Online fundraising and donation – which service to use

If anyone had any doubts as to whether online fundraising platforms are positively supporting fundraising efforts, two key announcements this week must have blown them away.

Bmycharity announced that it had seen a 47% growth in online giving since this time last year coupled with an 8% increase in average donation value (from £36.17 to £38.90).  Whilst Justgiving announced that its average donation declined by 8% from £32 to £29.50, fundraisers for the London Marathon alone had raised more than £22 million using the site, which is incredible.  Collectively, these services are doing a great job in supporting the fundraising efforts of the ever adventurous and always generous British public.

But the launch of Virgin Money Giving in recent weeks and its official tie-in with the London Marathon from next year has potentially given Bmycharity and Justgiving charity clients another option to consider (aside from the fact that their website collapsed last week). 

Advertisement

So which should we choose?  Given that charities have to pay some form of nominal charge to register for these services and then a transaction-based fee to enable fundraisers to support them online, understanding the various pricing models is key to choosing the right service for any charity.  I tried to draw up a comparison table for inclusion with this article but after much crossing out and calculator work, I only managed to draw two conclusions instead:

  1. The best priced deal will depend on how many transactions the charity thinks will be generated, over what time period and how much support they will need from the provider.  The transaction fees differ across providers and, when coupled with the variable set-up charges, monthly contract options, volume discounts and additional service charges (such as debit card fees), it became clear that one size does not fit all. 
  2. All three (proven in Bmycharity and Justgiving’s case) can do the basics; collect donations, manage the gift aid calculations, provide basic reporting on campaign progress and enable fundraisers to create their own web pages to attract donors

Which is the cheapest basic service will be a maths exercise depending on each charity’s own circumstances.  There are of course other factors beyond the pricing model to consider as cost effectiveness and positive impact are not the same as ‘cheapest’.

As a communications specialist, anything which gives me the opportunity to provide a relevant, positive and timely platform to engage with fundraisers and potential supporters appeals very strongly.  Justgiving enables individual fundraisers to tell their stories on personalised pages and to incorporate a few paragraphs about the charity they support.  They also offer charities a static information page to explain a little about what they do.

Whilst there are thousands of charities registered (useful if you are looking for inspiration), I couldn’t find any which really used their few paragraphs to try and encourage people to support them more broadly.  Lots of information but not so much engagement.

Bmycharity positions itself slightly differently in that it claims to provide charity clients with the wherewithal to do just that.  On reviewing a few examples, I can see how some of their more thoughtful charity clients are using this extra service to good effect.  For example, breast cancer charity Walk the Walk uses its pages to encourage donations, inform visitors of future events, showcase videos of events, link to twitter communications and, overall, tries to create a sense of community for supporters by inviting them to ‘join in’ at various points.

Children’s medical research charity Sparks goes a step further and offers alternative fundraising ideas such as inviting visitors to use the charity service on ebay in support of the cause and giving its corporate partner promotional space – mutual benefit.

Still others seek to recruit volunteers and to take the opportunity to show what a difference people’s donations will actually make to the charity’s beneficiaries.

We don’t yet know what Virgin Money Giving’s offering will look like in the flesh but I doubt it will be long before charities start to use the service and we will have some real world examples to consider.

It’s not my place to make a recommendation as to which service charities should use but I have noted a couple of things when reviewing what’s on offer.  Firstly, charities do need to think about integrating their communications opportunities with fundraisers and use each platform at their disposal to the maximum effect.  This means using the tools available to grow support and blowing our own trumpets more broadly than simply offering fundraisers an online collection service. 

Lastly, I’m not even sure charities should be choosing a single provider.  Take the much (digitally) publicised case of Amanda Wilkie – @MandyPandy32 to her twitter friends.  Amanda has successfully networked across twitter to both raise the profile of Walk the Walk (her page on Bmycharity has attracted more than 22,000 visitors, generating significant positive awareness for the charity), and to overtly ask for sponsorship.  Amanda uses both Bmycharity and Justgiving to maximise her chances of raising donations.  Consequently, this means Walk the Walk needs a presence on both services to maximise the benefits.

Thoughts welcome as ever.