An idea for a new charity platform - Part 1

Charity fundraising online could be much better

This is not a rant, it's just an observation after having done some charity fundraising events last month.

The problem I have witnessed is that online charity platforms didn't help me to help the causes I was raising money for as well as I think they could have.

In this short post I'll try to dissect the issues and in coming parts I will show some of the ideas, designs and thoughts about how it could be improved with my new idea for an engaging charity fundraising platform.

The main issues

1. Getting your friends to donate is hard

Most importantly this is not because they are bad people. They are simply inundated with requests nowadays due to the power of social networking.

Some reasonable assumptions as to why they don't donate are:

  • They are bombarded daily by friends asking for donations to all kinds of events.
  • Money is tight and they can't afford to give to everyone.
  • There is often not a lot of motivation to donate.
  • There are only so many sponsored walks/rides/jumps people can take per year before it gets repetitive.
  • They don't actually care about the cause.

2. Getting your message out there is hard

In the fundraising space there now seems to be an incredible growth in the signal to noise ratio. Therefore getting a message heard/noticed is more and more difficult whilst competing for smaller and smaller percentages of people's earnings.

Social engagement for charity work generally means promoting your charity page via the social networks, getting a physical form filled in and traditional hand collecting.

3. Fundraising is fun, donating is boring

For the fundraiser, doing the sponsored bike ride to Barcelona is a lot of fun. Challenging - yes, but the challenge is also quite a lot of fun for the fundraiser.

On the flipside to that donating is boring. Typical steps for a donor:

  1. Fill in a form (albeit a short form generally) - wahoo! we all love doing this
  2. Get your credit card out or use PayPal - some people stop at this point
  3. Pay for your donation
  4. Leave a quick "congratulations mate" message
  5. Sigh of relief as the social obligation is complete

This hardly makes for exciting, rewarding charity work. Once you have done it once you are also really put off doing it again and again.

Oh and did you just sign up?

You may well be receiving a lot more email...

4. Why should anyone give a damn?

This is the crux of the problem in my eyes. Why the hell should I give any money to something that I know is worthy, but in the greater scheme of my life, has not yet and possibly will never have a direct impact on my life.

The problem is a problem of engagement.

From my experience when people give they fall into a few categories:

  • The user has a personal affinity with the recipient charity for whatever personal reasons
  • The user is just a bloody nice person that like to help others
  • The user is a really close friend or family member of the fundraiser

These people will still give to the cause no matter what which is brilliant.

The bigger issue is how to get anyone else to donate. There is a bottleneck that I think may be stopping a lot of people contributing.

5. The online focus needs widening

The objective of charity work is to raise both money as well as awareness of a charity and its work.

However, the focus of fundraising activity (probably feels like this due to the nature of social media) is fundraiser-centric and not charity-centric.

What I mean here is that when I am donating to "Jane's Sponsored Swim" I am more focussed on Jane's pursuits than the pursuits of the charity itself. Again this is fine and will always and should always have a place in fundraising but I think there is a far wider fundraising spectrum that focusses on the work of the charity too.

In fact if you think about the wonderful success of UK charity platforms like Live Aid, Comic Relief, Children in Need - they all combine(d) a mixture of fundraiser-centric fundraising events and charity-centric appeals and learning.

We need to be working together to raise contributions - as a people rather than as individuals. That means a blend of the current system mixed with a newer, more engaging platform.

And that leaves me in a nice place to discuss my proposed solution in Part 2.

If you are interested in any of the ideas that I have talked about or want to get in touch about helping, launching a campaign etc then send me a tweet @jimhilluk.