As charities begin to emerge from the pandemic, what changes should they be carrying forward?
Nobody could have foreseen the ways in which COVID-19 has changed the way we work. Charities have shifted towards digital at pace, showing incredible resilience, togetherness, and innovation to reach out to supporters remotely and continue helping local communities.
Now, as workplaces start to open again, many charities are planning for the future of operations. Here is a chance to evaluate the tech and processes that have been introduced over the last few months and to build a blueprint for the rest of the year and beyond.
The abrupt switch from physical to digital has made a profound impact on the charitable sector. Charities have demonstrated tremendous capacity for recovery and resilience by launching new virtual events and digital fundraising efforts. The NHS Charities Together initiative has raised over £100 million through COVID-19 appeals in the midst of lockdown - a demonstration of just how powerful the combination of social media and digital fundraising efforts can be.
Virtual events have shown the creative and innovate side of charity fundraising. Some of the most innovative approaches we’ve seen includes efforts from:
By integrating virtual events into their fundraising strategies, charities have proven how powerful digital events can be. Charity digital leaders can lean on these experiences and move forward to create new, engaging digital fundraising and virtual events.
Charities large and small have used technology to reach out. Videoconferencing and digital tools have been used to enhance service delivery. Wednesday’s Child, a charity providing mental health help for those suffering from eating disorders, has been using Zoom for online counselling. The charity re-jigged its crafting sessions and shifted to online delivery, offering specialist support for families
“With our physical groups not possible, we’ll host weekly by Zoom, giving people a week’s notice about what craft we’ll be doing to ensure that the materials we’re going to use are things people have at home already.”
- Debbie Watson – Founder, Wednesday’s Child
Other charities have been using video conferencing to deliver services. Using Microsoft Teams, Scunthorpe and District Mind, a charity supporting those with mental illness, was able to connect with groups in remote areas in need of mental health support. Lockdown has not only increased digital uptake of tools, but also, enhanced the ability to deliver much needed services.
When lockdown forced charity shops to close, charities looked for other ways to sell merchandise. British Heart Foundation operates one of the most successful online eBay shops. Ahead of the curve, the online shop was launched in 2006 and has generated over £165,000 in sales per annum. In 2013, the charity went all in – BHF invested in a distribution warehouse in Leeds to support the success of the online shop. Sales rose rapidly. In 2014, the charity raked in £1.5 million with sales growing nearly 25% per year.
“We always try to innovate. We have embraced eBay in the last five years and our dedicated centre in Leeds, where 90 people work, generated £6m (in 2019) in sales this year. We sold a Boer War medal for £3,000 recently. eBay is a brilliant way of getting the best value for high value items where shops would struggle.”
- Mike Taylor - Commercial Director, British Heart Foundation
E-commerce also opens up less traditional fundraising routes. Mobile shopping app Depop is ripe for charities looking to sell online. Depop connects buyers and sellers and extracts a commission for completed sales. The app offers charity digital leaders a way to connect with younger audiences while building an online retail presence.
For charities who haven’t yet adopted e-commerce as a means to raise more funding, eBay offers valuable advice. Charity Connect is eBay’s free 6-month training programme to get charity digital leaders up to speed on online retailing. The course shows participants how to boost online sales and is open to both charities new to and already on eBay.
Remote and flexible working used to be be seen as little more than a perk in the charitable sector. But flexible working policies can be used to attract and encourage desirable candidates, and have helped persuade professionals with family obligations to enter the workforce. COVID-19 and lockdown measures have shown the tools which enable and facilitate remote working on a grander scale.
The power of solutions like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have changed both how charities engage with audiences and internal communications. Charity operations have quickly digitised through project management tools such as Trello, Monday, Asana – this means that managers no longer need to manage in person. For many organisations, the importance of the office has diminished. With a second ‘wave’ of coronavirus expected on the horizon, there is anticipation that remote working is here to stay.