Five ways technology is transforming charity communication

Nathan Baranowski

Charity

Communication is essential for charities, but the way they go about it is being changed. Much of this is down to technology, meaning that whether it’s talking to supporters and donors, or internally to their own staff, charities’ communication methods has become streamlined and more efficient.

These developments are leading to many positive changes in the charity and third sector – here are just a few examples of how high-profile brands and smaller, local teams are embracing digital transformation.

Shifting to remote working

Advances in technology have made it possible to build truly global teams, where the only barrier to communication is the difference in time zones. For charities, this offers endless possibilities; organisations can expand on their work and hire from anywhere in the world, choosing a diverse mix of employees from a wide talent pool.

A survey from the Ethical Property Foundation sent to charities found that 58 per cent of respondents were facing difficulties keeping up with office costs. The solution for this? Switch to remote working which saves money, allowing resources to go where it’s really needed. 

Simple tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Google Docs, to name but a few, are making it easy for teams to share information, and many organisations are opting for professional cloud-based systems which can be accessed on the go with little more than an internet connection.

In fact, 63 per cent of charities surveyed by TechTrust have at least one of their core applications in the cloud giving them the option to work flexibility and efficiently. Some, like Citizens Advice, have gone a step further to build their own management systems.

Attracting and tracking donations

Social media has made it easier for people to launch successful campaigns attracting hundreds of followers within days, and online giving has become the norm thanks to platforms like JustGiving, Virgin Money Giving and GoFundMe. A report on the status of UK fundraising found that 79 per cent of charities surveyed had success fundraising in this way last year.

This avenue of fundraising has become particularly prominent as tech-savvy Millennials begin to dominate the workforce, and therefore make up the majority of potential donations. With almost everyone having a connected device in arm’s reach, online campaigns allow charities to create targeted campaigns which bring their cause to the people, instead of having to funnel people towards their cause – Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal is a shining example.

Technology is also enabling charities to track donations in new and innovative ways. Take AID:Tech for example, which has developed blockchain technology that tracks donations and proves that international aid has reached the correct destination.

Connecting in disaster zones

When you’re working in an emergency situation, technology for communication becomes vitally important. Rescue workers need to build an accurate picture of the extent of the damage and relay this to support teams who are able to send supplies and back-up.

Fortunately, it’s now possible to connect with others even in extreme situations. There have been advances in satellite communications and portable modems and Wi-Fi routers. Vodafone has even created a mobile network in a backpack, which can be set up in just ten minutes and allows five people within 100 metres to call at the same time.

Using smartphones to speak to people in vulnerable situations can be incredibly helpful. For example, the mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) project set up by the World Food Programme – collects data on food shortages through mobile phone surveys, using texts, telephone interviews and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) allowing decision-makers to allocate resources accurately.

Cashing in on contactless technology

Fewer of us carry coins around nowadays, which has created new challenges for charities when it comes to on-street collections. How do charities re-engage with high street shoppers and get us to part with money when we’re on the move? Research from Barclaycard found that only four per cent of UK charities are using are using contactless payment and are losing out by £80 million a year as a result.

That said, there are a number of creative projects which are paving the way. Look at Cancer Research, who had the clever idea to launch smart benches in Islington and Lewisham giving people the chance to sit down and tap their credit cards. London mayor Sadiq Khan has also set up a scheme creating 35 cashless donation points where people can donate to homeless charities. Within two weeks of launching, people tapped 2,581 times raising £7,743.

Understanding and using data

Data is a vital way for charities to understand customer needs, to improve their operations and to analyse the results of campaigns. In many cases, information can give organisations the power to act – the UK government has just announced its support for a scheme set up by environmental technology organisations WILDLABS Tech Hub and WRAP, who want to create a ‘world-first’ data trust for conservationists. This will allow them to share audio and images in a bid to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.  

When it comes to communicating with supporters through newsletters or an annual report, data visualisation – such as graphs, charts and maps – can be a great way to convert numbers and statistics into readily understandable information. These figures can also be used to understand long-term trends, advocate for policy change and apply for funding grants successfully.

These innovations are far from the extent of it though. We’ve previously looked at how charities are making the most of voice tech, while innovations in the field of artificial intelligence have made the technology much more accessible for organisations. Digital transformation presents opportunities for charities across the world as long as they are willing to embrace the change. New technologies can transform the way they communicate, operate and, ultimately, carry out their work.

If your charity or third-sector organisation wants to make the most of digital, whether it’s a technology mentioned in this article or a new idea you’re bringing to the table, we can help you see, make and live the change. Get in touch with a member of the team today by emailing hello@ojosolutions.com or phone 01225 220155.

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