Charities are using an array of creative methods and new technologies to highlight the work they do, boost funds and connect with service users.
Digital communications offer charities almost endless possibilities for innovative fundraising, service delivery, marketing and awareness raising. Here are five of the most interesting examples we’ve seen this year of popular charities in the UK making the most of digital communications.
Since the launch of Alexa Donations in 2017, Amazon has made it easy to give to a range of charities such as British Heart Foundation and Breast Cancer Care with a simple voice command. But the potential for digital assistants such as Amazon’s Echo devices goes beyond making donations. Rather than concentrating on fundraising, WaterAid is exploiting the fact that there are now well over 100 million Echo devices around the world by creating WaterAid Voices, an Alexa skill which is designed to educate children and adults and raise awareness in the charity’s work in Madagascar. By taking users on a sound journey to the Madagascan village of Tsarafangitra, using six interactive voice messages, it aims to deepen their understanding of the impact of the charity’s initiatives.
Shock tactics and stark imagery can be a highly effective way of raising awareness in a chosen issue, and the Children’s Society pulled no punches with a mock online store marketing stab-proof vests for children aged 11 to 18. "Wear it in or out of school to stop all but the most determined blades!" the web site proclaims. The reality was somewhat different. The purpose of the digital store was to encouraged donations to help the charity support young people, and by "buying" a child-sized stab vest visitors made a donation while gaining an insight into the charity’s activities and the harsh reality that many young people face in Britain today.
Greenpeace understands that many potential supporters would prefer to engage with the charity through digital communications such as instant messaging communications than by phone or through more "traditional" doorstep charity fundraising techniques. So now when someone clicks on a Facebook advert they can go straight to one of its team of six instant messaging fundraisers who each have four or five interactions on the go at any one time. The digital fundraisers may chat for anything from five minutes to two weeks (intermittently) to potential donors, sharing useful information, sending links to web pages, marketing the charity, and ultimately encouraging donations. The strategy seems to be working: at the beginning of the year, Greenpeace had around 25 regular donors each week. This has now grown to 40-50 as the charity has improved its targeting and digital fundraisers have learnt how to improve their instant messaging conversations.
Video game streaming on a digital streaming platform such as Twitch can generate huge amounts of money: in total Twitch streams raised over£80 million for charities last year.It can also raise significant amounts in a very short space of time, as trans and gender-nonconforming children’s charity Mermaid discovered in January of this year Harry Brewis, a celebrity in the streaming world who goes by the moniker H. Bomberguy, streamed himself attempting to complete Nintendo’s Donkey Kong game live, and used the event as an opportunity to raise funds for Mermaids, helped by celebrity endorsements on social media. During the marathon weekend stream he raised over £275,000 for the charity (as well as successfully completing the game).
People are happier to make donations when they know that their generosity is doing real good, so animal rescue charity Battersea is offering a text alert service whenever a dog or cat is given a new home. The kicker is that each time a donor who has signed up to the scheme receives a text they also donate 25p to charity through their phone bill – up to a donor-selected weekly limit. "The rehoming alerts are an immediate way for people to see something tangible come from their donation," explains Jo Stone, the charity’s head of public fundraising. The amount of money donated via mobile phone texting has skyrocketed in the last year to almost £50m.