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Has digital giving come of age, as DEC Syria Crisis Appeal sees record donations through new channels?

Has digital giving come of age, as DEC Syria Crisis Appeal sees record donations through new channels?

News (International, UK)

Over 55% of more than £4m so far given directly to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) by the public for the Syria Crisis Appeal has come via digital sources, the charity said on 11th April. This is the first DEC appeal to pass this milestone.

Of this 12% was donated via phones or tablet, 12% via PayPal either using a new mobile donations platform produced by Home Made Digital with funding support from PayPal, or via the main DEC website.

Thirty seven per cent of digital giving was via credit or debit card using the My Donate platform provided by BT on a pro bono basis, with card providers waiving all transaction charges.

DEC Interim Head of Fundraising Helen Calder said: “The varied ways donors can now choose to support the appeal has really helped us to reach a wider audience and bolster our fundraising figures. This will allow our members to reach many more people affected by the crisis in Syria.”

Traditional methods of giving remain important, with 28% of donations coming via post using a free service provided on a pro bono basis by Royal Mail and 16% coming from telephone donations using the automated platform provided by Spoke, with all transaction charges waived by card providers.

But the swing towards new fundraising channels comes as a number of innovative and ambitious digital giving projects gather pace. Together these developments suggest digital giving may have reached a tipping point that could place new technologies at the heart of changing giving habits.

Calder said of DEC’s latest appeal: “The new partnership with PayPal has made it easier than ever for many people to give online and particularly via mobile devices.”

Making it easier to donate isn’t the only advantage of developments in digital technology. Joe Hedinger has designed Chip In which uses contactless payment methods, also known as near field communication (NFC) and exemplified by London’s Oyster travel cards, to transform spontaneous giving.

Chip In will use mobile terminals in busy places such as tube and rail stations. Hedinger says they can make the experience fun and rewarding, and something that people can discuss at the office or with friends in a way they never would after dropping coins into a bucket.

Hedinger tells Philanthropy Impact: “We shouldn’t just look at these technologies as simply a convenience. Don’t get me wrong, convenience is probably number one. But very slightly below that is the opportunity to do something genuinely disruptive, genuinely immersive and genuinely engaging. Do something with the fact that people can interact with it.”

If Transport for London (TFL) agree, Chip In terminals could be piloted in stations in the capital this year. They will use one recognisable design that will help to build trust and awareness. One idea features an oversized prosthetic arm that donors can ‘high five’ to give 50p to a charity.

Chip In is one of a number of projects that have earned grants from the Innovation in Giving Fund, overseen by Nesta and backed by the UK Cabinet Office, that aims to boost giving. Another is the National Funding Scheme, for arts and heritage organisations.

Publicly known as DONATE, it was launched in partnership with 11 organisations on 27th March. It allows people to make a donation “at the moment of greatest ‘connection’” through digital channels, after identifying causes and campaigns chosen by the participating cultural institutions.

Using a mobile phone a visitor will be able to make a donation by text, credit/debit card or PayPal. NFC terminals can take donors with enabled phones directly to a webpage where they can give through these means. In future they will be able to make NFC payments too.

Robert Dufton, interim chair of the National Funding Scheme, says: “This method of giving allows donors to show their support through giving flexible amounts, using simple technology and to causes that they feel connected to – all the things our research shows people want.”

Digital channels also offer an enormous advantage that charitable organisations should be as keen to exploit as commercial peers Hedinger, of Chip In, says: “Alongside the other advantages, the massive opportunity of digital giving is the data that you get from it. If I put a pound in a bucket and walk away, you know nothing about me. With this NFC stuff comes the opportunity to learn a lot more about your donors. You can optimise when and how people would like to give.”

Hedinger reports a great response from charities and hopes to roll out a pilot later this year, probably with Comic Relief. He is also in discussion with Barclaycard (and other banks) and sees such a partnership as key to achieving the scale needed to deliver a sector-wide boost through data sharing.

Chip In will provide generic demographic information that could help charities tailor their fundraising according to time, location, or age of donor. It will hopefully also incorporate a way for individuals to claim Gift Aid in future. Hedinger’s research suggests that the younger donors he is targeting would be put off by opening themselves up to further appeals from, and attempt at relationship building by, charities, so spontaneous giving is the focus.

DONATE is different. It will collect generic data, but could also offer more specific information to charities. Donors who use the scheme will be asked if they want to register, which will save time on future donations and create a helpful audit trail for Gift Aid. Those who register with the scheme will give information such as age range, email and home address including country to the charities they donate to, unless the individual chooses to opt out.

Preliminary research suggests 60% of donors are willing to register, although William Makower, founder of the National Funding Scheme, said that this won’t be achieved straight away: “There will be a lag, as there was with Just Giving, before the system becomes commonplace and it is more convenient to sign up than fill in your details every time you make a donation.”

This information could help charities to bring donors on a giving journey that leads to planned, regular giving. Makower added: “This is obviously very valuable. The receiving organisation can use the information to build a relationship that would be impossible without this highly attributable data.”

DEC’s success with digital giving suggests donors are ready to embrace new technology when giving. Innovators such as DONATE and Chip In have the potential to drive a step-change in giving amongst different demographic groups.

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