How small charities can embrace digital tools ethically
Jancie Miller CEO of Kidasha shares some insights into how small charities can benefit from digital tools, in the right way
In recent years, technology has become a valuable tool for charities of all sizes to adopt, in order to widen their reach, engage more supporters and boost donations. Whilst larger charities, having the tools to embrace digital on a more significant scale, stand to benefit most, there’s no reason why small charities can’t benefit too.
Social media provides my small team at Kidasha, both an opportunity to ‘hear’ the latest discussions in our sector in real-time, and a chance to respond. Instant media keeps us ahead of the curve and offers the ability to connect with our audience in a way that cannot be achieved otherwise. The focus on likes, sharing and commenting also allows our audience to be an integral part of our advocacy, helping to widen our reach much further than we can do ourselves.
Similarly, employing digital donation platforms offers supporters and the wider public a way of providing financial support with minimal effort and time. Bucket collections, whilst traditionally a great way to reach out to a local community, are becoming less effective as tech innovations change the way people spend and raise money, to the extent that buckets are gradually being replaced by contactless card readers! Enabling donations to be made via online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter not only widens reach and the opportunity to increase funding but also removes a lot of admin hassle. This is an enormous benefit, particularly to smaller charities. For an extra boost, social media campaigns such as #GlobalGiving often provide match-funding opportunities to magnify digital donations.
The internal efficiency of a charity can also, in theory, be improved by implementing customer relationship management (CRM) databases and email marketing services such as Salesforce and Mailchimp. However, whilst being able to keep track of supporter communications and donations is clearly an enormous benefit, the cost, complexity, and capacity needed to implement and maintain an effective and GDPR compliant CRM system can be a serious deterrent for smaller charities. Hence, it is important to undertake a realistic cost-benefit analysis before jumping headfirst into the latest digital tools on offer.
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With all digital opportunities, of course, come several ethical considerations. Ensuring GDPR compliance and clearly communicating privacy policies is imperative and demonstrates to supporters that you take their privacy seriously and have their best interests at heart. Trust is a vital aspect of any charity and should always be at the forefront of decision making. Similarly, with a large number of digital platforms and services available, it is important to ensure that there is no conflict of interest between the platforms and the aims of the charity and its values. This includes ensuring that there are no links between any social promotions and organisations not considered to be ethically astute. A Charity Digital Code of Practice was launched last year to offer guidance to charities in getting the most out of digital and doing so responsibly.
Whilst charities may not believe they have much power in influencing how tech companies operate, they do have the power to drive change through their own practices. Digital technology offers charity a wealth of opportunity, and smaller charities should be encouraged to embrace it in their work, but at the same time guard against losing sight of any ethical considerations. Retaining the trust of supporters is paramount, so digital must be introduced meaningfully and responsibly. In doing so, we can set the agenda on digital ourselves, and harness it to its full potential.