Many people are concerned that if they donate money to charity may be reduced by tax or administrative costs, preventing the full amount from reaching the people or causes they really want to help. The missions of charities are as wide ranging as the number of issues that different societies face across the world, however any cause can benefit from embracing the advances in technology that are taking place all around us. Whether it be communicating their message to the general public and boosting their funding or carrying out the work to help the disadvantaged that lie at the heart of their objectives, technology can help charities become much more efficient, effective and dynamic in all aspects.
One of the biggest challenges facing charities is in publicising their cause and the work that they do, and ultimately raising the funding that they fundamentally rely upon. The internet has been a godsend in that respect and it has never been easier to create a web presence to inform the general public and potential donors and volunteers about a charity does and why. What’s more, charities can even use their online channels to obtain their funding or services directly from their donors whilst they are imparting this information to them.
The internet provides a vast array of possible mediums through which charities can communicate their messages such as standalone web sites – incorporating engaging rich media including charity videos, games, blogs and infographics – or sometimes the more effective social networking sites. What’s more, there are plenty of off-the-shelf e-commerce systems, such as PayPal and WorldPay, which can be integrated into a charity’s web site to allow them to receive donations via the internet or raise money through other initiatives such as online charity shops.
Virtually any computer literate charity worker will be able to create a simple site or blog, but for those charities looking to provide a rich online experience to its users it is worth forming a relationship with a digital development or web design agency to deliver that content. Some agencies will specialise in working with charities, using flexible agile methods to do so and possibly offering special concessions (e.g., discounts, free resource etc) so it is important for each charity to find the right agency for them.
The boom in social networking has given charities a way to reach out to the communities that form on these networks and communicate directly with them. The premise of sharing that drives networks such as Facebook or Twitter means that if a charity can engage effectively with users on these sites they will be shared and recommended across the communities (and sometimes the general public too) more readily, thus spreading their message in a way and at a speed previously not possible. A charity’s reach can be greatest, therefore, when it combines its own website channel with social media channels to provide a broader online presence. Information and updates that are posted on a charity’s own website can reach a much wider audience if they are also promoted through social media outlets and shared across those communities. In particular, social media can be invaluable when organising fundraising events as participants buy into the cause and actively share it with their communities to raise awareness, sponsorship and encourage other participants to volunteer.
Furthermore,, the integration of blogs and/or social media updates together with online donation facilities, for example, means that charities can provide running feedback on the success of their fundraising activities as well as on the effectiveness of the work that is being carried out with the funds that have been donated thus far. Consequently, donors (and prospective donors) are able to see exactly where and how their money is being used and, assuming they see value in its application, be more motivated to provide further funding.
Through the use of mobile browsers and apps, another dimension can be added to all these benefits in that the charities can provide updates whilst working ‘in the field’ and the public can access information and donate from wherever they are. For example, a charity worker providing aid in the wake of a natural disaster can tweet from their mobile device as they are on the scene or even record an on location video diary to bring the extent of the crisis to the attention of the public. In particular, when charities workers are operating in scenarios where other forms of communication can be difficult, mobile devices being used on location can be the only way for the workers to get their message out until they return back home.
Furthermore, the possibility of being able to donate, not just access the charity’s message, via a mobile app, browser or via text messages (with the money being taken from your mobile bill) means that members of the public are more likely to donate when they get the urge/motivation and have the means to do so at their fingertips. They no longer have to wait until they get back home or to the nearest bank, by which time they may have lost that urge. In addition, there is a likelihood that members of the public will be more generous with their money when it is being transferred in a digital ‘virtual’ medium as opposed to a more tangible one.
© Stuart Mitchell 2012
If you want to find out more about how technology is helping charities fulfil their objectives then visit charity videos. Alternatively, for more information on how charities can work most effectively with web agencies you can visit Digital Agency London.
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