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More than shaking an online tin

More than shaking an online tin

‘More than shaking an online tin; How can we take technology-enabled giving to a new level?’ is a new report out this week by for Spring.

Spring is a Big Society Network initiative set up to realise the potential of technology to enable people to make smarter choices in giving their time and money.

The report details the views of a range of giving experts and provides a good overview of the sector’s current use of technology.

There are many barriers for charities developing giving through the use of technology, and while there is a wealth of opportunities to better utilise both current and emerging technologies, this will not be a quick win, it will require investment and a fundamental shift in our approach to communicating with our audiences.

For many charities use of technology currently means just having a website, sending emails and accepting online transactions. For many, lack of an adequate Broadband connection is a fundamental barrier to any web based development. Take-up of technology by the charity sector is painfully slow, cited as three years behind the High Street. Donors are moving much faster than charities in their use of technology and charities already have a tough job on their hands in order to catch up.

There are a lot of digital giving mechanisms in the marketplace, and many providers offering similar services. Developers and entrepreneurs are working to engage charities with their ideas, but are often unable to access the right people in charities to help them develop products for the charity marketplace. There is also a lack of common language or understanding between charities and developers, which is another barrier to the development of great fundraising ideas.

Sharing information

Charities are currently not sharing what is working or what providers they are working with. This lack of transparency makes decision making more difficult.

It’s not just a lack of information sharing externally, it’s internally too. ‘Integration’ and in particular ‘integration of online and offline activity’ have become new mantras. On its most basic level, it is ensuring that key messages in your mailings are reflected in your website and vice versa. In order to do this teams need to work together. The report in particular refers to the Holy Trinity of IT fundraising and finance as key areas. So effective use of technology for many charities also requires a shift in working culture.

I was surprised to learn that less than 20% of charities have a digital fundraising strategy, which may explain how some organsiaions have built platforms, but without enough resource to build networks and create the critical mass that they need for success. Too many organisations are taking the approach of ‘Build it and they will come’ No they won’t.

And then there is risk. The majority of charities are culturally risk adverse. Lack of proven technology in a new market, unproved ROI, at a time when the market is hard, combined with the risk adverse culture does not provide a fertile environment for new technological development. The irony is that the economic situation right now means that it is, in fact, all the more urgent to develop new ways to engage new and current audiences and develop strong donor relationships.

Success can be about going back to basics

The report includes examples of where technology is working, but often it is not because of some groundbreaking technological platform that will change the world as we know it. Successes have involved going back to basic fundraising principles, using the technology that we already have to build relationships and inspire people to take action.

The most successful fundraising on the internet today is through peer to peer asks. People ask their friends to give. This provides huge opportunities for charities, but demands a cultural shift in the way we communicate; from charities broadcasting messages within ‘normal working hours’, to trusting and equipping their supporters to do it for them 24/7. Another big shift is that today we are always connected. How charities keep connected to their supporters 24/7 is another challenge.

Interviewees did agree that smart phones were an area for charities to focus on. The reality is that soon most people will have technology in their pocket. There are already examples of payment by mobile with the Barclays Pingit app and near field communication (NFC), in which a mobile held close to source of information receives data, was seen as another idea with potential.

The report concludes that charities must learn to become more proficient at using current tools and work together to share risk, investment, success and failure. To be successful charities must develop a greater understanding of consumer habits and develop products, services and communications to meet their needs.

However, it’s important to remember in all the excitement, that fundraising is essentially about developing strong long-term relationships. We must remember to apply this basic principle to any new technology we develop.

So get involved share some of your experiences with the team at Spring. It’s our job to shape all these possibilities. You can download the report here:

www.spring-giving.org.uk/research/

Lucy Gower has been a fundraiser for over 10 years. She has worked as a lone fundraiser for small organisations as well as a part of specialist teams at bigger organisations including the NSPCC. She is passionate about innovation and how it can transform organisational and individual performance, and make a difference to the causes that you fundraise for. Lucy is now a freelance trainer and consultant specialising in helping individuals and organisations think more creatively to get better results. Lucy is an active blogger on fundraising and innovation and regularly speaks at conferences both in the UK and overseas. You can follow Lucy on Twitter @lucyinnovation or contact her at lucy@lucyinnovation.co.uk.

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