Where do you start when it comes to taking advantage of the digital opportunities available to charities? Three speakers, who will feature on a special digital-focused panel at the IoF Fundraising Convention this year, share their thoughts on some digital trends in an exclusive Q&A.
The panel includes Matt Collins, managing director of Platypus Digital; Mandy Johnson, UK director of partnerships at Change.org and Teri Doubtfire, digital communications manager at Willow.
What would be your number one tip for charities to embrace with digital?
Matt Collins: The first thing charities need to do is to understand all the channels available to them, not just the popular ones, and to focus on the ones that get results. It’s easy to focus on social media because that’s where all the hype is, but SEO, search engine and social media advertising, and email marketing arguably have way more impact.
Mandy Johnson: Focus on getting the basics right; test everything and act on the data that you collect from your tests. There is no point in jumping into the latest digital trend if you haven’t got your own house in order. It breaks my heart when I see the drop-off rates for supporters who visit donation pages, fail to complete their donation and yet many charities are not acting on this data. Charities so often set a go live date for their fancy new website and don’t expect to make any changes once they have released it publicly, even when they can see they are not achieving their desired results.
“Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong.”
Teri Doubtfire: Don’t be afraid of “getting it wrong”. Digital is ever-changing and by its very nature so is the content people want to receive. There is no right answer and the more you experiment, the more you’ll begin to learn what your online audience want to engage with.
How do you feel new payment innovation can drive fundraising?
MJ: Donation opportunities are missed every day because charities are not asking supporters for money in a way that suits them. Today I got on the tube still half asleep, popped in my earphones and played Candy Crush (yes, I’m still addicted). Through the barriers, I use the phone that’s already in my hand to pay for my journey. At the station there are fundraisers, dressed as bunnies (which I approve of) asking me to open my bag, find my purse and find some cash (deep sigh!). These bunnies are not compatible with my time-poor, lazy-rich lifestyle. New payment innovations will make it quicker and easier to donate.
TD: It’s exciting to think that supporters can donate to their chosen charity simply with the tap of their phone. The next step is to make sure that any new technology is available for charities of all sizes.
What is the value of personal engagement in digital, if anything?
MC: Personal engagement in digital is a key part of success. Personal development is almost always self-driven, so it’s down to the individual to inspire themselves with case studies of excellent digital use, or it won’t happen at all. Social media and email updates from organisations like Econsultancy will inspire anyone!
“Having a personality online is essential.”
MJ: There is always something to be learnt by listening. We need to listen to our supporters, beneficiaries, friends and allies. If you are not engaging in “digital” on a personal level then you are cutting yourself off from sections of the population who choose digital channels as their preferred place to share their views and engage with your organisation or others that may be of interest to you and, of course, you lose your ability to respond.
TD: Having a personality online is essential. Nobody really wants to engage with a brand. Digital provides more opportunity to connect with supporters, develop your relationship with them and celebrate their achievements.
What is the best way a charity can capitalise on an effective social media campaign?
MC: To capitalise on effective social media campaigns, charities need to have a solid focus on the customer experience. Their website needs to make taking the next action on their supporter journey easier and quicker than clicking back to Twitter to check out a cat reaction gif. A successful social media campaign brings traffic – and great traffic comes with great capability!
TD: #NoMakeupSelfie and #IceBucketChallenge were fantastic examples of how social media can really impact the charity sector; raising awareness and funds. It’s essential that your organisation is willing to embrace this kind of activity but it’s not realistic to expect this to happen. You can be prepared and monitor latest trends (and perhaps hope it might be your charity) but focus your efforts on your existing digital champions, who are ready and waiting.
Join Mandy, Matt and Teri at this year’s Institute of Fundraising’s Fundraising Convention in July, and put your burning digital questions to our expert panel. Book your place before 22 April and take advantage of the early bird price.
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