Be it personal donations or work fundraisers, most of us hold the personal choice to donate money and time to good causes close to our hearts. But the past half-decade has seen a massive shift in the way in which we give. In a changing world, where friends and family are often more closely connected via social networks than in-person, there has been a shift towards crowd-sourced giving, powered by the reach of social media and mobile. The result is an exceptional opportunity for charities to amplify their message and maximise their income; but at the same time our support for good causes is increasingly on public display.
One of the leaders in this evolution has been JustGiving, the online fundraising platform which has 1.4 million fundraisers and 20 million donors raising over £1 billion in the last 10 years for 13,543 UK charities.
Today, with 53% of people giving to charity aged under 40, social media has rapidly become one of the most popular and effective ways to give money via JustGiving. Facebook has overtaken email as the second-biggest source of donations accounting for £22m in 2011. Social sharing has made it easier to take an interest in fundraising, allowing you to track friends on their endeavours, follow what charities are doing with donations and access immediate information about that cause.
“People of all ages are using social networks, and fundraising is an incredibly social activity. They want to involve their friends, family and contacts to help them raise money for the causes which they feel passionate about,” says Howard Bell, Head of Partnerships at JustGiving. “Text and social media both make this really easy to do – everyone is carrying a smartphone these days and today we’re seeing 1 in 3 visitors come to Just Giving on their mobile device. That will soon be 1 in 2.”
JustGiving recently revealed a 26% increase in donations as a result of a surge in mobile giving following its partnership with Vodafone on the JustTextGiving service. JustTextGiving simplifies donations by giving charities their own text code to allow people to donate via a quick message. The result in this increase in mobile giving has been a decrease in the number of high-street ‘chuggers’ as charities increasingly find that individuals don’t like to be interrupted as they go about their daily business. It’s a difficult balance between charities wanting to maximise their fundraising and the preferences of the individuals. But increasingly platforms like JustGiving are finding that donors prefer the spontaneity of mobile and text. The other major driver behind the move to social giving is money; cash on the high-street doesn’t come with gift aid. Also this more traditional fundraising means charities don’t get the benefit of electronic contact with the donor, to potentially go back and ask them to get involved in other ways.
But what does this change in personal preferences mean to business? For businesses big and small there can be significant benefits to embracing online charity platforms like JustGiving as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. “For a number of years JustGiving has had fundraising pages which help individuals raise money for their chosen charity – about a year and a half ago we set up a company page solution which allows any company, small, medium or large, to create their own branded page at no cost,” says Bell. A large part of CSR is creating a good, long-lasting relationship between employees, the company and the community. Britain’s office workers raised £23,311,992 online for charity in 2010, while Barclays is Britain’s biggest online fundraiser with employees raising over £2m on JustGiving between 2008-2011. According to Bell, “By involving employees in fundraising activities you can improve morale, get them to rally around the common-cause and make your team feel good about their company. They are doing something good for charity and doing it together. By contributing, particularly to a local community, a company can achieve positive brand image and PR, which can make a real difference and provide a good impression about the motivation of the organisation. Research shows that shoppers do prefer or think more positively about brands who give to charity.”
Just one example is the £100 Challenge, which Vodafone launched, challenging their UK employees to pick a charity they were passionate about and use the JustTextGiving mobile service to raise £100. When they reached £100, the Vodafone Foundation doubled it. The campaign raised a huge £280,000 for 630 UK charities in just 5 months. But Bell is adamant that it’s not just large multinationals that can get involved, “In the last two years in particular there has been a shift amongst small and medium-sized businesses looking to what big corporates have previously done and thinking ‘why can’t we do this’. They are getting their own workforce involved in choosing and participating in activities. It may only be 40 or even 10 employees but it’s a powerful statement raising money for a local hospice or charity in their area.”
Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP), an independent employee-owned town planning consultancy has built up a strong ethical business, which encourages responsible planning that balances economic development with public and environmental interests. Their client portfolio seeks out not-for-profit as well as private work, so the company has a strong appreciation of the role charities play. That’s why NLP decided to raise £50,000 for seven charities supporting children and cancer patients, to mark 50 years of trading. Every member of staff was involved in a range of projects including creating and publishing a book of planning-themed jokes and cartoons.
This move towards supporting local good causes is a growing trend and one being driven by smaller businesses. “Donors and consumers have become much more interested in micro-charities of late, not just giving to the big charity brands who in many circumstances are thought to be able to cope for themselves. Smaller charities are under pressure, budgets are tight, grants have been drying up and increasingly it’s small businesses who have been contributing and it’s being recognised by local consumers.”
For businesses considering supporting a cause, the first port of call is the JustGiving website, which contains plenty of advice on setting up a page and general advice about how companies can talk to their employees to find what causes they can get really excited about. It’s also about creating an appeal that is not too expensive and not too complex, that can use the energy of the employees to make the difference at the right time and get as many people involved as possible. The more employees that are involved, the greater the ability to persuade their friends and family to give generously and thereby maximise the money that can be raised. Bell is clear in his advice: “Fundraising can be a success for any business of any size. It’s about the power of the cause, the strength of network and most importantly the story. Combining great storytelling with passionate belief in a cause and use of a tool like JustGiving makes it really easy to reach your friends and family and multiply the amount of money you raise for amazing good causes.”