According to a survey of 550 charities by Virgin Money, more than 97% of Charities are failing to realize the full potential of online as a donation channel.
The startling figure is less surprising when you take into account that only one in five charities has been practising online fundraising for more than 5 years; that almost two in five actually started two years ago, or less; and that a tenth has yet to begin at all.
One area where the majority of charities are using online though, is for campaign appeals, where almost seventy per cent of those raising £10,000 or more are active.
The Third Sector Insight report draws on a case study from Walking with the Wounded to show just how easy integration of social media can be, and how well it works to promote this sort of passionate fundraising.
Looking across the fuller range of fundraising options, techniques like in memoriam online are only really used by larger fundraisers in practice – those that raise £250,000 or more online. In fact, of these larger scale players, two thirds do use online for in memoriam donations, compared to just one in 8 smaller charities. This is true despite the efforts of solution providers like Virgin Money to broaden their support in recent years. Virgin now offers ‘Someone Special’ pages as part of its offering – a point well-highlighted by the report.
Even larger charities though, are less active it comes to techniques like e-commerce (just over half use it) – and barely a third use it for corporate partnerships. The reasons they give for slow adoption are led by a “lack of expertise”, alongside arguably outdated concerns about the impersonal nature of the medium, and finally cost-control, another red herring in a world where the technology cost of fundraising applications continues to plummet. Even though set-up costs are even seen as a major challenge for a third of charities with turnover under £500,000, the report suggests that in many cases the costs of initial outlay of a simple fundraising application can be recouped within a couple of months.
Finally, in terms of “lack of expertise”, almost 73% of those who said they don’t currently fundraise online cited their internal digital capabilities either as a challenge or a major challenge. This “We don’t know where to start!” rationale is admittedly one we still encounter a lot as an agency at Copper, but even in this case, it’s worth remembering that technology is getting ever easier to use…
The simple fact is that online fundraising can actually save charities money compared to offline processes. And in a world of pervasive social media and ever more ubiquitous mobile and tablet use – it can also be a tool for more intimate engagement – one that is highly cost-effective, with rapid payback.
The Virgin report paints a bleak picture in many ways, but the truth is that these operational deficits are ones that the passage of time will largely fix. As costs fall and maturity grows, more and more donation processes will be managed online. The third sector has barely got going yet. In the words of the song, fundraisers need to give it “just a little more time, and their donations will surely grow!”
Tim Kitchin is client service director and director of consulting at Copper, the digital marketing agency.