The current crisis has put many traditional methods of charity fundraising on hold. But it also represents an opportunity for charities to build a fundraising strategy for the future
On the 31st of March, news broke that the UK charity sector was ‘on the brink of collapse’ after forecasting a loss of over £4 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown.
That is certainly an alarming figure.
Where has it come from? Put simply, this figure represents the sum total of funds set to be lost by UK charities if in-person fundraising events and brick and mortar charity shops are not replaced with digital alternatives.
That is a big if.
This figure is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Charities that rely entirely upon in-person fundraising initiatives will not raise any funds during this crisis. That much is true. But it is equally true that there are still many opportunities to raise funds and go some way towards making up this shortfall. In fact, research suggests that 25% of donors plan to increase their charitable giving during this crisis; with a further 54% of those surveyed saying they plan to maintain current levels of donation.
There are a wide range of digital fundraising options available to charities. Such a wide range that the whole business of digital fundraising may appear daunting, or even overwhelming to the uninitiated. According to the 2019 Charity Digital Skills Report, 59% of charities surveyed rated their digital fundraising skills as ‘fair to low’. Fortunately, there are many avenues available for low tech maturity organisations that can be set up with relative ease.
Especially in a time of immense forced change, such as now, when the migration to digital has been sprung upon us all with very little notice, the temptation to fall into the trap of needing to do something big and innovative can lead many organisations to back themselves into a corner.
In reality, you can get started with a few small steps. A lot can be achieved by getting the basics right.
There are many different and convoluted definitions of what exactly digital fundraising is. In reality, it’s very simple: it means using digital methods to raise money. It’s as simple as that. Many different techniques, from social media campaigns and virtual events to online donation platforms all fall under the banner of digital fundraising.
All of your established understanding of fundraising is still applicable and can be repurposed for digital fundraising practices.
The current crisis has only served to underline something that was already apparent - that the future of online giving is digital. Even once lockdown restrictions are eased and lifted, and things begin to return to normal (whatever that looks like), donors will not abandon all of the new habits that they have learned.
And with digital fundraising making up an increasing year-on-year percentage of the total addressable market for UK charitable donations, particularly when it comes to making gains among a younger donor base, this pandemic represents an opportunity for charities to reassess their stance on digital fundraising. Because there is no putting this genie back in the bottle.
We are living in an age in which digital technology has revolutionised so many things. People now shop, sell and donate in radically different ways: ways that didn’t exist even a decade ago. We expect all of our transactions to be quick and easy - and this extends to our charitable giving.
Digital technology is already changing how many charities fundraise. Charity campaigns using digital are everywhere, from social media campaigns and digital fundraising initiatives to online shopping sites allowing you to add donations when completing orders.
Those charities that are not adapting risk being left behind. The ominous-sounding figures around charity donations need not be a death knell. But they should be a wake-up call.