Fundraising and Technology
Technology can be a double-edged sword: but used properly it should hit a useful balance to assist fundraising.
What new technology takes away from your organisation in terms of time, cost and new skills acquisition, it should return new avenues to reach donors, more compelling ways to tell your organisation’s story, assist giving methods to make donating easy and frictionless, and give you the data and means to create targeted communications to segments of your supporters.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A CRM is the essential piece of any data-driven strategy. It acts as a memory for your organisation about donors, volunteers, event attendees, stakeholders and anyone who engages with your organisation. When your CRM is filled with accurate information, you can commence building deeper relationships with your supporters.
The data stored in your CRM can be used to track preferences of what has or hasn’t been successful to tailor your communications to get the best results for your potential donors and your organisation.
Your CRM details exactly when people donate, how they do it, how frequently, and how much they give. It provides information about how your supporters prefer to receive information about your work, the format they want it in and what they are likely to do with it once this information is shared.
Armed with this knowledge you can segment and target your communications, personalise content and identify new donors or graduate existing donors to new levels of giving. You can then leverage CRM data to learn more about your supporters so your Board and staff can cultivate potential prospects.
CRM data is not only useful for philanthropic strategies but can leverage significant benefits for potential corporate partnerships. Understanding what motivates your community, audience, members, and supporters can provide valuable assets to offer to corporate partners. And, by building impact measures into your data collection you can service your current and new partnerships with better outcomes.
Optimising Digital Donations Strategy
As online channels continue to grow as the most common way of receiving donations it is important that the experience of donating online is appealing, user-friendly and secure. Selecting the best platform to facilitate gifts online is important to ensure the best experience within the resources of your organisation.
With multiple payment platforms available the choice can be difficult, although there are some important considerations:
- Intuitive and functional: How easy is it to access and use the donations page?
- Integrated or third-party payment software: Can you customise the platform in your organisation’s brand?
- CRM integration: How is donation information recorded in your CRM?
- Mobile compatibility: Can donations be made from any device connected to the internet?
Email is also a key part of digital fundraising strategies and an effective way to communicate with your database. It is important to consider email correspondence from the perspective of the donor and tailor communications to each audience profile or relationship segment as much as possible.
For instance, a well-produced HTML email with organisational branding, images and “DONATE” buttons to click may appear to some donors as marketing material. Whereas a plain text email that includes personalised messaging may be more appealing. While both strategies are valid, it is important to segment your donor audience to select the most enticing approach of digital correspondence.
Mobile Giving is technology that supports donations to be made via mobile or wireless devices. The technology uses short codes, such as phone numbers, to redirect text messages to interactive messaging services. Donations can then be deducted from pre-paid plans or added to mobile bills.
Mobile Giving is complex with several elements to research before implementing. Consider transparency of information use, accountability measures and how agreements are negotiated with telecommunication providers.
Mobile technology’s wide reach and immediacy can prompt spur of the moment giving and is suited to mass marketing style fundraising. Given these characteristics the platform traditionally attracts relatively small donation amounts and is less suitable for engaging major donors.
‘Tap’ to Donate
As consumers increase their preference to use bank cards and mobile payment systems over currency, new cashless donation technologies are adapting.
‘Tap to Donate’ technology is a growing alternative to cash donation boxes and can be an effective way to encourage spur of the moment giving.
‘Tap to Donate’ technology is not only a more direct, secure and convenient way to process payments, it is also more compact and versatile. The payment point can be relocated to any public place and innovatively augmented to each audience experience.
When the Queensland Arts Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in Brisbane transitioned to ‘Tap to Donate’ they experimented with various locations throughout their galleries. In addition to traditional foyer placement the technology was implemented as part of a new acquisition program and trialled in the Gallery’s cafés.
QAGOMA found the transition to the new technology a positive experience, sighting the main challenges as being logistics of briefing staff to ensure donations are acknowledged, installing, and maintaining the devices and ongoing bank fees. These challenges have outweighed the ease of transacting and auditing donations, as well as accessing real-time reporting.
QAGOMA reported the most success placing a ‘Tap to Donate’ station at the exit of the popular exhibition Margaret Olley: A Generous Life. The gallery attributes this success to factors including high attendance to the free exhibition, and the popular content about the life of one of Australia’s most prominent painters and philanthropists.
Since the inception of social media platforms, the use of these systems as a marketing and communication tool has become commonplace. In recent years social platforms have proven to be powerful fundraising tools.
The foundations of fundraising and social media are well aligned; people who engage with you via social platforms inevitably share values and interest in your artistic outputs. This places social media communities in an ideal position to engage in meaningful discussion about how they could support your organisation.
Beyond using social media platforms to simply spread your fundraising message, some platforms go one step further and provide mechanisms to transact and receive donations online. Facebook supports charitable organisations to transact donations via their platform by offering a donate button to your Facebook page and covering all fees for registered charities.
Whenever a third party is involved in processing donations on your behalf it is important to get qualified tax advice to ensure compliance and reporting requirements can be met.
Some not-for-profits are investing in Virtual Reality (VR) campaigns as part of their fundraising campaign mix. Amnesty UK, UNICEF Canada, and a handful of international not-for-profits have created successful VR campaigns.
The Internet of Things is the networking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other items embedded with electronics to collect and exchange data. Soon digital content will be accessible everywhere – not just on a screen.
For now, these technologies are still expensive and not widely used in Australia but may provide a better return on investment down in the future, when the technology is more affordable.
Technology is only a tool
Regardless of what type of technology you choose the theory and frameworks for fundraising remain the same. A strong case for support is essential and forms the basis of all messaging. The fundraising cycle and the principles of effective donor management form the basis for developing, maintaining and growing donor relationships.
Technology will never take the place of personalised or bespoke approaches, particularly for larger gifts. However, if used correctly and tied back to those frameworks, technology can be an effective and efficient way to identify, engage and manage donors.