Will online fundraising ever be more than just a niche income source for charities?

I think as a consultant that there is more than one answer to this question – but fortunately they are both yes! Let me explain…

Firstly, I think a compelling case can be made, that for some organisations, online fundraising is already more than a niche source of income. One of the main challenges here is that income that is either transacted or initiated online often appears in different departmental budget lines in the same organisation. Therefore, large or even medium-sized charities may actually find it slightly challenging to really say how much income they actually can attribute to online as a broad channel.

I have often heard the argument (mainly from people who have a vested interest in selling Direct Mail packs or DRTV ads) that money that comes in from a organisation’s website has been triggered by a mail pack or DRTV ad. Yet who is to say that the response to a mail pack or TV ad wasn’t stimulated by a good previous online experience!? A mute point I guess but if the argument works one way surely it can work equally the other?

I would maintain that for some admittedly larger organisations, if you added up all the digital related income across fundraising, events, corporate, trading (e-commerce), mobile and channel shift (cost savings), it would already be far more than just a niche amount. It would certainly be amongst the few that is growing at any sort of pace or has the headroom to do so.

The other Yes is more scientific and less emotional, based on the clear opportunity digital as a channel represents for charities. If it doesn’t become more than a niche fundraising channel soon, then we have ALL done something seriously wrong as a sector; heads of digital and new media consultants alike, should hand back their Google tee-shirts, iphones and Facebook widgets and go back to pen packs and surveys!

Look at the evidence – this is a channel that has virtual ubiquity across the UK – in a survey of National Trust Members on exiting various properties last summer, 97 per cent said they had mobile phones and 86 per cent had broadband internet access. These are not the demographic of early adopters, so we have no excuse as far as access to new media technologies is concerned.

In a recent survey conducted by E-consult amongst 100 leading UK Companies:

  • 1/4 of all Marketing and Communications budgets are now spent online
  • Investment in digital has doubled in 3 years
  • Nearly half of staff in marketing teams are digital specialists

However, the not for profit sector experience is that most charities know they need to be doing something in this area. The challenge is how do they do this and what the focus should be? Should it be on money, brand, campaigning, and how do you make a channel that cuts across lot of different departments work within existing structures, staff and working practices. The painful answer may be that you can’t and then you’re into the dreaded world of change management, all because you wanted a decent website! As soon as more charities get to grips with this stuff, the sooner online will inevitably become much more than a niche fundraising channel.

Categories: Digital

Resource Type: Blog

Posted by Beccy Murrell

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