As belts are tightened, charities need to find new ways to build support for their causes. Technology can be important, and an effective online presence is no longer the preserve only of large charities.
To date, the online activity of many charities has begun and ended with the charity website - a shop window for the organisation, with useful information, a donation button and a download of the annual report. The new generation of websites - Web 2.0 - empowered registered users to become the creators and owners of content. They can, for example, create discussion threads, hold fundraising events, recruit supporters to the cause and create content. Online encyclopaedia Wikipedia is a prime Web 2.0 example: its website has more than 10 million pages, but it has a staff of 12. So who creates the content? About 75,000 users.
Web 2.0 content can exist alongside the traditional website, but opening up the organisation - potentially placing your reputation in your supporters' hands - represents a shift from the traditional approach where you have full control, and is not necessarily for everyone.
One way to start is to offer peer-to-peer fundraising, empowering existing donors to become fundraisers. How? By giving them tools on your website to help them build their own fundraising microsites, to which they invite their friends to support fundraising activities for your organisation. You can retain control over brand, and your ultimate sanction is to close their microsite down if they misbehave; but they will find supporters that you may never have found with a conventional donor-acquisition programme.
Offering peer-to-peer fundraising tools on your website is not expensive - hosted solutions are available - and is just one of the ways technology might help you ride out a recession.
- Robin Fisk is a senior charity technology specialist at ASI Europe.