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How charitable organisations can leverage technology to reconnect with digitally-savvy charity givers

(Image credit: Image Credit: 3112014 / Pixabay)

Peter Ballard, Founder of experience design agency Foolproof, shares his insight into how charities can employ technology to re-engage givers in the digital age. 

The tide of change has swept across the payments landscape and the cashless society is not the whimsical notion it once was. Yet charities have been slow to evolve their methods for giving and receiving, which has left many fighting for a smaller share of what little change people still carry in their pockets.  

In an increasingly cashless society, traditional methods of collecting money are coming under threat. Not only is cash in the pocket reduced but a new generation of charity givers, brought up in the digital age, are demanding engaging, informative and frictionless experiences in exchange for their support and hard-earned cash. 

According to Barclaycard, contactless spending grew by 166 per cent last year with more than half of adults making a contactless transaction at least once a month. 

With contactless payments on the uptick, charitable organisations that still largely rely on cash-collection mechanisms like chuggers will soon find themselves struggling to compete with those embracing digital technology. 

Organisations including Oxfam and the NSPCC this year trialed the implementation of contactless charity boxes – as developed by Barclaycard. Although hailed as a success, this feels like a digital twist on an analogue collection method, and perhaps a missed opportunity to engage digital natives. 

Is this the end of chugging? 

The street ‘chugger’, signing people up to long-term direct debit donations, is just not sustainable. It was originally built on the assumption that people are too lazy/busy/forgetful/embarrassed to cancel but it’s getting easier to opt out. 

There’s also a massive flaw with this model… engagement. The exchange between collector and giver may create the ongoing financial contribution, but seldom fosters a long-term sense of commitment or connection to the cause. Without this, I question how sustainable this relationship is in the long-term. Charities need to engage the public in new ways which fit with their shopping preferences and behavior and inspires them to sign up voluntarily. 

The starting place for charities is to better understand what motivates people to give, but also how people use digital channels day-to-day. Technology is playing a larger role in attracting that first donation and is the entry point for charities to form a longer-term relationship based on trust and value for both parties. 

In this, charities are no different from other sectors. Creating impact and value for the customer at the initial point of contact, and taking this positive experience through into future transactions, creates trust and loyalty which builds the foundations for a longer-term relationship. 

Digital has made people less tolerant of marketing messages which interrupt, preferring to seek out information and services when they need them. This poses a challenge for charities but also an opportunity to become part of people’s everyday lives and to build deeper and longer lasting communities around their cause. 

For instance, many charities have successfully leveraged social media to accelerate campaigns, such as the ALS ice bucket challenge which raised $100m in 30 days. Social media however is not just useful for accelerating campaigns but also provides a valuable source of insight into why people donate to charity. Analysis of this data is one form of research charities can leverage to identify new ways of connecting with givers. 

Tapping into the contactless generation 

Tapping into the tech-savvy and socially aware millennial demographic could be a game-changer too. According to online money-collection platform Leetchi, UK millennials are topping the generosity tables. They reportedly care passionately for causes both home and away and are twice as likely to donate as those aged 55-plus; but their expectation and demand for information, communication and experience is equally high. 

Connecting the physical with the digital experience in a way that goes beyond basic cash collection is one way of connecting with this generation. Cancer UK’s latest campaign for ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ features some of the most innovative ways of embracing contactless donations. 

Hyundai and Cancer Research UK partnered with Foolproof to build the world's first car enabled for contactless payments. This car not only creates visual impact and drives donations through its 5 contactless payment points positioned around the car, but also appeals to people’s need for recognition. Hyundai’s zero-emission IONIQ Electric vehicle’s interior has been modified to enable donators to take a selfie in the car and share it via social media. Their selfie is also printed and stuck to the outside of the car so as the car travels the country more and more faces will be added. 

This campaign harnesses technology to create a memorable and shareable experience. When the car was unveiled at Kings Cross station in May it received over 200 interactions in just the first few hours of operation. It shows how technology can be used at the initial point of giving to create impact. The key is to not waste the opportunity technology affords to deepen engagement and continue the experience beyond the initial point of contact. 

Blue Cross also deployed contactless technology during May with the first tappable or ‘pattable’ dogs. Dogs draw attention so what better way of generating donations than by making canines contactless? It may be a simple idea but removes some of the barriers that traditional chuggers face, which is approaching another person or not having cash in their pocket. It also shows that it doesn’t have to be costly just something that’s enjoyable and creates a smile. Experiential tech like this will be important for charities going forward. 

Follow the money 

Contactless payment opportunities will continue to grow so charities also have the opportunity to forge closer links to the payment and retailer networks. The convenience of putting a few spare coins in a collection tin can be replicated at the tills and checkout counters of retail stores. The donation of your “virtual change” by rounding up a purchase to the nearest pound could be transformative for charities giving them the chance to be present in that feel-good moment of a purchase. They could potentially also tap into any exchange of contact details the retailer might be capturing. 

Apple Pay already supports the ability to make donations to nonprofit organisations and some high profile charities have already launched with this, including UNICEF, WWF and charity:water, to name a few. In fact, charity:water has cited that 25 per cent of its donations come from mobile. 

Better still, technology makes donations measurable too. You can follow the donation – something that can’t be done with cash – and it can be monitored, enabling you to spot data trends, learn more about your demographics and importantly, provide you with the chance to learn. The more a charity can learn, the more they can tailor their approach. At the same time, it is reassuring for the public to be better able to follow where and how their money is being put to good use. 

So the convenience of giving needs to be at the forefront of charities thinking, especially around contactless and mobile based initiatives. To be successful, they will have to work much harder to engage with the public and give them good reasons to choose to donate. 

Whether providing an experience that people want to share in their own networks, or by giving more detail on the cause and its objectives, charities need to wake up to the fact that technology opens the door to a dialogue with potential givers. Once that door is opened, you have a far greater chance of stimulating a deeper relationship and ultimately cashing in on support. 

Top tips charities need to consider before harnessing technology 

  • Don’t simply bolt technology onto an existing analogue idea. Use what you know about your donors to deploy innovate technological solutions.  
  • Think about the various platforms through which you can engage with consumers and be in the moment of relevance, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, payment networks and retailers.  
  • Create memorable experiences that inspire people to share on their social networks, think how the experience can differentiate you from your competitors and build a more meaningful and memorable experience for people who donate.  
  • In today’s world data is almost as valuable as cash. Focus as much effort on getting contact details and understanding the motivations of people who might share your beliefs and goals as you do trying to get donations.  
  • Ensure you have the right expertise on board – work with people who can help you to embrace technology to deliver meaningful and engaging experiences. 

Peter Ballard, Co-Founder, Foolproof 

Image Credit: 3112014 / Pixabay

Peter Ballard
Peter Ballard is co-founder of Foolproof, one of the leading experience design agencies in the UK. A digital specialist for over 20 years, and a pioneer of user experience and the importance of design in creating engaging and high performing digital products and services, Peter has worked across most sectors and with some of the world’s largest and best known brands, including Virgin, Sony, HSBC, Shell, Help for Heroes and Camelot.