This morning I took my toddler and newborn to a music class at a local church, (Emmanuel Church) in our area of North London. Whilst there I came across a great example of transparency and fundraising.
As you can see from the picture, on their noticeboard the church have displayed how much it costs to run the church each year, and then described what each individual cost element is. They’ve also said how much they need to raise each week. Beneath this (there wasn’t space to include this in the photo) they’ve explained how to donate, including regular and one off donation options.
This openness and level of detail about costs is refreshing. I’m not religious, yet I almost donated there and then. I don’t think I’ve come across any charities who are as up front about their costs. Of course all charities disclose their income and expenditure in their annual accounts, which are publically available. But isn’t there something to be said for disclosing costs as fully and frankly as this, where everyone can see them?
Contrast Emmanuel Church’s ‘ask’ with a donation box which I recently saw in a well known museum which simply said ‘donate’ and specified an amount. I appreciate that setting out the financial activities of a large charity at the point of donating might overwhelm potential donors with information. But perhaps saying what the £5 requested would help the museum do, and how it will help them achieve their mission might be more compelling?
We all know that in these tough times charities need to fight for every pound. There are some great examples of charities who say what donations will be spent on (‘Just £3 a month will help do X’ etc). What I like about the Emmanuel Church ask is the transparency and the level of involvement you feel as a donor. I can see exactly how the church spends its income, and therefore what my donation will go towards. I know there will be some charities who baulk at this approach, saying that they wouldn’t want to disclose how much they spend on , say, office premises for fear that donors would criticise an entirely reasonable expenditure. As a communicator though, I think that if you share information early on it is less likely to be a problem. The more that charities say what they spend their money on, including back office costs, the more donors will understand that charities have costs like any other organisation, and we are not just staffed by volunteers. More importantly, won’t potential donors be more likely to give, and give again, if they can see what their gift, however small, contributes towards?
Apologies for disappearing off the map for a bit. Our baby girl was born a few weeks ago.
As a new mum, Childsi’s cause resonates even more strongly with me (I’ve been a huge fan of their work for a while). Childsi help abandoned babies in Uganda. They’ve also built up a great supporter base by using social media and powerful videos which tell the stories of the children they help. Childsi aren’t just a great cause; they are a fantastic example of strong charity marketing and stakeholder engagement. They’ve done all this despite having minimal resources.
Childsi have just announced that Open Fundraising will be helping them develop their mobile giving strategy, using Mobilise, their SMS-based regular giving platform, for the fundraising activity. They’ll be focusing on integrating mobile with Childsi’s website and Facebook pages first.
What I love about this is that the donation process is quick, clean and simple. (You can see what Childsi’s mobile donate function will look like on the UK Fundraising site.) All you need to do is put in your mobile number, then you’ll get a text straight away to which you reply yes to set up a regular donation. No need to enter your name, address or bank details. Easy peasy. It eliminates one of digital fundraising’s problems; the high fallout rate before checkout. Paul de Gregorio has blogged about how 50% of the people who start the process of giving you a donation online won’t complete it.
As I predicted on The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network this week, smart charities will put mobile at the centre of what they do in 2013. What’s really exciting to me about the Childsi/ Open Fundraising collaboration to me is that it shows you don’t have to be a huge charity to use mobile. Innovation and strong supporter engagement need not cost megabucks. And with 1.8 mobiles for every person in the UK, can your charity afford not to use mobile?
I’ll be watching how Childsi’s mobile strategy develops with interest.
Last week I blogged for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network about the launch of Lasa’s Charity Digital Survey.
Alongside the Digital: what every charity leader should know report (which I also worked on with the Lasa technology team) I wanted to research charities’ use of digital and how else they think it could help them. The survey revealed how charities fear that the digital skills gap could hit their bottom line. Two thirds of respondents (66%) said that digital is “essential” to their charities, and that they would be unable to “function without it.” Yet more than three out of four respondents (78%) felt that charities will miss out on fundraising and income generating opportunities if the sector does not engage with digital.
It’s time that the sector confronted the issue of the digital skills gap, and decided how to tackle it. As NCVO’s Back Britain’s Charities campaign reveals, fundraising is down by 20%, and competition for grants and earned income has never been so fierce. Without funds or earned income, charities simply won’t be able to help as many people.
We can’t ignore the digital skills gap any longer, and I think leadership is key to making it happen.