Think like a donor

Think like a donor

Gain your supporters’ perspective to launch your digital journey

When the leaders of one small national charity approached Zoe Amar for support, it was with the vague idea that it should be taking advantage of digital fundraising opportunities.

Pivot to digital

Shortly after Covid-19 struck one small national charity found their digital channels took on a more central role. Its annual, household-name campaign – previously conducted largely offline – shifted emphasis, with the result that its digital fundraising target was exceeded by 50%.

We talked to donors, mapped user journeys, and created a better digital value proposition through use of that data,” recalls Zoe. “It was one of the most dramatic pivots to digital I have been part of – they’ve really embraced it.

Not every charity is equipped or ready to make such a bold move, but getting closer to your donors online is a universal starting-point recommended by Zoe, whose digital agency specialises in supporting charities and non-profits.

Understanding your supporters

Online visibility

Where most charities begin is by making sure they are visible – that they have a good case support presented on their website, that their SEO (search engine optimisation) is sound, and that they’re involving communities of warm supporters through social media,” she continues.

“Beyond that, if you’re going to do just one thing, it should always be talking to your donors and supporters. Find out how they’re using digital. What charities are they connecting with digitally – whose email newsletters have they signed up for? What do they like and dislike about them?

“Asking them about their motivations for supporting you is really interesting, because this might have changed in recent years. The insight you glean will help you to differentiate your charity."

Digital leaders

Besides calling on external expertise, every charity can benefit from some level of in house knowledge. Committing to a dedicated fundraising manager can prove useful; in smaller charities, a volunteer could take on this role.

To ensure direction from the top, Zoe adds, it’s critical to appoint a ‘digital trustee’ who can ask challenging questions and inform their fellow leaders about the opportunities and risks.

“You get to a point where you will need to make bigger cases for digital investment as your volume of activity grows,” Zoe explains. “If your board is unable to make an informed decision, then your growth can plateau or drop off. Because digital fundraising is a really labour-intensive activity, you need that support at senior level.”

Zoe acknowledges the trust and privacy issues that might make charities wary about launching this kind of exercise. She suggests framing the approach to supporters as an effort to ensure the charity is communicating with them in their preferred way, given how much has changed during the pandemic. “I find that’s actually music to the ears of many donors: it can be a very positive way to strengthen relationships,” she says.

Tough climate

The current income squeeze may make it harder for charities to justify major investments, Zoe recognises. “Some organisations have got to the point where investment is almost inevitable – they need to put in a new CRM (customer relationship management) system or website because the ones they’ve soldiered on with for five years are just not fit for purpose.

“In other cases, it may become harder to get investment cases through boards. Leaders will be asking a lot of tough questions, but that can be a good thing.”

Zoe has tracked charities’ burgeoning interest and confidence in this area through her organisation’s annual digital skills report. In the 2021 survey, two-thirds of respondents saw digital as a prime concern for their charities, while 60% had a digital strategy in place.

At the same time, Zoe fully accepts that charities need to keep investing in cash channels to meet all donors’ preferences. “Ultimately we may end up in a cashless society, but for now there are still concerns about digital inclusion. So charities need to look at a mixed economy, making it as easy as possible for everyone to give.”

Where to next

A series of small steps

A series of small steps

Keeping up with digitally active supporters is a must for charitable organisation Islamic Relief.