Digital Campaign of the Week: Big Issue Foundation's Summer Appeal 2015

The charity is urging supporters to become one-off or regular givers by downloading a free mobile app called PowaTag

Big Issue Foundation
Big Issue Foundation

What is it?

The Big Issue Foundation is encouraging people to support its Summer Appeal 2015 by downloading a free mobile app called PowaTag and using it to make either one-off donations or become regular givers. The foundation wants the appeal, which runs until the end of October, to raise £13,000 to fund more front-line workers (known as service brokers) to support Big Issue vendors across the country.

How does it work?

The charity has published PowaTag codes on its website and on the direct mail packs it has been sending out to supporters. To set up PowaTag on their smartphones, supporters must download the app and enter their payment details. They can then scan the Powatag code and specify their donation amounts.

Why now?

The number of people sleeping rough in the UK has risen each year since 2010, reaching 2,744 last year. The Big Issue Foundation says it expects to see more homeless people using its services over the next 12 months because of austerity measures and cuts to services used by vulnerable people, so it will need to employ more service brokers.

How did this campaign come about?

The charity decided it would focus this summer’s appeal on the work of its service brokers for the first time rather than purely on stories from Big Issue vendors. It thought this would also be a good moment to introduce supporters to a new way of donating that would allow them to give instantly when they felt the impulse to do so.

How successful has it been?

The Big Issue Foundation says donating through PowaTag has proved popular with younger donors, with almost half of donations generated through the app so far coming from people aged between 18 and 24. It is currently receiving a "handful" of donations through the app every day, it says, but expects momentum to build over time. The average gift is about £10 and almost all of them have been one-off donations. The campaign has had very limited press exposure so far, but the charity plans to change this with a PR drive in the coming weeks.

What the charity says

Emma Cheung, head of individual giving and donor support at the Big Issue Foundation, says: "We are halfway towards our target of £13,000 since the appeal was launched in July. It is great to see PowaTag transactions contributing to this overall number; particularly when it costs the charity no more to take donations in this way (PowaTag gives back all fees). It’s a no-brainer really – we’ll be using it on all campaigns in future and look forward to having some fun with what the technology can achieve. We also have some exciting initiatives over the next year to grow the number of new donors of all ages giving this way."

Third Sector’s verdict

Using PowaTag is unlikely to significantly boost the amount raised by the overall appeal, but the charity’s use of the technology demonstrates its willingness to innovate, and it appears to be paying off among younger donors. Average donation amounts are likely to remain modest, but the charity intends to email donors asking for a regular gift through the app at a later date, so the app could result in an increase in the number of regular givers.

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