Mobile technology can transform donations, says digital fundraiser

Paul de Gregorio, head of digital fundraising at the agency Open, tells the IoF's fundraising convention the mobile phone giving technology has brought interesting changes in the US

The technology exists to transform the way in which mobile phones are used to raise money, but UK fundraisers have not yet embraced it, according to Paul de Gregorio, head of digital fundraising at the fundraising agency Open.

De Gregorio dismissed the idea that text message donations were low value, instead telling delegates at the Institute of Fundraising’s fundraising convention yesterday that text messages could be used to engage with the public and raise money in completely different ways.

He pointed to political campaigns, particularly in the US, which he said had encouraged supporters to give their mobile phone numbers and store their bank account details with the campaigns after they made their first donations.

The campaigns were then able, on multiple occasions, to contact supporters by text and ask them to donate quickly and easily using a link or simply replying, he said.

The technology could also be used to give supporters access to exclusive offers on items such as T-shirts or other merchandise, de Gregorio said.

"This is, we think, quite transformational technology that could be used in the UK," he said. "This technology exists now. Nothing needs to happen except for the collective will of organisations in the UK fundraising space to start thinking about this."

The behaviour of saving bank details for smoother payments was something UK consumers were already familiar with, he said, pointing to online retailers or takeaways companies.

"What we need to do is try to drive value by using technology to connect mobile telephone numbers and email addresses to card details and hook them up with the killer propositions that will drive that giving," de Gregorio said.

The technology could even be used across campaigns, he said: if someone donated to an emergency appeal by the Red Cross or the Disasters Emergency Committee, for example, they could then choose to store their data for any other emergency appeals that might spring up in the future.

"We do need to change our approach to fundraising," he said. "We need to figure out the longer-term direction in terms of what kind of fundraising products we’re going to lead on and how we’re going to engage the public.

"Being in the US has enabled us to see some really interesting things we think will become fundamental to the types of approaches we look to develop in the UK in the next couple of years."

De Gregorio said he hoped that donation through Facebook, a service in which card details are stored, allowing people to respond to charity appeals instantly and which is already available in the US, would soon come to the UK. He said he believed it would become a major challenger to existing platforms.

Traditional elements of fundraising, such as good storytelling, were still important and should not be affected negatively by making giving fast and easy, he said.

But de Gregorio added: "What we want to do is make the process that allows people to give as good as the thing that moved them to do it."

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