Andrew Taylor-Dawson: Digital fundraising requires thinking beyond our silos

We need to create working cultures where fundraising practitioners wear digital hats and campaigners think about fundraising

Andrew Taylor-Dawson
Andrew Taylor-Dawson

People increasingly want meaningful interactions with organisations. From feeling like part of a movement, to signing petitions and filling in surveys, it is no longer enough to just treat people as passive donors.

Across the charity sector, organisations are creating supporter journeys that offer multiple points of interaction for the supporter, with the aim of adding weight to campaigns while creating a pool of prospects to convert into donors.

Digital supporter journeys might be nothing new, but to make the most of them we must think beyond our silos. This integrated way of working is exemplified by the eCampaigners Forum, a loose association of practitioners in the digital space that share ideas and learnings and meet physically at two conferences a year in Oxford and Berlin.

Sessions at ECF conferences aren’t split into streams according to fundraising and campaigning or branches of either discipline – they’re holistic and integrated in their focus. To create experiences for supporters that are meaningful, offer multiple points of engagement and maximise the possibility of long-term support, practitioners must wear various hats.

In recent months, the Canadian digital agency New Mode has released a report in conjunction with the petition website Care2 and others called Full Spectrum Engagement. It makes a compelling case for creating integrated supporter journeys that offer a broad range of touchpoints and activities for supporters – from the traditional emailing of MPs to Twitter storms, click-to-call actions and, of course, conversion asks.

With an ever wider range of tools for digital engagement available, the possibilities for integrating campaigning aims with fundraising are wider than ever. By thinking beyond our silos and creating working cultures where fundraising practitioners wear digital hats and campaigners think about fundraising, and so on – we can start to work in a way that truly reflects how people experience our organisations.

A supporter sees a brand, its work and its impacts. The distinctions that are drawn within our structures are irrelevant. The most important thing is understanding how our communications fit together to tell stories that resonate with the lives and views of our audiences.

Well-planned digital engagements can make organisations less remote to their supporters by providing meaningful actions to be taken and making the organisation’s work and, by extension, its staff more accessible.

I come from a direct marketing background, but increasingly I have to think like a digital marketing person and a campaigner. In many ways the fundraising fraternity can learn a great deal from our colleagues in digital communications. The very nature of their work is predicated on thinking about communicating multiple forms of information with multiple types of outcome in mind.

Integrated thinking will in turn deliver greater impact for an organisation. For example, if over time a campaign is using actions to local papers alongside targeted MP lobbying, Twitter storms and other forms of engagement, it will be harder for targets to ignore the arguments being made. At the same time, you’ll be motivating your prospects, creating meaningful experiences for them and making it more likely that they will donate to you in the long term. Everyone wins!

With the number of channels available for digital engagement only set to increase and new learnings being pulled together across the sector all the time, it makes sense to break down the silos within our organisations to integrate digital thinking across our teams. Only by doing this can we maximise the potential support that exists and make our campaigning and fundraising initiatives as successful as possible.

Andrew Taylor-Dawson is development manager at Liberty

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