Digital can pay off for charity

Social media is a potential source of funds to good causes, but few make the most of it.

When Phil Szomszor decided to run the Hastings Half Marathon in memory of his beloved mum, Brenda, he used his knowledge of social media to maximise donations to St Michael's Hospice, a local charity that cared for her in the last weeks of her battle with cancer.

The 38-year-old digital marketing consultant, who lives in Welwyn Garden City, launched a website (www.teamsteam.org) to raise awareness, set up a page on JustGiving.com to receive money, and used Facebook and Twitter to update supporters.

And he certainly had a quirky story to tell, having persuaded eight friends to join him in tackling the demanding, 13-mile hilly course with ironing boards strapped to their backs, stopping off along the way to press a few shirts, to the delight of the crowd.

"A website provides a good focal point to tell the story around a fundraising effort and we wanted to explain how the challenge would work, write blog posts and display the promotional video," he explained. "However, although the website was useful, the most effective tool was Facebook."

His regularly updated Facebook page acted as a reminder to those pledged to sponsor, as well as a medium through which to thank those who donated, either on an individual basis or as part of a daily round-up.

"The idea was to make the campaign as personal as possible," added Phil. "It's the human interest side that really gets people putting their hands in their pockets – as you saw recently with the Claire Squires story."

It's an excellent point. The reaction to the tragic death of 30-year-old fundraiser Claire, who collapsed in the final mile of last month's London Marathon, was nothing short of remarkable, with her JustGiving.com page in aid of the Samaritans being inundated with donations.

With Gift Aid taken into account, the amount received in her memory has now soared past £1m, with money continuing to pour in from people touched by her story, according to Anne-Marie Huby, JustGiving's co-founder and managing director.

"Facebook and Twitter drove an extraordinary amount of traffic to our site," she says. "The story began with Claire's friends and family making initial donations, and then people who had watched or run the marathon, and then their friends of friends started piling in as well."

Ms Huby believes the situation illustrated the growing importance of social media – particularly Facebook – in the world of fundraising. In fact, around 40 per cent of JustGiving's traffic now comes from the site, and more than £27m has been raised on it via referrals from that social network.

There's little doubt charities need all the help they can get. The tough financial times, employment uncertainty, funding cuts, and the sheer number of good causes vying for attention, means all conceivable fundraising possibilities need to be examined.

For example, a recent report from the National Children's Bureau (NCB) entitled Beyond the Cuts warned that a significant minority of those working with young people may be forced to close in the face of a £405m statutory funding loss over the next five years.

However, despite the obvious benefits of using social media to raise both awareness and much-needed financial help, the fact is that relatively few individuals and causes are making the most of the opportunities opening up to them. A number of reports published over the last few years have highlighted the fact that charities are yet to fully embrace new media, and that remains the case today, according to Rachel Beer, a fundraising expert who runs the specialist consultancy Beautiful World (www.hellobeautifulworld.com).

"There are woefully few charities using digital media really effectively for fundraising, in many cases because they lack infrastructure, expertise or time, due to restricted budgets," she said. "There's also a reluctance to invest in new, untested media, because it is less easy for charities to predict what the returns will be. This makes it difficult to make a case for investment."

However, there are some encouraging signs, according to Tom Lodziak, digital media manager at the Institute of Fundraising, who suggests there is evidence charities are increasingly using new media in their fundraising attempts.

In fact, YouGov research commissioned by the Institute earlier this year found that 15 per cent of the public had made a one-off, online payment to a charity between October and December 2011. By any measure this is encouraging and hopefully the start of a stronger trend.

Chris Allwood, senior product development manager at the CAF, agrees, but points out that most charities still view social media as a way to engage people who may then subsequently choose to make a donation, whether on or offline.

"Charities are investing very heavily in Facebook and Twitter content by employing people to keep their profiles up to date," he said.

"However, social media and online generally is still not yet a significant source of funding for charities."

The challenge for causes will be how best to use social media techniques, according to Cath Lee, chief executive officer at the Small Charities Coalition. Organisations need to revisit their mission statements, she suggested, and be clear about their ultimate aims and objectives.

"Charities realise there is value to using it to raise profile, recruiting volunteers, getting their message out and potentially raising money, but don't necessarily have the time or skills to implement a strategy," she said.

Mr Lodziak believes mobile phones and text donations will play an increasingly vital role within online fundraising, pointing out that a lot of charities have already signed up to JustTextGiving.

"With the ease of online giving, one-click gifts/donations based on impulse decisions will gain popularity over large annual contributions," he said.

Ms Beer agrees that mobile technology will play a vital role, especially in light of the rise of smartphones and tablets, and hopes charities begin to take digital channels as seriously as they do other forms of media to help fundraising activities.

"They will also need to focus on the media their donors, fundraisers and potential supporters use – and that will be increasingly digital," she said.

Fundraising: Quirky ideas worth a look

Kiva – peer to peermicro lending

It works with microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems. www.kiva.org

Pennies – round up after purchase

Enables shoppers to donate a few pennies in private when they pay by debit card, credit card or electronically. It is just one button on the chip and PIN machine in-store, or one click of the mouse online. www.pennies.org.uk

Guess 2 give – bet and give on your friends' sponsored event

A sweepstake can be set upfor your event in which friends pay £3 to guess the result.Of that money, 50p from eachof the guesses is put into aprize fund and up to £2.50 (inc. Gift Aid) goes to charity. Whoever guesses closest to the result wins the money. www.guess2give.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Junior Research Analyst - Recruitment Resourcer

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £25K: SThree: SThree Group has been well estab...

    Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

    Associate CXL Consultant

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

    Business Anaylst

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game