Digital fundraising trends for small charities not to miss

We highlight some of the emerging digital fundraising opportunities for charities large and small to start exploring now.

Chloe Green | 2nd Oct 18
Image show people gathered around a laptop.

Digital fundraising trends are evolving and changing all the time. But while the word ‘trend’ implies something that is merely a flash in the pan, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Internet was once thought of as ‘just a trend’. You can still read the now famous Newsweek op-ed by astronomer Clifford Stroll from 1995 which scoffs at the the idea of anyone wanting to use the Internet to shop, read the news and interact with people in virtual communities.

Predictions are hard to make, but the nature of digital is that new ideas often take off rapidly, and while some things turn out to be short-lived, others might soon revolutionise the ways in which people give and engage with charities.

Here are three key trends impacting the digital fundraising strategies of charities: one right now, one emerging opportunity and a third with strong evidence for its future growth.


Right now: Mobile giving

Image of person donating via mobile phone

What the stats say

We’re living firmly in the era of mobile – the number of people in the world that own a mobile phone is expected to pass the five billion mark by next year, and in 2015 communications regulator Ofcom announced that smartphones had officially passed laptops and other devices as the most popular device for getting online.

In the UK, the youngest donors are giving the most to charity, donating £2.7 billion in 2017. Of this group, 95% report owning a smartphone, and 92% of Millennials (born after 1980) and Gen Z (born after 1995) said they would be willing to give via a mobile device, compared to just 44% of Baby Boomers.

Yet a lack of attention to mobile users could have lost the sector as much as £1.5bn in donations last year alone, thanks to users not getting the right experience when engaging with charities’ websites on mobile devices.

Who’s doing it?

Most of the major UK charities have redesigned their websites around mobile (there are plenty of screenshot examples here). But charities of all sizes and breeds are waking up to the fact that having a website that is mobile-optimised (mobile friendly) is no longer an optional extra, and neither is losing out on donation opportunities from supporters using mobile devices.

How can I take advantage?

Gone are the days of having one website for desktop and a separate URL for mobile – Google now ranks pages with a mobile-first priority, so if you want people to find your website it needs to be mobile-responsive. This means that websites need to dynamically respond to the device they’re being viewed on, automatically adjusting and optimising their design to different screen sizes, and presenting the most relevant information first.

Once on your website, you need to make it simple as possible for users to engage, find the information they need and want to click that donate button. Charity digital agency Reason Digital provide some great tips on giving your website a mobile overhaul, and Google’s guide is also an excellent place to start.



Up and coming: Contactless donations

Image shows contactless donation boxes being trialled by Mind.
Image credit: Mind

What the stats say

The impact that contactless payment technologies have had on the way people in the UK pay for things has been enormous. There were over 108 million contactless cards in use in the UK last year, and that number is growing rapidly.

Back in 2006, 62% of all payments in the UK were made using cash. By 2016, that number had fallen to 40%. It’s predicted that, by 2026 it will be just 21%. There is also the growing popularity of mobile payment technology such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay to consider – eMarketer estimates 9.2 million people in the UK will have used a mobile phone to pay at the POS (Point of Sale) this year, and the sector will grow by almost 17%.

When out and about, people are embracing quick and easy methods of payment over cash, so why shouldn’t charities do the same?

Who’s doing it?

Charities including the NSPCC, Barnados, RNIB, Cats Protection and the Royal British Legion have been trailling and using contactless donation boxes. During a short trial in 2016, charities took took more than £20,000 in donations using lightweight, portable payment boxes in a number of different contexts  – from volunteers roaming with boxes at special events to placing them next to the checkouts in charity stores.

Other charities piloting and using contactless donation touch-points in their charity shops include Mind and Welsh children’s hospice Tŷ Hafan, who set up contactless donation points in their shop windows, while national charity Youth Music has used it at their fundraising events.

How can I take advantage?

With contactless card machines now so easy and cheap to obtain for use in retail and street fundraising, it may be time for charities to think outside the donation box. There are also a number of charity-specific products springing up that can also claim Gift Aid – new services like Tap for Change allow charities to set up and rent their own contactless donation boxes for £25 a month, while Tap+Donate and Thyngs runs similar schemes.



On the horizon: Crowdfunding

Image shows many messages of support on post-it notes, symbolising the power of crowdfunding.

What the stats say

Crowdfunding is a new form of finance where projects can be funded through many small donations or investments from a large group of people, rather than through traditional funders. It is a way to connect and mobilise the community around your supporters towards a common goal, and is enabled by digital platforms such as social media and dedicated fundraising platforms.

Crowdfunding currently makes up less than 0.5% of giving in the UK, but innovation foundation Nesta says there is significant potential for it to fund projects with a social cause that would otherwise struggle to gain access to funding.

The report highlights how in 2015 alone more than one million people took part in crowdfunding, totalling £3.2 billion of loans, investments and donations in the UK. So far the majority of that has been in the commercial sector, but 43% of charities, community groups and social entrepreneurs reported that they were likely to use crowdfunding in the next 12 months.

Who’s doing it?

An estimated £81 million was raised for good causes through crowdfunding in just 2015, providing much-needed finance for a range of projects with a social purpose.

These include everything from small donation-based campaigns, such as the £362 raised by the Riding for the Disabled Association to fund transport costs for student volunteers from the University of Nottingham, to larger campaigns like the £103,395 worth of community shares sold by Portpatrick Harbour Community Benefit Society to save and secure the community ownership of the harbour.

How can I take advantage?

Nesta’s report outlines the main models of crowdfunding and the platforms and services available, along with free guides and toolkits for getting started.

As Nesta says: “Setting up a (small) donation or rewards-based crowdfunding campaign can be on your terms, on a project you care about, and at relatively low cost.”

“Should the campaign fail, the main thing you risk losing is the time put in to trying to set up and run the campaign, so risk aversion should not be a reason not to give it a go. Even if you fail, the process will give you valuable lessons on how crowdfunding works.”