Home Business How charities are futureproofing through the pandemic with digital innovation
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How charities are futureproofing through the pandemic with digital innovation

by jcp

Jon Lofthouse, Chief Product Officer, Enthuse


Covid-19 has caused problems for every industry and the charity sector is no exception. Since the pandemic hit suddenly in 2020, there’s been a great deal of uncertainty for organisations to contend with and this volatility makes it difficult for charities to plan their fundraising campaigns.

What’s more, most charities have historically been very reliant on physical event fundraising (such as fun runs and coffee mornings) as well as bucket collections to raise that all-important revenue to provide their much-needed services.

Last year, less than half (49 percent) of charities had a digital strategy. Of course digital donations, social media accounts and fundraising pages were somewhat common practice – but further investment and planning was often seen as a nice-to-have. And with good reason, too – charities’ resources for operational improvements are scarce. Any investment needs to be beyond all reasonable doubt.

The outbreak of Covid-19 meant that digital transformation was essential and inevitable. An industry that was reliant on physical fundraising events and in-person networking had to go digital if it was to raise the funds needed to continue to operate and help the public.

So where are charities choosing to innovate and why?

Let’s get digital

The first priority for a number of charities once Covid-19 hit was finding a way to replicate fundraising events such as runs, cycles and quizzes virtually, as quickly as possible. Every day without the opportunity to fundraise virtually was missed donations for charities and this was on top of the fundraisers’ who had already committed to a challenge before the pandemic but could no longer take part.

Event registration and fundraising pages for virtual runs and quizzes became a crucial addition to charities’ tool box in 2020. Fundraising pages for fitness challenges that had race or target formats, participation targets, automated milestones and Strava integrations were a great way to keep fundraisers motivated and have been heavily adopted. It also allowed supporters to track their progress and share the results with friends, family and colleagues via a link and encourage donations. Charities have even created event leaderboards for people taking part in the same campaign to harness healthy competition.

Many charities have also taken the opportunity to invest in tech that allows people to register for live streaming (such as sponsored gameathons) or for virtual quizzes and coffee mornings. Having event registration and ticketing run through the site for these events also helps to make the fundraising process easier and more joined-up for causes.

As time passed and digital fatigue began to set in, many charities realised they needed to invest in virtual event solutions that went that step further and could help to capture the attention of the public amongst all the noise. Map-based virtual event challenges have grown in popularity through the pandemic for exactly that reason.

These types of solutions can integrate with the likes of Google and Strava to plot out routes for popular fundraising events such as the The Inca Trail or Lands End to John O’Groats. Some charities are also investing in bespoke map solutions to replicate the physical fundraising events they’ve run before, that are specific to their cause, in an effort to tell their story in an authentic way, supported by custom milestones en-route. This personal touch can help cut through the noise and help charities stand out from the crowd.

Additionally, setting up online donations through their own website has been an important transition for charitable organisations in recent years. Our Donor Pulse research suggests that 44 percent of people donated online in the last three months, which is up 7 percent since June 2020. This shows the value not only in being able to take donations digitally but also being able to add preloaded donation amounts that show potential donors where their money is going. Gift Aid automation within the donation process is another significant time saver for charities in terms of reporting and helps them raise 25 percent more. .

Creating long-term supporters

Providing supporters with the opportunity to fundraise and donate digitally was rightly the priority for charities at the start of the pandemic but creating repeat givers is imperative for the long-term success of any charity. That’s why digital solutions that are branded are on the wish list for many organisations in the sector.

Our research shows that 26 percent of people who gave in the last three months were supporting sponsorship requests from friends rather than necessarily having a direct connection to the charity personally. And if the branding of that charity does not stand out, they might just give and forget and never interact with the cause again.

46 percent of donors who couldn’t recall the last charity they gave to cited poor brand visibility. This is a particular pitfall for charities who use a third-party online giving platform rather than those who have started the process of digital transformation and take donations through their own site. 78 percent of supporters recall who they last donated to when doing so via a charity’s website as opposed to just 63 percent through an online giving platform that prioritises its own branding ahead of the cause.

This ability to control branding as well as data provided by supporters is vital for helping to foster those repeat givers particularly at a time where charities are unable to offer that personal touch in person.

The future of fundraising

Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst for a large number of charities to set out on the digital transformation journey and adopt digital fundraising. This change looks set to be permanent.

There will no doubt always be a place for physical fundraising events and street fundraisers but the days of that being the sole source of income is gone. The business model has evolved.

Take the workplace, for example. Donor Pulse research suggests that 58 percent of workers have been displaced from the office since the pandemic and only 25 percent intend to return to the office five days a week. If fundraisers want to maximise their total donations they can no longer simply organise a bake sale in the office. Going forward, workplace fundraising events – just like all fundraising events – will need to offer a virtual alternative as well, in order to be inclusive and to reach as many people as possible. So even charity appeals are digitally transforming

Charities have adopted digital fundraising solutions to survive during the pandemic and have now fine-tuned their virtual campaigns to make them an asset. These innovations will be a core pillar of how charities operate in the future.


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