With the phenomenal spread of digital media across all sections and levels of society in recent years, it is high time that charities too cash in on this digital boom.

By their very nature, charitable organisations tend to market themselves less forcefully. Focusing on public good rather than pure profit often results in shying away from more aggressive and innovative advertising methods.

Time for a major change of mindset

Although some are starting to embrace this new world, most charities are still struggling to make the vital shift. Many charity leaders are still hesitant about making this move, and lack the requisite knowledge and skills.

For many, digital is something of an alien territory, and perceived as far too complicated and cumbersome for a typical charity of small-to-medium budget.

Let’s face it: the modern world is dominated by technology. Digital products and services are all around, and unavoidable; modern computers to smartphones; charities therefore cannot afford to be left behind.

Many of the communication methods we use now did not even exist a couple of decades ago. This presents a challenge, but also a great opportunity for charities to reach out to people in new ways. However worthy your cause may be, you will not be able to fulfil your objectives without supporters. What better way to talk to these people than the channels they use daily?

Charity Checkout’s take on digitalisation

Charity Checkout was established with the sole purpose of enabling charities to raise funds digitally. Providing a complete solution for processing and managing donations online, Charity Checkout has helped more than 1,200 charity clients to raise over £9m.

According to Charity Checkout’s Founder & CEO, Chester Mojay-Sinclare, “Digital transformation should begin with a focus on the ‘digital essentials.’ The digital arena presents a huge opportunity for the sector, but as it stands, there is a significant danger that small charities in particular will find themselves obsolete if they do not adapt to embrace the digital world. The government can play an active role in the process.”

Mojay-Sinclare has also called for the creation of a ‘Technology Trustee’ to aid digital transformation – a call supporter by Lord Bichard at the meeting of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, and also recently backed by Baroness Barker.

According to recent research conducted by Charity Checkout…

  • A recent study of around 2,000 charities in England and Wales pointed to lack of collaboration, insufficient sharing of knowledge, and complete exclusion from digital, as key factors limiting effectiveness. Inadequate utilisation of available digital tools and resources can be clearly linked to fundraising success.
  • Of 500 charities registered in May-June 2016, only 60% of these had websites at all, and 45% were not mobile optimised.
  • Charity Checkout has also found that 60% of charities do not process Gift Aid via their online donation system – reducing potential revenue by up to 25% – and that 62% use a donation system without regular giving options.

Key benefits of going digital for charities

There is undoubtedly enormous scope for charities to thrive on digital marketing – whether for creating cause awareness, fundraising or recruitment. Below are some of the key benefits:

  • As mentioned above, charities can use digital means to reach a wider audience. The impact can be much wider, and transcend national borders – in ways that traditional methods cannot.
  • Going digital can be a particular boon for budget-conscious charities as it is one of the most economical ways to reach a large audience. Digital marketing resources such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), social media marketing and pay-per-click advertising, can help charities to gain the exposure and reach that they need in the shortest amount of time and for the smallest outlay.
  • The key to any successful marketing campaign is to put the target supporters first. Your information needs to be as easily and effortlessly accessible to them as possible. With more and more internet users on mobile devices (eg. smartphones and tablets), it is important that you not only have an effective website, but that it also be responsive – optimised for mobile devices. Failing to do this potentially excludes a large section of your audience, and impacts on your Google search rankings.

Press release by Charity Checkout

In  a recent press release, Charity Checkout highlighted key points from a Lords Select Committee on Charities. Discussion centred around the growing need for adequate digital skills among charities and third sector leaders.

Emphasising the need for government to support and encourage digital transformation, Chester Mojay-Sinclare, founder and CEO of Charity Checkout – one of the UK’s leading digital fundraising providers – underlined the need for charities to focus on what he calls the ‘digital essentials’.

Helen Milner, Chief Executive of the Tinder Foundation, suggested that charities should make the shift gradually. Leaders should assess how digital tools can fit with traditional methods, and through collaboration, make the transition as smooth as possible.

Both Mojay-Sinclare and Milner emphasised the need for ‘digital trustees’ to accelerate the transformation. Trustees can present one of the most significant obstacles to charities looking to embrace new methods, and making this appointment could help to remedy this.

By first educating themselves, the board can then hire people with digital skills. Without sufficient knowledge, charities risk being ripped off by suppliers. This view was also echoed by Lord Bichard.

The committee chaired by Baroness Pitkeathley posed key questions about the effectiveness of digital innovation for charities, the role of trustee boards, and particular challenges of the transformation phase.

Evidence has also been submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities from other panel members who will answer questions on Tuesday as part of the inquiry. These include Dr Beth Breeze, Director of Centre of Philanthropy, Helen Milner, Chief Executive of the Tinder Foundation, Philip Lawford of the Linbury Trust, and Philippa Charles, Director of the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Following conclusion of enquiries, the Select Committee will be offering recommendations to government in early 2017.

In summary, shifting from traditional to digital demands a change in mindset, as well as systematic planning and execution. Long term prospects for growth and expansion are hugely promising, and will definitely be worth the effort.