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6th July 2010
AIME helps to give interactive technology in the third sector a boost
Interactive Technology for the Third Sector – event overview
The AIME K&N seminar event on Empowering the Charitable Sector with Interactive Technology succeeded in generating quite a bit of interest in how to drive initiatives further forward to improve the value derived by the third sector from using technology in its fundraising and communications campaigns.
It was clear from the discussions taking part throughout the day that the benefits of using interactive platforms remain relative to the size of the charity involved. As Knowledge Peers’ Jessica Figueras notes in this helpful write up of the event, many charities, already operating on tight budgets, worry over duplication of purpose and their financial stability. Nevertheless, innovation is important to the third sector and interactive tech is an area where smaller charities can punch above their weight.
From the presentations made during the seminar (available here), it was clear that there is an enormous range of new tools on offer for charities to implement campaigns with. Many of these are free to use, most of them are cheap and easily accessible – from social media applications to email marketing – the new wave of cloud-based technologies offer the promise of efficient administration combined with scalable reach to new donors in compelling ways.
As many of the speakers concluded at the event, although the variety of technologies available to charities is wide – social media, interactive TV, IVR, email etc – mobile giving holds the greatest promise in terms of its ability to reach literally into the palms of the widest possible audience. Head of Payments at MNO 3 and AIME Board member, Rory Maguire, said there are some 42m mobile users in the UK and that 26 percent of these have no way of paying or donating electronically except via SMS. In other words, mobile reaches parts of the economy other donation platforms cannot reach i.e. the unbanked. Pass through rates from text donations from mobile operators to charities continue to vary, however, as this newsletter was going to press, Civil Society Fundraising website, was reporting that Vodafone had announced it would pass through 100 percent of each SMS donation.
Combined with this reach, mobile also offers an immediacy and convenience which is way ahead of other channels and supports, what Paythru’s managing director, Keith Brown, called “impulse donating”, especially when the campaign is run in accord with other media such as outdoor poster advertising.
As a case study in the power and reach of mobile giving, the event was fortunate enough to hear a case study from Caroline Lien, head of operations for Comic Relief, which raised £7.9m by text donations in 2009’s campaign – almost 10 percent of its total income. Neverthless, IVR services to call centres and PCI credit card compliant services, provided by the likes of BT Agilemedia and its SafePay product, continue to offer the third sector significant value in being able to generate higher value donations (averaging at £40), as Darren Parker, sales director, BT Agilemedia, related to delegates.
Here’s a video interview with Comic Relief’s Caroline Lien, by Knowledge Peers, on the four benefits of using interactive technology for charities.
However, charities need to be aware of possible negative sides to running mobile campaigns, particularly those concerning upfront costs and synchronisation with an overall media strategy, as delegates were warned at the seminar. Setting up a mobile giving channel involves a fixed cost which is usually paid to the aggregator or service provider (such as WIN, MIT, Paythru etc). This cost is usually paid up front for the year ahead so it’s imperative that charities are sure their campaign will generate sufficient revenue through donations to cover this cost.
Neil Lovell from Kids’ Company told delegates that his first experience in running a mobile donation campaign with WIN PLC had been enormously successful and far exceeded his expectations, however, the service provider had covered most of the costs themselves, thereby reducing the risk involved for the charity.
Jim Manis, CEO of the mobile Giving Foundation USA, thinks he has found a way to reduce this risk factor for charities entering the mobile space and he gave a joint presentation alongside Simone Schmidlkofer, president of Cause2Connect, based in Switzerland, arguing that the present cost risk is making mobile inaccessible as a fundraising tool for the UK’s 157,000 small charities. Simone is working to bring the Mobile Giving Foundation model to the UK – one in which an organisation like Mobile Giving intermediates between charities, donors and mobile operators, acting as a universal certification body, regulator and standards-setter, aiming at reducing costs and risks for everyone.
Click here to see a video interview with Simone Schmidlkofer on making mobile giving more affordable to smaller charities
But clearly the picture is complex, and not just about cost. Other factors in the balance apply equally to most other forms of fundraising. Promoting the campaign in the first place, for one thing: as one presenter remarked, “it’s not enough to have a shortcode and a keyword”. Promotion, whether via billboards or Facebook, is and will remain the most important factor, however charities choose to take donors’ money. Of course the most lucrative offline channels are mainly inaccessible to small charities, too. It’s unlikely that Comic Relief would be what it is without its TV support!
Then there are what you might call etiquette issues: respecting privacy and donor preferences, and knowing the best way to say thank-you (which also has tax implications for mobile donations). Rupert Daniels of Y6 Media wondered if the way forward was for charities to use mobile giving as a broadreach tactic to replace “chuggers and tin-shakers” (who, as we all know, raise plenty of the same issues).
Click here to watch a video interview with Y6 Media’s Rupert Daniels on the mobile campaign for Join 1Goal Organisation, an initiative aimed at raising awareness of lack of education resources in poor countries.
Social media also holds huge promise for charities looking for new ways to engage donors and supporters. It has the advantage of not requiring much, if any, investment but is perhaps more complex to understand. It incorporates a great breadth of different tools, which change and adapt frequently, as well as a new approach to communication across the board. So again there are risks involved, and expertise to be acquired.
This is proving a real challenge – and not just for charities. The average UK CEO is in his or her mid-fifties and frankly struggling to understand the new social media channels. Again, large charities are at an advantage since their big brands are better able to attract the marketing talent that they need. But senior managers in any charity need to change their mindset if they are to learn how best to incorporate the use of Facebook, Twitter et al into their activities. Ignoring it is not an option – but neither is delegating the entire thing to junior staff simply because they are enthusiastic. Alex Pashby, community manager at JustGiving – the successful online fundraising tool, made massively popular via its links into social media platforms including Facebook – explained that a charity’s choice of channels has to reflect its overall strategy.
Watch a video interview here with Just Giving’s Alex Pashby on online fundraising and social media
Of course there are many, many other ways to use interactive technology. Email marketing and IVR call centre operations remain an important channel for regular communications with charity supporters as well as providing a good route for recurring donations with higher Gift Aid conversions. Despite the well-known limitations of email, there is more space to convey longer stories – and the cost and complexity of putting together nice looking, well targeted email campaigns, has dropped dramatically. Daniela Martino of WSPA and Nigel Arthur of ExactTarget, spoke about developing the understanding of a charity’s supporter base by analysing their responses to campaigns, which email is well adapted to.
In the end, perhaps we need more reminders that the really important parts of fundraising are the old-fashioned ones: knowing your audience, having a compelling message, choosing the right channels not just the new ones, creativity, good general oversight and of course leadership. The new technologies put a novel spin on these concerns and all charities need to follow the trajectory carefully if they are to stay relevant.
Building on the positive momentum of this event AIME will push new initiatives, workshops and further seminars sharply focused onmobile charity and the requirements of stakeholders (value chain companies and real people) moving forward. Specifically, AIME is coordinating a Special Interest Group to assist increating greater understanding of the space and a roadmap to navigate it.
Click here to watch a video interview with Andrew Darling, event chairman and communications director, AIME, for an overview of the background to the event
Also, if you would like to view some excellent photography by Dianna Bonner of the day’s event, please visit her site where prints can be ordered. www.worldvisionphotos.co.uk (click on recent photos)
With thanks to Jessica Figueras, Knowledge Peers www.knowledgepeers.com