Charities are 'not up to speed with the pace of change' in technology

Jo Barnett, executive director of Virgin Money Giving, tells Third Sector's Fundraising Conference the sector has not responded enough to where technology is heading

Jo Barnett
Jo Barnett

Charities are "not up to speed with the pace of change" when it comes to new technology and trends in how people are spending their money, according to the executive director of Virgin Money Giving.

Jo Barnett told Third Sector’s Fundraising Conference yesterday that donations to charity were flat at about £10.1bn between 2014 and 2018. When the increase in the number of charities and inflation-rate changes during that period were taken into account, she said, this meant that "the size of the pie for individual charities was shrinking".

Household spending also rose between 2014 and 2018, Barnett said, meaning that a smaller proportion of household income was going to charities.

She said that 53 per cent of all charitable donations were in the form of cash, compared with 22 per cent of all spending in retail, meaning charities were "not up to speed with the pace of change and where money is being driven from".

For example, Barnett said, 20 per cent of charities did not have the capability to take online donations, despite most people, and especially younger people, carrying less and less cash.

Among the under-20s, 20 per cent carried no cash, she said, and 33 per cent did not give to charity, but 86 per cent would donate through a smartphone.

"It’s not a nice to have," she said. "It’s a have to have in terms of tapping into how young people live their lives and how they want to pay for things through their phones.

"Charities haven’t been responding enough to where technology is heading and responding to the times."

Barnett said charities were yet to embrace contactless technology "as fully as perhaps we should", mainly due to the cost of hardware, but the technology was becoming more ubiquitous.

For example, there are 20 million contactless payments every year in the UK.

In Bristol, 73 per cent of all transactions were contactless, she said, the highest rate in the country, with Hull and London both on 72 per cent in second and third.

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