Rachel Hawkes: social technologies can help charities fundraise and gain supporters

Our online columnist gives charities a guide to the different options available and explains why some will suit better than others

Rachel Hawkes
Rachel Hawkes

There are numerous different social technologies to help charities to gain supporters, raise awareness and, of course, fundraise - from search engines to fundraising platforms, social networking and mobile applications. With so many different options available, it can be difficult to determine which will work best for your charity and deliver the biggest return for the investment of your time and resources.

When they work well, these technologies enable socially minded people to discover causes that matter to them, share the cause with friends, make donations or take another type of action (such as checking-in to a location or using it as a default tool to search or buy). For charities, both large and small, they offer a platform to help extend the digital reach of campaigns and the charity as a whole.

Only a few of these technologies have a set fee: Virgin Money Giving charges £150, for example. Similar services, such as JustGiving, have a monthly account fee and others, such as EveryClick, are free for the charity and the user, earning their money from advertisers instead. Even for the smallest charities, they are not particularly cost-prohibitive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will deliver a return on your investment.

Rather than mobilising your existing donors and supporters to take action, some of these technologies will open you up to a new audience. Others, however, will need the support of your existing audience to deliver a return. To make that more clear, let’s take a quick look at a few of the popular services. 

A fundraiser who doesn’t know of or align with your charity will not set up a fundraising page on JustGiving, nor will they use EveryClick as their default search engine to raise funds for you. It’s not that you can simply set up the accounts and leave them to do their own thing if you want to realise their monetary potential. 

You have to invest time in ensuring your audiences know these channels are available, making them obvious from your own site and also recognising supportersfor doing a great job (thanking them both privately and, where appropriate, publicly, such as on the charity’s blog, a Facebook page or a newsletter). 

Your existing supporters do the work here, raising awareness among their own personal networks of friends, family and co-workers, which can result in a trickle of new supporters. However, the bulk of ROI from these types of platforms will come from people that already support you – it’s simply giving them another tool to do it.

Sites such as See The Difference and The Big Give are excellent examples of platforms that work to open up your charity to new supporters, and even to supporters that might have fallen out of touch with the charity. 

Because these sites rely on recruiting new people to the site in order to be successful themselves, they will have proactive marketing strategies for driving regular and new traffic to the site, from which your charity can benefit. You should ensure that you stay in regular contact with the platform, letting them know of any campaigns, awareness days or other activities that you might be able to work on together.

Sites such Jumo, See The Difference, Kiva and Globalgiving have the power to inspire and attract people who might not ordinarily pay attention to charitable causes and campaigns, thereby widening the philanthropic net and engaging entirely new audiences to make a difference. However, they appeal to a certain demographic: people who are socially aware and have a desire to contribute and make a difference in the world. Not everyone fits under that umbrella, although they might do so at different points in their life, which means there is a niche and limited audience.

Don’t exclude your existing supporters here, though. Ensure you have a dedicated fundraising section on your website so that they know the difference the worldwide web plays and let them know that you are proactively seeking new ways to raise awareness and, of course, money.

It would be hugely amiss if we didn’t discuss the massive potential of ‘mainstream’ commercial social networks, sites and platforms, such as Amazon, eBay, Foursquare and Facebook. However, that’s a whole article on it’s own – so stay tuned for that in the next Digital Clinic instalment.

Below are some of the specific charity social technologies available for UK charities; this is by no means a definitive list:

Ammado – A fundraising social network that connects individuals and charities and also enables companies to offer donation-matching initiatives

Bmycharity – A fundraising platform similar to JustGiving and Virgin Money Giving, allowing fundraisers to create their own profiles

CharityGiving – A charity itself, this acts as a fundraising platform for donors but can also serve as an online option for charities

Donation4Charity – Serves as a donation portal, redirecting donors to a dedicated page on the charities own sites to make donations

Everyclick – A meta-search engine that donates a percentage of advertising revenue to charities that set up accounts

GlobalGiving – A fundraising platform that allows donors to discover individual projects and see the impact their donations make

Jumo – A site that enables socially minded people to discover projects and charities around the world and decide what action they can take themselves

JustGiving – The biggest fundraising platform that helps individuals fundraise for charity. Similar services include Bmycharity and Virgin Money Giving

MissionFish – Enables eBay users to donate to registered charities when they buy and sell goods. Charities can also use it as an online shop

mycharitypage – Similar to fundraising sites such as JustGiving and Virgin Money Giving, but the donor pays the fee rather than the charity

Pennies – With corporate partners, allows customers to make donations to charities at the point of sale by paying with cards

See The Difference – A fundraising platform that uses the power of video story-telling and reports back to donors on the difference they made

The Big Give – A platform that connects philanthropists with charities and projects and runs challenges to double donations, as well as providing education in schools about encouraging legacy giving

Twibbon – Sets up a ‘ribbon’ for a campaign or charity, which users can add to their Facebook and Twitter profiles to help raise awareness

Virgin Money Giving – Fundraising platform similar to JustGiving and Bmycharity, but is a charity rather than a for-profit company.

Rachel Hawkes is an account director at communications consultancy Elemental

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