The bond between charities and their supporters has been strengthened online amid lockdown and continuing COVID-19 health fears
Since the world locked down earlier this year due to COVID-19 there has been a growing sense of isolation, particularly among hard to reach groups already at risk of loneliness.
At the height of the UK lockdown, from March to May, many people with underlying health conditions were forced to stay at home completely. Interaction with anyone was difficult or impossible. Many are still alone.
For those living alone, the weekly Thursday night doorstep applause, for NHS workers during the pandemic, was their only human interaction. For others, it was a trip to the supermarket, where they cherished a rare, simple conversation.
This atmosphere of isolation has forced charities to rethink how they fundraise and be creative in how they foster lasting relationships with their supporters.
In particular, they have pivoted much of their fundraising online, through social media, websites and email, to ensure they can connect to their supporters and empathise with their sense of loneliness.
Here we will consider the impact of isolation on fundraising, the relationship between charities and their donors and how charities have successfully used digital to engage and interact with their supporters.
The voluntary sector is a lifeline to the most vulnerable in society, including those already blighted by loneliness. COVID-19 has meant that even more people are forced to spend their days alone.
But while face-to-face contact has been curtailed, charities can offer comfort through engaging, stay-at-home online fundraising events and campaigns.
These events can recreate a sense of community and belonging, which people have been missing out on.
Among charities to excel at understanding feelings of isolation to be closer to their supporters has been Guide Dogs. In April it successfully pivoted its annual in-person tea party fundraiser online by encouraging supporters to post selfies of themselves with a cup of tea. Many posted pictures of their pets too and celebrities, such as Martin Clunes, also took part.
Granted, it was not the same as a natter with friends at a community centre. But it was certainly the next best thing. Thousands took part, and the 4,021 unique photos of participants set a Guinness World Record for the world’s biggest virtual tea party.
The event proved to be so popular among supporters in isolation that another similar virtual event, to mark National Biscuit Day, was staged a month later.
“As many face the challenge of self-isolating at home, it’s never been more important to come together online and support one another,” says a spokesperson for Guide Dogs.
Last month Charity Digital hosted a podcast, featuring Davinia Batley, Director of Fundraising and Engagement at children in care charity Become and Suzy Edington, Account Manager at Just Giving. Here they considered some of the ways charities are adapting and thriving in building relationships with donors amid isolation.
This revealed a growth in consumer-led fundraising during COVID-19 lockdown. Charity supporters and donors are more likely than before to connect with good causes by setting up their own fundraising campaign or event online, the podcast panel found.
Solo running and daily exercise has been a particularly popular way for supporters to raise money online amid isolation.
Another area of growth has been in memory fundraising social media pages and websites. These have been increasingly set up as issues or mortality and bereavement become more prevalent amid the pandemic.
Among charities to offer supporters a way of fundraising in memory of a loved one is WWF UK, which launched an online tribute fund website earlier this year. This encourages donors to share tribute pages and fundraising updates on social media to further promote their fundraising.
Gaming has been another growth area for online fundraising during isolation. Such events have given supporters the chance to watch live streaming of gaming events as well as for gamers themselves the chance to raise money as the stars of such streams.
Comic Relief was particularly innovative in May when it staged a Dungeons and Dragons live stream, featuring comedians including Nish Kumar and using the fundraising platform Tiltify. This asked for a £1 minimum donation and raised a total of £33,000.
To those of you who joined us for #comicreliefplaysDnD - THANK YOU. Over £23k raised and still counting, and with a generous further donation of £10k from @Wizards_DnD - what a fantastic evening it turned out to be! if you missed it, catch up here: t.co/69I1blxkSw— Comic Relief (@comicrelief)
To those of you who joined us for #comicreliefplaysDnD - THANK YOU. Over £23k raised and still counting, and with a generous further donation of £10k from @Wizards_DnD - what a fantastic evening it turned out to be! if you missed it, catch up here: https://t.co/69I1blxkSw— Comic Relief (@comicrelief) May 8, 2020
Charities and their supporters have clearly shared a bond amid COVID-19 lockdown due to isolation. This bond is set to become even stronger as charities and donors continue to embrace innovative online fundraising in the coming years.