Although it’s been out for a while, there is still time to comment on the Government Green Paper on Giving. Comments must be in by 9th March, and as one of the big themes is Technology, we are going to have our say. The paper can be downloaded at www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/ and includes details on how to respond and contribute to the debate.
However much this paper tries to claim an altruistic set of motives, at the end one is left with one abiding impression - this is all about saving money. Yes, this is the wolf of the deficit agenda in sheep’s clothing of ‘The Big Society’. You could argue the Government is doing its best to cut out the middle man, by finding ways to get the taxpayer to fund services without the cost of public administration. In fact, the Government wants us to find those ways by ourselves based on its suggestions. However, the Paper rightly asserts that technology holds at least part of the key to promoting growth in the giving of time and money, so whether it is doing it for the right reasons or not, as NFP technology specialists, we at IRIS have an opinion on its ideas.
The key technology ideas referred to in the Paper are, click-to-give sites such as EveryClick, further promotion of event based giving sites such as Justgiving and VirginMoneyGiving, ATM giving, mobile, websites like Givey that act as clearing houses for volunteer time as well as money, websites that encourage discerning gifts such as IntelligentGiving, and so on. There is plenty of discussion of the role of Social Media, online Causes, and microfinancing.
It seems though that while the authors have trawled a lot of sites for ideas, and spoken to a lot of people, they have ever tried their own hands at raising money for charity. Fundraisers know the key to success lies in building long term relationships with donors and getting them to be involved in the cause. In contrast, many of these technology driven ideas rely on chance opportunity – at your ATM or while filing in your tax return, and the superficial relationships that arise from online encounters. Anyone with school age children will know that their Facebook communities thrive far more impressively than our adult ones because they see most of their online community every day in the corridor.
There is no doubt that mobile will play an increasingly important role, and IRIS clients are already using both SMS text donations and mobile ‘Apps’ to gather funds from donors on the move. Again, the donation gathered on the move should never be seen as an end in itself. The key here is to add that to the sum of knowledge about each donor in the core donor database, so as to optimise future donations by both mobile and offline channels. SMS campaigns have shown that as many as 20% of text donors will offer to Gift Aid their donations, which gives the charity the address of the donor and an opportunity to develop the relationship.
The paper makes much of the statistic that almost half the total donated comes from less than 10% of the population. Increasing the number of people making small adhoc donations will do nothing to change this statistic unless they are turned from occasional to regular givers. One way to do this is to interact with donors through as many channels as possible , online and offline, locally and nationally, through events, corporate tie-ups, product sales and raffles, and the only technology that really supports this strategy is the Customer Relationship Management database.
Of course, new technologies and online participation vehicles have a huge role to play in helping to increase the overall level of giving, and maybe this Green Paper doesn’t mention CRM databases for fear that the Big Society sounds too much like Big Brother, but they must still remain at the heart of any IT driven strategy to increase giving.