Mobile tech innovations amid the COVID-19 pandemic are set to continue long-term for charities, from managing staff and volunteers to raising money and tackling digital exclusion
COVID-19 has seen a ramping up in the use of mobile technology by charities as they look for increasingly innovative and accessible ways to engage with supporters, staff, beneficiaries and the wider public.
But even when the health crisis eases, it seems unimaginable that society will return to normal. Charities increasing use of mobile technology during the pandemic looks set to continue for many years to come.
Here we will examine the key mobile technology changes amid the health crisis and why these changes signal long-term change for the voluntary sector.
We will also consider useful tools and resources for the sector to help them continue to be smart with their use of mobile.
When looking at latest figures around mobile phone use it is obvious why charities are looking to be more innovative with mobilisation. These figures show that as of 2019, 79% of UK adults own a smartphone and on average spend two hours, 34 minutes online via their mobile devices.
A key change for the sector amid COVID-19 has been more home working, as charity staffers and volunteers adhere to social distancing. This comes amid an existing trend to promote blended and flexible working options for busy staff, particularly parents meeting childcare commitments.
Workflow and collaboration management tools that can be accessed by mobile devices are central to homeworking. This includes the OnBoard virtual board management software from Passageways, which provides board materials and resources to mobile phones. It also allows e-signatures so charity leaders can make decisions remotely. This software is also integrated with Zoom, to allow video conferencing.
Other tools, already popular in the sector and set to grow in use even when the pandemic eases, include Slack and Asana. Slack for example has apps for both iOS and Android with intuitive mobile friendly functions using swipe actions.
But mobilisation in the workplace is not without risk and charities have needed to support staff with the cyber security tools to use mobile technology safely.
Among useful tools include Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android, which can be purchased via the Charity Digital Exchange. Protection for mobile devices from Bitdefender includes security scans and a ‘privacy advisor’ function to check apps are safe to use and uninstall those which might be threats. It also has mobile web security to look out for malware, phishing or other forms of fraud. Theft protection and smart watch linking is also available.
Mobile has been key to the pivoting of in person fundraising events into virtual fundraisers during the pandemic. This is set to be taken forward into the future as charities look to help supporters raise money wherever they are and in their own time.
This year’s London Marathon is a key example of how mobile has altered mass participation fundraising events.
The October 2020 event was only open to elite runners with fundraising competitors instead asked to raise money nearer to their home via an app.
Once downloaded fundraisers were able to track their own local 26.2 mile marathon distance. The app also allowed donors the chance to track runners taking part. Organisers Virgin Money Giving announced just after the event more than £16m had been raised via the platform from supporters.
The pivoting of services online amid the pandemic includes a considerable ramping up of “support over the phone” according to a Charity Bank report released this month into the impact of the pandemic on the charity sector.
“Our Fitness and Wellbeing Programme hasn’t been ale to continue in its usual format because of venue closures” adding “however, we have started a brand new out of hours phone support service. This has been very well used”.
- Richinda Taylor, Chief Executive of EVA Women’s Aid
Charities have also looked to ensure their online support and communications is mobile friendly due to the increased use of digital among beneficiaries and supporters. Last month voluntary organisation The Family Haven, which offers support to vulnerable families in Gloucester, announced it had been handed funding from the Vinci UK Foundation to develop a mobile friendly website “to improve ease of access to information” for families.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world forever and it is more important than ever to maintain online connectivity. The Family Haven is planning to use the funding to create a new website, which will be more accessible for the people who need our help.”
- Liesel Schwarz – Fundraiser, Family Haven
In addition, mobilisation is changing volunteering, with charity digital leaders already mobilising volunteers to action via mobile phones and tablets.
Among those to already do this is Age-UK. It uses mobile devices to mobilise volunteers and increase digital inclusion. This is through its Call in Time telephone friendship service, which matches volunteers to older people affected by loneliness. In addition to this, the charity’s One Digital programme teaches the elderly how to use their mobile phones and other devices to further reduce digital exclusion.