Whilst their services are more in-demand than ever, charities are faced with an increasing number of fundraising challenges. AWS’ working backwards methodology can help charities to overcome these challenges by focusing on the needs of their supporters
This article is sponsored by Amazon Web Services (AWS), a provider of reliable, scalable and flexible cloud computing services.
Over the past few months, digital leadership has emerged as one of the key themes of discussion within the UK charity sector - as non-profits find ways to mitigate the fundraising shortfall caused by COVID-19.
With a complete freeze on the in-person fundraising events that many organisations have historically relied on, charities are re-thinking their engagement and delivery models in order to operate virtually.
The transition from in-person to virtual fundraising has been the difference between the success or failure for charities hit by COVID’s disruptive influence on traditional donor engagement models. Innovation has led the way, as charities explore new methods of mobilising supporters.
Finding ways to diversify income demands a greater focus on the donor. For some organisations, the siren call of flashy new tech and bespoke platforms can be too appealing to resist. But without a thorough understanding of your donors, and the channels they prefer to use, these projects will most likely be destined to fail. One of the key components of successful digital fundraising campaigns is a user-centric approach.
Through the use of data and digital experiences, charities can build profiles (or ‘personas’) of their supporters. The more detailed your understanding of who your donors are and what they want, the more effective your personas will be.
The idea is to arrive at a bespoke digital fundraising strategy. Just as there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ method for rolling out digital fundraising, there is no out of the box solution for planning either. Adopting a process that works backwards from your supporters helps you better understand their needs. This will allow you to build solutions that are geared towards the fundraising challenges your organisation actually faces.
In this article, we examine the “working backwards” process and explore how charities are successfully adapting to digital fundraising design models in order to make better use of their data assets and sustain their missions.
The concept is a simple one. In a charity environment, all key decisions will be driven by a simple question: what will give us the best opportunity to deliver on our mission?
For organisations that deal directly with service users, beneficiaries or stakeholders, this will mean that any decisions around operations should be made with the aim of delivering services as efficiently as possible.
Some key questions to consider might be:
The process of working backwards begins by identifying the needs and wants of service users and supporters. Any decisions around tools, services and solutions should be made by identifying the challenges your users face, and assessing whether the new technology or process will help to overcome these challenges.
Many charities will have had the process of digitising operations thrust upon them by the COVID-19 pandemic. These organisations will still be at a relatively early stage of their digital journey.
Now that the foundations have been laid, these charities must begin planning for the optimisation stage of their digital evolution. Placing users at the heart of this design will offer organisations the best possible chance of success.
This experience has been easier for some organisations than others. For example, charities working with service users at a higher risk of digital exclusion – such as elderly or homeless people – have been under greater pressure to come up with technology-led workarounds to delivery challenges.
Some leading charities have been pioneering the use of the AWS working backwards philosophy.
Comic Relief is best known for its highly popular big night of TV events, which raise millions of pounds for good causes. But those big nights of TV come with some pretty big challenges.
Hosting a live, annual, six-hour night of TV is a mammoth undertaking. While the content creation side of things might attract the celebrity heavy-hitters, the fundraising infrastructure needs to pack just as much punch.
In order to generate as many donations as possible from their viewers, Comic Relief needed a fundraising experience that was simple, unobtrusive and didn’t detract from people enjoying the show.
The team at Comic Relief began by exploring new ways of creating the very best giving experience that they could create.
In 2015, the hosting technology that supported the annual night of TV cost Comic Relief approximately $83,000. In 2020, that cost had fallen to less than $5,000.
Comic Relief achieved this by creating a donation solution that could scale and grow on demand. The solution worked so well that this year, Comic Relief was able to stand up the donation platform just 6 weeks later for a second night of TV, the ‘Big Night In’ appeal which was in collaboration with BBC Children In Need to support the in support of those directly impacted by and working in support of the COVID-19 response.
We recognise that few charities will be undertaking fundraising initiatives on the scale of Comic Relief. But their work gives a great example of the working backwards methodology that charities of all shapes and sizes can benefit from.
By identifying the needs of their supporters, and putting these at the heart of their fundraising activities, Comic Relief were able to fine-tune an already effective formula for fundraising success.
Much of Comic Relief’s success over the years has stemmed from their tried-and-tested approach. This approach is quite simple in theory. The creation of engaging content helps to get their message across. This motivates people to donate. Once potential supporters have been engaged, they need to be presented with as simple a donation journey as possible. The more obstacles to donation there are, the fewer people will donate.
So Comic Relief’s need was two-fold. They needed a solution that could both handle a high volume of traffic and scale quickly and easily to allow them to meet the fundraising challenges of the future.
As cloud-based donation technology becomes more advanced, charities like Comic Relief will be able to create easier and more engaging donor journeys. But the solution hosting these donations must be able to cope with heavy demand. A server crash or drop in connection will create a barrier to donation that will cause many potential supporters to lose interest in donation.
There are a wide range of technological solutions available to charities. All of these are designed to help them meet the challenges of the future. Using the working backwards methodology can help charities to find the right solutions for their needs, just as it did for Comic Relief.
Working backwards is just one part of a wider change. In this era of ‘the new normal’, charities must be able to adapt quickly. By putting your users at the centre of both your carefully-planned operations and your more experimental quick fixes, you can ensure your organisation is ideally placed to navigate this time of great change.
Whether you are working to improve the performance of donor-facing websites, derive deeper insights from data via analytics, improve and personalise communications with donors and services users, or accelerate critical new research through machine learning, building on AWS Cloud makes these goals faster and easier to achieve.
Fundraising, engagement and delivery have all been impacted by a necessity to do things differently. AWS has a dedicated team in the UK that is helping charities to create innovation-led cultures and digital operating models. By applying Amazon’s customer-centric culture to the needs of your organisation, AWS can help you work backwards from your service users to solve their problems and make important service improvements.
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