The immediacy of digital can help charities reach their fundraising targets and get vital help to people when it’s needed, as these fast-thinking charities have shown.
Disasters and climate emergencies present a uniquely constrained fundraising environment for charities. When an unforeseen catastrophe happens, non-profit organisations working either as disaster relief or in the affected communities have a very short window of time to the raise money needed, and to communicate the urgency and need of the situation to donors.
That’s where ingenuity and being creative with digital can really make a difference. Charities working in other areas can learn a few things from the ability of disaster response organisations to make compelling fundraising campaigns that are immediate and impactful, and get funds to people as quickly as possible through new, innovative payment methods.
Social media fundraising
There’s some evidence that, thanks to climate change, weather is becoming more extreme in the UK, with frequent storms and heavy rainfall becoming the norm. So there’s a likelihood that many more charities working in local communities will have to help people affected by storms and flooding.
When RNLI’s lifeboat was caught in extremely choppy waters while rescuing someone at sea during storm Ciara this February, a bystander captured dramatic footage of the boat capsizing while in action. The video really brought home the savagery of the storm and the crew’s bravery and skill, with all involved returning safely to shore.
The great thing about social media is that it allows charities to respond to a situation as it’s happening, and RNLI responded quickly by creating a Facebook post with the video including a Facebook Donate button so that people could donate directly from the page. As a result, the charity raised over £26,845 towards storm rescue efforts, from a single post.
“We think it’s down to a combination of extraordinary footage (such an incident is very rare – none of our current design of all-weather boat have capsized and this is the first knockdown on a Shannon – and it happened to be caught on camera) and timeliness, as we were able to get the post out over the weekend when Storm Ciara was trending and people were spending more time on social media because of the bad weather.”
The effects of 2015’s magnitude 8.1 earthquake that struck Nepal are still being felt five years on, with work still happening to repair and rebuild the worst-hit areas. The quake shook communities into disarray, flattening over 600,000 homes, killing nearly 9,000 people, and driving many more into extreme poverty.
For fundraisers, there was a desperate need in the immediate aftermath to communicate the severity of the situation. But to people living thousands of miles away, figures and statistics alone don’t always convey a sense of the devastation on a human scale.
Los Angeles based news firm RYOT decided to go to Nepal with a 360-degree camera, resulting in a virtual reality film that gave people an immersive experience of life on the ground. Watching the video, you can see the rubble and wreckage stretch in every direction as ordinary people work to pick through for belongings or to attempt clean up and rescue.
"By pioneering new ways to convey the very real messages of urgency and need, we can reinforce donor response and encourage a new demographic of donors and advocates to engage," said David Darg, RYOT’s director and co-founder, who sent the proceeds from the film directly to charity.
Five years on, and the cost and skill barrier for creating 360-degree film has dropped dramatically. It’s easy for anyone to capture this kind of film and a number of charities have used it to great effect in their own fundraising, including Oxfam and WaterAid, who have returned to the site of the Nepal earthquake to create their own VR films showing the ongoing need for help and funds. The films can be viewed in a VR headset or just a standard 2D video player.
In 2018, Charity:Water showed that VR can be a powerful way of helping people connect emotionally with others across distance and culture, through its VR video The Source. People gave over $2.4 million at its debut gala night just based on their experience of seeing life through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl in Ethiopia and her struggle to keep up with her family’s water needs.
Digital payment methods
Once they’ve succeeded in their fundraising campaigns, digital payment partnerships can help charities to streamline much-needed funds directly where they’re needed. We’ve recently seen how the Storm Dennis Flood Appeal has helped channel nearly £30,000 to flood victims in need thanks to one-off pre-paid payment cards.
Provided by e-money firm all, these cards are loaded with a set amount that families living in flood-affected Hertfordshire can quickly access and use for their basic necessities such as temporary accommodation.
Banking app Revolut is helping donors give funds to Australian bushfire relief efforts, thanks to convenient and fast in-app donation.
And we’ve also seen Revolut help UK charity Save the Children raise funds towards cyclone-hit schools in Mozambique. The app teamed up with the charity to match every £1 donated, up to a total of £80,000.