teri Doubtfire made a quick speech (among the general hubbub of a Farringdon bar on a Thursday night) about how digital opportunities have always been available, but until recently they’ve been out of sight, out of mind for many of the charity sector’s top level managers. The fact that they don’t quite understand these opportunities creates a feeling of panic towards digital transformation in charities. But the lower level millennial employees who are digital natives use this communication as second nature. As long as they’re provided with a constructive environment that enables them to grow and flourish in their charity careers, the sector can make an organic digital transition.

Join the Fundraising Meetup group for more information about our next event and how you can engage with the future of fundraising.