14th March 2017Tamsin Haigh
Don’t Shout the Loudest, Give Them An Experience They Want to Shout About
Optimistic commentators will often hail the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014 as an example of what is possible with digital fundraising, with the ALS Association reporting over $115 million in donations in the space of a few months. But it would be wise to take such storming successes with a pinch of salt.
In 2015, the #TwizzlerChallenge, featured on the US’s Today Show, was pegged to be the next Ice Bucket Challenge. Celebrities began to get involved in the activity of eating a twizzler in the style of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, in order to raise funds for autism. Unfortunately, since very little has been reported of its success since its high profile launch, it seems as though the dreams of an internet takeover remain unfulfilled.
When a viral campaign doesn’t materialise, charities sensibly move their focus back to peer-to-peer fundraising. Peer-to-peer fundraising has already been used for many years for sponsorship events, like Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, long before ‘going viral’ meant anything. The only difference now is that a new set of tools are available to make sharing quick and easy – an office whip-round is now a Facebook post.
It would be wise to remember that these new ways of communicating are just that: ways of communicating. Whether they help speed up direct communication to potential donors, or give easy ways for existing donors to share the cause with their friends, they sit within the realm of the ‘how’, not the realm of the ‘why’.
It can be overwhelming to start stepping into the world of social media and engagement. Even if you can gain traction online, it does not necessarily turn into donations – as UNICEF Sweden’s ‘Likes Don’t Save Lives’ campaign made clear.
It’s worth bringing the discussion back to the question of what we are actually trying to achieve. Charities need to be able to communicate with the outside world in the ways that millennials today communicate – at the very least, they need a social media presence, a mobile-responsive website and a way to donate online.
These things are necessary, but they are not sufficient. Instead of using new technology to try and shout the loudest in the noise of social media, we should try using technology to give existing donors an experience that they actually want to talk about – then we can build up from there.
Oxfam recently launched a new app, which will allow supporters to directly control their donations and their relationship with the charity.
As Oxfam’s Head of Fundraising Paul Vanags explained to Marketing Week:
“Content is so widespread and easy to access these days that it is not a huge advantage. Apps have to be entertaining or do something that makes life easier. For us, content is important but that is not going to be the thing that makes people download the app. The driver is to [determine] their relationship with us. Everything they used to do via phone or email they can do on the app.”
This is a fantastic step. For charities, one of the most powerful aspects of new technology is its ability to make an organisation personal and relationships easy and immediate.
We know fundraising is about relationships and we now have the ability to build those personal relationships with thousands upon thousands of people. We just need to make sure those relationships are rewarding enough that people want to shout about them.