In the wake of COVID-19, charities have chartered new waters in digital fundraising, paving the way for recovery and future resilience
Fundraising has been turned upside down by people staying in and spending more time online. While many charities have faced a dramatic decline of in-person fundraising opportunities, hope is on the horizon as charity leaders use digital to replace cancelled events.
With a shift from in-person events to a virtual setting, charities have shown that digital fundraising can be successful. We examine how charities have improved their resilience and launched some of the most impactful digital fundraising events.
The past few months have underlined the popularity of online shopping. With stores opening once again, charity shops have had time to increase resilience and have pivoted to take advantage of tech. Gripping firmly onto the online shopping trend, charity shops are now using tech to increase fundraising recovery efforts.
British Heart Foundation has been busy implementing new digital fundraising. Taking note of the shift to online shopping, the charity shop has also diversified where its items are listed, taking advantage of new channels and audiences.
“BHF already has a big eBay operation where we sell high-value and unusual items, 50 of our stores list products on Gumtree and a lot of others use social media. It’s going to become increasingly important that our shops list and dispatch stuff directly online. There are a number of different channels like Depop and Instagram we’ll probably be using a lot more.”
Mike Taylor, Commercial Director at British Heart Foundation
For BHF, the first lockdown experience enhanced the charity’s ability to digitally fundraise and shored up resilience for the future, which presumably prepared them well for the second lockdown and beyond.
Not missing a beat, charities have embraced digital streaming technology. While charities like Comic Relief have focused on online videogaming, Storyhouse in Chester has also played to its strength in entertainment.
Prior to the lockdown, Storyhouse, the charity managing the cultural centre, typically had around one million visitors per year. The huge number of physical visitors generated around £750,000, equivalent to the vast majority of its trading income.
As an organisation particularly vulnerable to lockdown, the charity has proved its resilience by launching its new campaign New Story Campaign. The digital fundraising campaign includes a £4 subscription to streaming services for UK theatres. The offering is unique in that theatre productions previously enjoyed on stage can be brought into the home.
“We are one of over 500 registered charities that run theatres. Two thirds of them expect to be out of business by Christmas. It’s easy to see why. – putting theatre on a stage right now is impossible. That’s not going to be our future – we are resilient, we’ll come back stronger.”
Digital fundraising partnerships have helped charities see themselves through tough times. Herts Domestic Abuse partnered with Energie Fitness Hatfield and Hatfield Town Council to stage an online two-day relay race.
The race took place on Zoom, with participants signing into the videoconferencing service to ‘collect’ the baton before exercising for their individual sessions. All three organisations pitched in to advertise on their web channels. In total, 32 people participated in the digital fundraising event raising over £1,000.
Charities have also benefited from off-shoots of iconic events. Aiming not only to lift spirits and to enjoy music, Glasthomebury was a loose affiliation of at-home festival goers. The website had downloadable posters, bunting, and stage print-outs for all Glasthomebury participants, encouraging people to watch old footage together and celebrate.
Participation in the event was free, but organisers asked participants to donate to Mind, NSPCC, NHS Charities Together, Trussell Trust, and Refuge. The event went was a huge success, raising over £10,000 for the the charities.
For charities, cancelled events can not only provide an opportunity to link up with council authorities, gyms, and the general public, but have proven to be a valuable way of using digital to fundraise.
Charity digital leaders have also had opportunities to take stock of new ideas. Rallying for causes, individual fundraisers and groups have shown their chosen charities how creative they can be. In Northern Ireland, three friends showed their support for their local Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm (PIPS) charity.
Staging a digital rock concert, the friends arranged for nine acts to be live-streamed over Facebook. The Rockdown for PIPS online, targeted raising £500, but managed to raise £7,350, a testament to what passionate supporters can do for charities.
A lesson for leaders, digital fundraising inventions have cropped up all over the country and charities should take notice of how successful some of these events have been. These events could easily be replicated by charities themselves.