Charity Digital News sat down last week with the API & Platform Product Manager at JustGiving, Jamie Parkins, who spoke about the development of Application Programming Interface (API) software and its implementation across the charitable sector.
Could you explain your role as product manager?
I joined JustGiving about three years ago as a product manager. We had about 8-10,000 charities using our service and we hadn’t really focused on their needs for a while. Among many projects, one that emerged was the development of our API platform. Today I’m responsible for strategy and adoption of our public APIs for charities, agencies and developers. We wanted to give the role a face, let people know across sector that they can interact with our technology in many exciting and, often unusual, ways.
How would you explain APIs to the average person?
APIs enable the core web services that JustGiving are renowned for. It gives people the ability to create a fundraising page and to pull down information and data from our website. As well as charities and independent developers we work with CRM companies like Salesforce and The Raisers Edge so that any third party can build an application that benefits charities, fundraisers or supporters across the sector.
Why did you create APIs?
We built them because we understand not everyone wants to fundraise purely on the JustGiving website alone. People want to use other spaces such as Facebook, Twitter and their own websites. Charities at times want to control their supporter’s journey as they spend a lot of time and energy getting people to their platform. So we acknowledged this and created our APIs to let charities replicate a lot of JustGiving’s core services which can be controlled through their own site. A number of the UK’s largest charities now utilise our technologies; Cancer Research UK, Macmillan, Age UK, Mencap.
What are the benefits?
It improves efficiency. Charities see our APIs as a means to provide a seamless experience for their supporters. They can control output through the API. In respect to the creation of fundraising pages they can help set the fundraiser’s page target, set images to the page and even manage the page’s content, all on behalf of the end user..
What makes JustGiving stand out from its competitors?
JustGiving has been around for ten years and raised a £1 billion for the sector, and we have built a lot of trust in our platform. People fundraising or giving across a variety of devices need to be comfortable that they are donating through a secure platform. We also place a high value on continued innovation – we know that technology moves quickly and it’s really important for us that we keep pace with that so that charities have access to the best tools. It’s this spirit that led us to develop our APIs, as well as building a completely mobile experience for our users, and most recently revamping the account reporting charities have access to. So we’re always trying to improve! Giving is often a very spontaneous action so our aim is to make it as easy as possible for people to donate, so we can capture that moment of generosity.
Which platform provides the most traffic?
At various points this year 50% of our traffic has come via a mobile device – a figure which will continue to rise. We are focusing on building upon our mobile offering so that more and more people can donate in an optimized view. Increasingly, charities are weighing up their mobile strategy. This can be intimidating for a small charity. We like to think that JustGiving can take that load and deliver the service that their mobile supporters crave.
What do you think is the future of fundraising?
I am certainly excited by the concept of ‘every day giving’. How can you bring an element of giving into the tasks and processes of our everyday lives? A good example is My Charity Bingo. It puts a fundraising element into bingo, an everyday gaming mechanic that thousands of people play up and down the country. On the same theme of gamification, Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon. They created a microsite using our API technology, using an online leader board to create competition. Using our APIs they could receive data in real-time and they leveraged this data to award badges for fundraising which participants could then post to Facebook. It’s quirky and fun and drives interaction. Everyone who signed up got their own page. At no point did you come to the JustGiving platform to create your page and we are entirely comfortable with that.
What’s a good example of gamification?
The Dogstrust app – you create a virtual dog. You get notifications every minute, if the dog needs feeding or walking. Within the app dog owners are prompted to donate via the JustTextGiving service. You can donate three amounts, one three or five pounds. The text message prefills the charity’s JustTextGiving code, and automatically sends the money through our service. It’s easy and simple – how a mobile app should be.
How many charities have you got using the API service?
We have over 20 of the some of the UK’s largest charities using our APIs at the moment. My role, in part is to work with the charity on understanding their needs and how our technology platform can meet those. I’d like to think we help to demystify what can sometimes be a leap into the unknown. I’ll sit with them and sketch out what it could look like and try to tease our all the possible journeys a fundraiser or supporter might take. We also have a help forum for our API community so that our developer team can support our users directly.
Tell me about your link with CRMs
Last year as an experiment we developed some private Data APIs. These enabled CRMs to build data plug-ins for their charity clients. At the moment charities need to log in to JustGiving, download their data, then reformat it and upload it back into the CRM system. We felt that was inefficient all round. I approached CRMs to introduce our technology and today live partners include Salesforce, thankQ, and The Raisers Edge (which represents 30%+ of the sector). We asked ourselves: how do we make it as easy as possible for charities to get to and then unravel their JustGiving data?
To find out more about API and its benefits, you can follow this link to view a slide show.
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