How Charities Are Going Digital | Hannington Tame
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Mixing The Charitable and The Commercial: How Charities Are Doing Digital

The launch of Samaritans Radar last week has generated mixed reviews across social media. The app notifies Twitter users when someone in their network uses a concerning phrase, something which has been called an invaluable tool for trolls by some, and applauded by others. Here we take a look at how charities are embracing digital technology and how they can benefit from the strategies of eCommerce professionals.

Conversion Crunch

When it comes to digital, charities have some problems to overcome. Typically they have the opposite problem to commercial organisations: they get lots of traffic but poor conversions. Many browsers coming to a charity website will be looking for information or inspiration, rather than visitors to a commercial website who are looking to shop. Oxfam are experimenting with online shopping (of their own gifts and donated vintage clothing) in a much more commercial mould to drive increased conversion.

UX Unsuccess

Another issue experienced by charities is one of user experience. Digital is often approached as a policy or broadcast medium without the critical thought that goes into commercial strategy. They don’t start with the user, thus providing a poor customer journey. Many charities are now looking to hire savvy digital specialists to commercially optimise their sites.

However, charities do not have too far to go to improve experience. Digital thrives on narrative, and charities have some of the most compelling narratives around. Once these have been effectively harnessed it will be a small hop to excellent user experiences. Furthermore, digital provides fantastic and innovative ways to showcase the work and effectiveness of charitable organisations, thus driving financial conversion.

Maximise Return

Digital technology provides opportunities for charities to streamline their admin and maximise their opportunities, both of which lead to resources being directed to those in need. Social media is a prime example of this. If a charity can get a campaign to go viral they can rake in heaps of donations for minimal output. For example, Cancer Research UK’s #nomakeupselfie was an unprecedented campaign that outdid all expectations to make £8million in 6 days. And, of course, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which seemed to run and run and make over $100million. Since then, many charities are increasing their social budgets in an effort to catch this willing market.

Efficient Engagement

Much of what charities do is to connect a database of donors to a database of problems, something which digital can make more efficient. CRM programs, email automation and content management systems allow charities to contact supporters with minimal time and effort. It also has the potential to disseminate responsibility and action to grassroots and localised campaigners. This not only increases engagement but spreads action more efficiently across an organisation’s network.

The opportunities are seemingly endless for charities and digital. Computers are now contained in hand held devices, watches and spectacles. As it becomes easier for consumers to make spontaneous purchases on the go, so it follows that donating to charities can become similarly impulsive. The wireless connectivity of the globe has untapped opportunities to reach out and support those in the third world.

Commercial Meets Charitable

We have looked at how charities can leverage the commercial implications of digital. Now some people are taking the opportunity to meld the commercial and the charitable into one enterprise. Hannington Tame has been working with a new enterprise which provides information, products and support for those in the network of a national charity. In this case the commercial enterprise and the charity work symbiotically, the former providing strategy, commercial acumen and conversion, the latter providing expert advice, market knowledge and brand resonance. This innovative combination of commercial and charitable activity is yet to be fully tested, but provides exciting options for the future.

So far, the charitable sector’s interaction with digital has been characterised by flashes of brilliance among tentative basics. #nomakeupselfie proved the social media can be an unbridled fundraising opportunity, while Samaritans Radar, for all its criticisms, demonstrates a way charities can use digital to directly help people in need. By adopting commercial strategies and attitudes, charities should be able to optimise and develop for maximum return, and maximum lives saved.

To find out about our current opportunities to innovate in digital in the charitable sector, get in touch.

Hannington Tame works at a vastly reduced fee rate for registered charities.

James Minter

James Minter is a partner at Hannington Tame, the digital CEO and C-Suite headhunting specialist.


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