Online is the way ahead for working with demographics

The world of charity fundraising has always been a minefield – persuading consumers to part with their hard-earned cash has never been easy, and it’s even more of a challenge when rather than buying something for themselves, they are spending money on another person, cause or community.

In addition, it’s an ever-competitive market: there are so many different causes which charities raise money for and it’s impossible to say that one is more important than the other – even if you personally can’t imagine any cause worthier than your own, everyone has their own view and experiences.

Now more than ever, charity has gone global. Here in the UK, for example, we are increasingly aware of global issues and as the world gets smaller it becomes increasingly clear that most of our charitable causes are global matters too – whether it’s an illness as indiscriminate as cancer or providing shelter for refugees. Even more localised issues like education or homelessness can be identified with the world over.

Looking overseas

Also, it is necessary for smaller local or national charities to look overseas if they are to gain the support they so vitally need. Sometimes a lesser known cause can benefit from as many places as possible to garner support and it may be necessary to cross borders. Or perhaps the multitudes of UK citizens choosing to live abroad may wish to donate to causes back home, and will need the knowledge and tools to do so.

Another difficult element is that the negative issues around charitable donations have seen a near-constant rise over the past few years, from economic barriers to publicity nightmares. Firstly, many people find themselves willing yet unable to donate as they simply don’t have the cash. Austerity and economic uncertainty can mean those who may have set up regular direct debits will be keeping a closer watch on their finances, or someone who may have run a fundraising event might now feel it is in poor taste to do so when colleagues, friends and family are on tight budgets.

Furthermore, the world of charity fundraising has seen bad press and scandal aplenty over the past few years and while it’s important that any issues are brought to light, this can lead to all organisations being tarred with the same brush and can draw limelight away from the actual message of a charity. Recently, charities like Oxfam have been in the negative spotlight and the public have pulled their support as a result, including volunteering, publicity and financial donations.

Trust is key

Trust is key to the success of any charity – donors are entrusting funds to the charity under the understanding that it will be used to the greatest benefit possible. However, many potential donors may worry that they don’t know where their money will really end up. Also there remains a widely held belief that not enough of the donations made go directly to the cause – often pushed by those who don’t understand all the various elements, such as overheads, which go into running a charity.

Building up trust can be particularly difficult for small charities or ones looking to operate in a new territory. This is why PR and marketing can be so important in helping to develop solid relationships with members of the public and acting as the face of the charity – whether it’s one or two volunteers or an outsourced team of call centre professionals.

Security concerns, in particular data and cybersecurity, are also key nowadays. While charities increasingly push for regular donations in the form of a direct debit arrangement, as this is a useful method which makes it easier for charities to plan spending, people are often reluctant to share their personal bank details, especially now cybercrime is a topic on everyone’s lips. GDPR has also placed increasing public pressure on organisations to make sure they are looking after personal data and has left many citizens reticent to give up personal details.

Finally, a charity may simply not be known about by many people. Whether the charity is new, or even such a part of the furniture people have stopped noticing it, has limited reach or limited funding, the simple fact is nobody is going to donate to something they’re not aware of! This is arguably the easiest challenge to resolve, thanks to digitisation and the rise of social media.

More personal way

You can now reach more people than ever, practically for free and in a more personal way thanks to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In particular, these can help smaller charities build up a following because nobody is better able to shout about your brand, your cause and the hard work of your staff and volunteers than you.

Despite a multitude of challenges, however, it cannot be denied that people are still giving. In fact, according to stats from NPT-UK, 61% of people in the UK donated to charity in 2017, with 51% saying they give from time to time, and 25% giving on a regularly monthly basis. In 2016 the average single donation was worth £18. In addition, UK charities have enjoyed a year-on-year donations rise of just under 3%. And this progress doesn’t look likely to stop any time soon.

According to the website Fundraising, the “millennial” generation (those born around 1982-1997, now aged between 21 and 36) is twice as likely to donate to charity as those generations aged over 55. Millennials are set to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 and so will likely contribute more and more to charitable causes as they become the group with the most disposable income.

Charities which utilise a diverse mix of fundraising methods to appeal to a variety of demographics are by far the most successful. Take Macmillan Cancer Support, for example – this renowned charity organises events, telephone fundraising to promote regular giving, online and social media campaigns, moneybox donations, as well as individual and group sponsorship events. In 2017, it’s no surprise that the charity earned a whopping £247.7m. Macmillan’s largest sponsored event alone, ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ in 2016 raised £29.5m and shows no signs of slowing down.

Mix of options

Having a mix of options which enables people to choose how they support is vital, especially as the millennial generation is renowned for valuing choice and variety. The website Fundraising also found that 71% of charities see social media as an effective tool for online fundraising, and donations made via mobile rose from 14% in 2015 to 17% in 2016. In total, 26% of UK donations are currently made via either a website or social media platform.

Quick and easy is the order of the day for payments, with ecommerce growing the world over, and the generation that will soon be spending the most money clearly expects to be able to do so online.

As well as varying methods, it’s important to keep in mind that different demographics favour different causes, with age being just one factor at play. NPT-UK’s research has also highlighted that, for example, animal charities are more popular with women than men (30% of women would give to these, as opposed to 19% of men), and causes more popular with a youthful demographic included social issues like physical and mental healthcare, homelessness, housing and education.

Older generations were found to favour hospitals, hospices and religious causes when deciding which charities to support. Therefore, it’s not only important to have a mix of methods, but to figure out a lucrative demographic and fundraise in the way that works for them.

Peace Gifts, for example, is a charity that aims to promote the message of peace between the Abrahamic religions while raising money for Abrahamic Reunion England, which promotes interfaith harmony through education, inspiration and action. The charity is keenly aware that selling goods to promote a message and raise funds is no longer about car boot sales in the rain or the dark confines of a charity shop.

The charity has set up an online store to sell its merchandise on a global scale. This way, it can also advertise on social media platforms with direct links to where supporters will be able to purchase the items on offer.

Smaller charity brands

Instead of setting up its own private online store with all the time and cost that goes into this, Peace Gifts chose to work with T-shirt and accessory printing business Spreadshirt. The European company which is fast expanding across the globe allows smaller brands to submit their designs and have some of the hard work done for them. Peace Gifts offers posters, hoodies, aprons, T-shirts and more, and Spreadshirt prints and ships the items far and wide, partnering with global logistics companies and allowing users to opt for a variety of payment methods.

Spreadshirt is also currently developing its mobile platforms to make things even easier for users in any market, whether established or emerging, to buy at the tap of a touchscreen. This is perfect for a global millennial demographic and allows even small, lesser known charities like Peace Gifts to compete with the big players like Macmillan or Cancer Research UK.

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