The role of new technology

More research is needed to find out why only a small number of people donate online, says Institute of Fundraising chief executive Amanda McLean

Only a small number of people currently donate online
Only a small number of people currently donate online

The government makes clear in the green paper that it hopes new technology, particularly online tools such as social media, will play a large role in both encouraging and enabling increased giving.

But it seems we still have a long way to go. A statistic cited in the paper that has caused some concern is that only 7 per cent of donors give money online, even though 58 per cent of adults shop on the internet.

Amanda McLean, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, says we need to work out why such a small proportion of people donate online and how we can enable more charities and people to use the internet for giving.

"We especially need to encourage smaller charities," she says. "What can the government and the IoF do to support them?"

But according to McLean, one potential problem with increasing levels of online giving, on all its varied platforms, is that they could damage the ability of charities to maintain relationships with donors.

"With new technologies, finding ways to give and making it personal at the same time is going to be one of our biggest challenges in the sector," she says.

Steve Bridger, a digital consultant for charities, believes that social media are sometimes being viewed in the wrong way. "Charities often treat social networks as if they are just another channel for donations," he says. "But they should be treated as a way to build relationships that might one day lead to donations."

As far as the internet is concerned, he says, charities still have a lot of work to do: they need to rewire themselves for this century and a new generation of donors.

Bridger says charities should allow their staff to engage and participate online: given the variety of online tools available, such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, everyone at a charity now has the power to be a fundraiser.

"The paper doesn't address how charities can change and restructure to do this," he says. "The assumption is that charities can just absorb more funds. I'm not sure they always can."

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