For over three decades, Red Nose Day and Sport Relief have been a mainstay of Comic Relief’s fundraising events. The poverty alleviation charity has looked inside and out for ways to transform, reach audiences, and make the most out of funding.
Going behind the scenes with Comic Relief’s Product Lead Caroline Rennie, we uncovered some key tips to charity digital fundraising. Taking lessons from our Digital Fundraising Day webinar, we build on some of her suggestions on how charities can think smarter about tech and innovation.
“On the culture side, we are trying to embed slightly more agile culture, in which we can make, test and learn. Trying to do that throughout the organisations and not just within Digital (team). How can we embed making, something, testing it quickly with users, and iterating it with our filming team. We’re trying to introduce that new culture,”
- Caroline Rennie, Product Lead
IT system robustness is a core element within the digital team’s ethos as well. For Caroline, that means ensuring that regardless of the digital fundraising strategy, the charity’s website and donor infrastructure can handle volume and traffic.
Agile processes and thinking have moved outside of IT teams, and into entire organisations. For Comic Relief, this concept of embeddedness focuses on team interactions.
Agile ways of working and thinking about IT development has had a wide, and deep impact on how charity digital leaders manage and make decisions. Agile is not the same as being flexible – for tech leaders, agile is a way of team organisation and quick iterations of software development that allows for early deployment. Agile software development focuses on when the minimum viable product can be launched and then refined.
A question facing many charity digital leaders is when to build proprietary software and when to procure. From a budgeting perspective, the question is really around how much the software costs to build from a resourcing side, as opposed to the on-going licensing cost. Key questions for charity digital leaders when thinking of digital investment include:
Sharing experiences with the charitable sector, Ms Rennie underscores Comic Relief’s journey. The charity had initially invested its own fundraising platform, with a view to taking full ownership of the platform itself and donation data. At the same time, industry-leading platforms were already available and known to the digital tech team.
“Are we able to capture, is the data quality from our own platform that much more valuable than what we’ll get from what the end-users think of as the default choice? If the description of our own product is ‘it’s our own version of JustGiving’ something’s gone wrong,”
- Caroline Rennie on the decision to move onto JustGiving
JustGiving, now the leader in crowdfunding and digital fundraising had already surpassed the charity’s in-house platform. While difficult, the team accepted the sunk costs of investment, retired the platform, and moved onto a better functioning product.
While charity digital transformation might seem straight forward, decisions on software aren’t in reality. Comic Relief’s learnings can be leveraged across charities large and small:
Before making a commitment, bear in mind that many software providers offer trials, online tutorials, sample works, and other benefits which can sway decisions.
Much more than support teams, digital teams can help drive data decision making. Collecting data and drawing conclusions can help charity digital leaders make choices on where to spend – on advertising, social media, marketing and communications – data helps support that choice.
Charity digital leader Ms. Rennie describes Comic Relief’s diverse range of digital fundraising platform use. She offers some advice on how to narrow down which platforms to focus on for those with smaller budgets:
“From a data ingestion point of view, we wish there were fewer (platforms). To be honest, I think, getting within a market share, and really honing in and optimising your largest possible area is probably a better use of time rather than having your fingers in too many pots…When you have your conversion point when you get the money, simplify that.”
In other words, digital leaders should focus on where digital fundraising efforts have converted into donations, hone in, and specialise.