Published: 14 December 2016

Digital disruption is spreading: is it time for charities to get on board?

While digital transformation is the change process that ensures your organisation is equipped to meet the needs of your users in today’s world, digital disruption rips up the rule book.   

Digital disruption requires a different mindset. It radically challenges the ‘norm’ and requires a completely different organisational model. Users also interact with or consume a product or service very differently. In the third sector, digital disruption can occur within a specific segment of the organisation such as service delivery or fundraising models.

Disruption is widespread in the commercial world. Some disruptors serve an existing market with a new solution, others create new markets by identifying a previously unrecognised consumer need. But they all inspire radical change, often leaving established players behind. Think of all the classic examples out there, like Netflix and Blockbusters, Uber and black cabs, Airbnb and hotels, Hello Fresh and grocery stores to name a few. 

In the charity sector, disruption exists. Think about start-up organisations such as charity: water and Help for Heroes. Both have adopted a start-up and risk-taking mentality and have rapidly become big brands by doing things differently. They both experiment with funding models different to the ones used by established players in the third sector, meaning they can take risks and try new things. 

Digital disruption in the third sector

In a market potentially ripe for disruption, how can established charities embrace it? This was discussed at a recent Heads of Digital event supported by Addition by WPN Chameleon.

Firstly, let’s think like a disruptor, both commercial and from the third sector. What are the key characteristics?

  • Openness to risk taking and potentially failure.
  • A focus on the user experience.
  • Transparency (Charity: water/Help for Heroes both show 100% of where donors money is being spent).
  • Continuous engagement with communities for feedback
  • Flexibility of approaches.
  • Using technology as an enabler.

Could your organisation be a disruptor? Are these characteristics you or your organisation already embody? 

Now let’s start looking at potential areas which are ripe for disruption, like service delivery, volunteering, fundraising and data insights. 

Crowdfunding as disruption

Let’s look at fundraising and the disruption we are currently seeing occur through crowdfunding and the world of online payments. 

Transparency is a key feature of disruption and crowdfunding allows donor to choose exactly where and what their money is being spent on. Crowdfunding platforms are on the rise, including Just Giving Crowdfunding, Razoo, StartSomeGood. People are using crowdfunding to raise money for everything, from parents raising money for a new wheelchair for their severely disabled son, to a family which needs help paying for surgery for their injured family pet. This ability to remove the middle man enables donors to give directly to a beneficiary, and donors know how and what their money is being spent on.

Charities are also using crowdfunding platforms to raise funds for very specific projects such as Hearing Dogs for the Deaf which used it to raise money for a new van called the ‘Pup-mobile’. The charity used the dogs to grab the attention of funders through videos and rewards such as being a trainer for the day – who wouldn’t want that! Then there are the slightly larger campaigns such as those from Doctors of the World UK. The charity launched a JustGiving campaign to support refugees in Calais, exceeding its fundraising target by more than 1,200%. Doctors of the World UK used emotive imagery and stories from the ground to grab the public’s attention to ensure that they could continue to care for those in Calais.

The brave new world of online payments

The world of online payments has some new players in the market disrupting the way we pay for our goods and services. Apple Pay for the web recently joined the world of online one touch payment options already available, such as Android Pay, PayPal One Touch and Payment Request API. Android Pay is set to enter the online payment space soon

These payment methods will have a significant impact on the way we pay for products, sign up for events and make donations in 2017, by reducing form friction and making it quicker and easier for customers to complete payments. It will also be technically possible to donate by simply selecting an amount and then paying through your thumb print on your phone. It will completely eradicate any need for the user to complete addresses, card details and other time consuming form fields as these are pulled through from the donor’s digital wallet.

At Addition, we’ve been testing and implementing these new payment options with clients for a while now. We’ve now brought all this knowledge together into a new donations product, to be released to the market in early 2017, called goDonate. Keep your eyes peeled for further information.

More like this
Find out about our Heads of Digital networking group, exclusive to organisational members.
Download our manifesto for change, A manifesto for digital change in 2016.


Adam Fowles, digital account director, WPN Chameleon

Adam is a digital account director at Addition by WPN Chameleon and has over 5 years of experience managing and advising on digital projects in-house at Age UK and the Stroke Association plus agency side for FTSE listed organisations.