A look ahead to the future of charity comms

Tech-savvy organisations are ensuring they are on top of the latest charity comms trends while keeping an eye on what the future holds

Joe Lepper | 21st Oct 19
man using virtual reality as a means of new charity comms

Organisations need to ensure they are on top of innovative and increasingly popular charity comms trends.

Simply picking up the telephone or mailing out a leaflet simply won’t cut it on their own anymore for charities looking to effectively engage with their supporters and attract new donors.

This is especially the case in recent years with the proliferation of smart phone technology, voice recognition devices, translation tools and artificial intelligence.

Charities also need to be future-gazers, keeping tabs on emerging trends and how far it is possible for technology to enhance the way people communicate.

Here we look at some of the ways the sector is harnessing technology in their charity comms and the emerging, future trends they are already starting to look at.

> See also: Quick guide: what is IoT and how will charities benefit

More voice recognition

Charities are progressively ensuring they are using voice recognition devices, most notably Amazon Alexa, to communicate with the public.

The online sales giant’s automated companion is commonplace in many homes, and is particular popular among childen and those with disabilities who find using a keyboard difficult.

Among good causes to already use Amazon Alexa effectively is the Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 backed Stand Up to Cancer campaign. This has launched a fundraising quiz for supporters, which brings the quiz host Joe Lycett into people’s homes.

Another is WaterAid which has created an Alexa skill for the public where they can access content about the people the global development and sanitation work the charity is helping with aross the world.

Using voice recognition technology is vital to boosting donations. The NSPCC for example is using goDonate Voice, an off the shelf product from WPN Chameleon’s Addition studio, to enable people to donate swiftly and easily by simply saying “Alexa, open NSPCC” and then paying via Amazon Pay.

> See also: How virtual reality is helping bridge the communication divide for people with autism

Increasing use of chatbots

Artificial intelligence is being increasingly deployed to power chatbots so that charities can reach more people in need of help than is logistically possible with their staff and volunteers.

The World Wildlife Fund has used chatbots in a particularly innovative way  this year to ensure it can talk to as many people as possible about its campaign to protect tigers. Those using messaging app Viber can support the charity through stickers, which then takes them to a chatbot to tell them more about tigers as well as offer information about ways people can support the campaign and the chance to win a prize.

Meanwhile, Cancer Research UK deploys chatbots to provide information about its work in a way that would be impossible with a charity workforce alone. It is operating two chatbots to provide general information about fundraising and its ‘giving pages’. The charity importantly ensures that those needing to find extra information can find other ways to get in touch.

Think visually

Many charity comms strategies need to focus more on the visual element of communication in the future, a survey last month by the children’s charity Barnardo’s suggests.

This found that 39 per cent of children and 28 per cent of adults believe that holograms will be increasingly important for communication.

Using 3-D imagery is already being looked at by charities looking to reach a wider audience in an eye-catching way. Among projects to benefit from funding from Nesta’s Amplified programme earlier this year is the Philharmonia Orchestra’s ‘VR Sound Stage’. This enables up to 30 people via headsets and speakers to experience life as a musician.

> See also: 5G in a nutshell: what’s all the fuss about, and can charities benefit?

Emojis around the world

A new language, developed by technology using emojis, will emerge by 2049, according to a fifth of adults and a quarter of young people responding to Barnardo’s survey.

Savvy charities are ahead of the curve and already using emojis to engage with people when campaigning via social media.

In March this year, Teenage Cancer Trust teamed up with Twitter to create a ‘guitar man’ emoji to help promote its annual music event at London’s Royal Albert Hall. This was created by Jamie Hewlett, co-creator of the band Gorillaz.

World Suicide Prevention Day activity his year also saw charities use a specially created yellow and orange suice prevention ribbon emoji.

Translation technology can also help charities connect to supporters globally by breaking down language barriers.

Google is already developing this through its Google Assistant which offers an interpreter mode. This can ask the platform to translate your conversation with someone in another language.