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The Digital Charity Myth

The charity sector is full of innovators. But, for some reason, the one area that seems to enhance the performance of every other sector is one that we feel we are useless at: digital fundraising.

When I talk to people about digital fundraising, inevitably they tell me they think we are awful at it. But are we? Is there really no success or innovation in digital fundraising?

I don't see why digital fundraising is any different to offline fundraising. We all copy Thomas Barnardo's technique don't we? Funding for his children's home in

East London was scarce so he took the "problem" to the good people of London. He'd bring one of his dirty, street urchins to their doorstep and ask for a shilling to clean up the child. A fortnight later he'd reappear with the urchin, brushed up and shining with health, and then pull another dirty, street urchin out from behind his back.

Show the problem. Show the solution. Ask them to do it again.

There are four main areas to digital fundraising as far as I can see:

  1. The "donate now" button on websites

  2. Micro donations otherwise known as the digital collection box

  3. Crowdfunding

  4. Member get member fundraising

So, if we really suck at digital fundraising then I shouldn't be able to find any examples of where we do this well.

1. So, let's start with the "donate now" button... Okay, we are rubbish at getting people to give through this technique. I'll admit defeat here. No one clicks on these buttons. Even when a charity's web site gets over a million page views a year, no one clicks -- and so everyone thinks we fail at digital fundraising. (And, maybe we need to rethink the "donate now" button completely, but perhaps that's another post...)

But, this really isn't the whole picture when it comes to digital...

2. What about micro donations (the digital collection box)? We've seen a couple good attempts at making this digital but, because we're copying and pasting one model onto another, it doesn't always work.

Look what we can come up with when we reinvent the collection box -- literally, thinking outside the box -- The Social Swipe. And now imagine it unleashing a dinosaur at the Natural History Museum.

Using this method, after their donation, the charity hasn't only collected money; they have a wealth of data to reconnect them to the donor.

3. Before Christmas, I suggested Santa might crowdfund his woefully underfunded toy factory. And why not? Crowdfunding is a huge success in digital fundraising.

How about this Kickstarter campaign for Aardman Animation?

Aardman raised £70,000 in seven days, doubling their budget. They also collected the contact details for a lot of enthused Aardman fans.

4. "Member get member" fundraising. Now this is where we excel! When was the last time you sponsored someone with a paper sponsor form? Last millennium probably! Surely 99% of donations for people running races and completing challenges are now done online.

People raise heaps of money for good causes this way and the donors are linked up digitally with the charities themselves. We are the masters at this. JustGiving alone has seen donations inexcess of £2.5bn since it was launched.

In summary, if we look at these four areas: 1) We suck at big time! 2) Getting better, 3) Really making strides, and 4) Absolutely nailing it!

So, don’t tell me we aren’t good at digital fundraising. We are. We are brilliant at it and getting better all the time. Time to celebrate a bit and not be so down on ourselves.

Jonathan Cook | | +44 (0)7921 250 211

Jonathan @Linkedin | Twitter @jonathan_m_cook

Photo credit: 'The Social Swipe' YouTube frameshot

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