Digital can let supporters be part of the donation journey for charities working in a climate of eroding trust
It’s been a difficult decade for charity fundraising, with charity leaders ready to move on from the seemingly never-ending negative media coverage: the Kids Company affair, controversy over fundraising during the Grenfell tragedy and last year’s revelations of sexual abuse and safeguarding scandals at international aids charities.
CAF’s 2019 report on the charity landscape urges that charities’ ’first and foremost challenge’ is still the need to recover the trust of their supporter base, with 59% of charity leaders saying that they have been badly impacted by the scandals of the last few years, and that the value of their organisation’s work is not understood by the public.
The 2018 ’Trust in Charities’ report from the Charity Commission found that the number one most important factor in deciding whether people trust charities is transparency about where their money goes, and during this time of economic uncertainty people expect complete assurance that their hard-earned money is being well spent.
But while the charity sector’s system of self-regulation and accountability has never been under more scrutiny, they have never had more tools at their disposal to build supporter relationships and communicate more openly.
According to Blackbaud, Millennials donated £2.7bn to charities this year, making them the largest donor cohort in the country. Other research by the Charity Commission shows that Millennials value trust above all else, and their relationship with charities is embedded in their online experience
"Young people give generously,‚Äù Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, told the Guardian, but: "they are more likely to make basic checks before giving to their chosen charity than people from their parents’ generation."
They’re most likely to scrutinise social media before giving - Blackbaud found that 39% of Millennials and Gen Z find information on charities through social media, compared to just 9% of their Baby Boomer parents.
Charities focusing their efforts on this digital native generation need to remember the power of social media to show impact and demonstrate outcomes.
Charities’ greatest assets are the stories they have to tell, and from video on a shoestring to virtual reality, there have never been more means and ways of getting their message across. Charity digital expert Superhighways has a great eBook that explains some of the tools and approaches that charities can take to telling the authentic stories of their impact online.
When it comes to transparency and accountability, data can be a double-edged sword.
The use of data in online storytelling can help add weight to campaigns and bring impact to life online.
But in the era of GDPR, charities must ensure they’re being transparent with the data that they handle on supporters and service users.
The Institute of Fundraising’s guidance defines accountability as being responsible for, and able to explain, clarify and justify actions and decisions. As we see increasing new opportunities for machine learning to optimise and personalise the online donor experience, those decisions are harder to justify when being made automatically by an algorithm, as CAF’s Rhodri Davies explains
However, one way in which algorithms are likely to benefit charities’ transparency efforts is through blockchain: a breakthrough type of ledger system for transactions. The key benefit of blockchain is that it is completely tamper-proof and all transactions are publicly visible.
While still in its early days, we’re starting to see the emergence of blockchain donation platforms like AidChain that let donors track their gift every step along its journey - a level of transparency that could put donor’s minds at ease as the technology becomes more widespread and familiar.