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Is digital transformation now the key to sustainable fundraising?

6 April 2021

A charity’s ultimate aim is to reach a level of sustainable fundraising.

Predicting donor behaviour and what your organisation’s income will look like next year isn’t the most straightforward task. But, while you can’t control what donors do, you can orchestrate your organisation’s behaviour and create a better donor journey with digital.

During the pandemic, lots of charities went through some form of digital transformation. At first, it was to adapt to a new way of working and a means of survival, but digital transformation really is about so much more.

So is digital transformation now the key to sustainable fundraising?

Whether you’ve already started your digital journey or are about to, charities cannot underestimate the benefits. Some charities may think we survived without turning to digital, so why change it now? However, donor behaviour has changed drastically in the past year, and it is expected to continue.

What can digital transformation do for non-profits?

Digital transformation is not just changing process, but switching your charity to a digital-first mindset. It’s only when you have made that change that specific tasks can be automated for you to engage with donors in a tailored way to provide a richer experience.

Many charities had to start their digital transformation during the height of the pandemic. And although they’ve begun their journey, they may be wondering what to do next. New and innovative ways to increase donations are becoming more popular. The RAF Museum’s introduction of Goodbox contactless technology generated a massive 150% increase in fundraising, which shows a great adaptation to the current climate and its donors.

So what can digital achieve for your charity?

There’s a whole host of benefits, one being automation. Using digital tools, you’re able to segment your donors into specific audiences and send them on personalised and tailored donor journeys. You can also include data management under automation. For example, by connecting its website to a donor CRM, a charity can radically reduce admin time, delivering immediate cost savings. Tracking donors is also easier with a digital experience website. You can follow their actions, the conversations had and even retarget them with ads and content relevant to them. 

Digital is considered a cost-effective way to reach your donors too. Suppose you think about the difference between creating a mailer that needs posting and one sent digitally. The cost of the mailer’s design, printing, and sending to donors is high. Whereas sending an email is quicker and cost-effective. Whether it’s the initial welcome email, a thank you, storytelling, a case study, statistics, or an event announcement, you can find different ways to interact with donors through email here.

While digital provides more opportunity for donors, charities need to be aware of a digital divide. Not every donor will be online; some won’t have computers or a smartphone to join virtual events and see updates you’ve posted on social media. So, bring fundraising events online and diversify your fundraising offering, but don’t forget about those who don’t have access and prefer traditional giving.

Is digital transformation necessary now more than ever?

In the past, it’s no secret that charities have been cautious about investing in online tech. It may be largely down to underestimating the transition speed from traditional fundraising activities to more digital efforts. Or a lack of knowledge about transformational technologies that integrate all data.

Whilst larger charities have been ahead of the curve in terms of digital investment, vanguard technology is maturing and leaving those who choose to ignore it behind. New tech for good like good box, tap for change, and integrated platforms that handle sales, communications, automation, and so much more are becoming more popular. The opportunity to reach new audiences is there for the taking. Charities like Cancer Research UK are using innovative technology blended with fundraising, encouraging donors to give in everyday life. If their campaign’s success tells us one thing, it’s that fundraising is about your donors and what they want – more straightforward ways to give.

How to make your fundraising sustainable

  • If your charity hasn’t applied for their Google Ad Grants, it’s the perfect way to take the first step into digital. A qualifying non-profit typically receive $10,000 in Google Ads advertising every month. You can apply for the grant and read many success stories that show the incredible impact.
  • There are also incentives to encourage charities to make a move to digital. Charities pay zero VAT on digital marketing services, which means when they hire a third party to provide them with a marketing service like pay per click advertising, remarketing, and other services, they do not pay VAT.
  • Charities have to deal with tasks that take up time and could be better spent elsewhere. That’s where automation can help. It doesn’t just cut down admin time but allows a personalised 360-degree view of your donors and allows you to access your data in one place. You may have tasks that your team repeat daily; you keep data about supporters on paper or in word, reports have to be done manually, or you have no insight into your donor communications. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to automate what you can.
  • You may decide on a new website that encourages more recurring donations like St Rocco’s did, an event management system, or creating an automated email program. Utilising automation isn’t just about applying a digital approach to everything a charity does, but giving the digital option for those who prefer it to make your team and your donors’ lives easier.

The journey with digital is never over; there’s always a new way to engage with donors. That’s why a continual investment strategy in digital is crucial in encouraging long-term sustainable growth, rather than one-off large capital outlays.

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Banner Image: Ferdinand Stohr on Unsplash

Rachel Capper

Creative Content & Engagement Manager, Dreamscape Solutions

Rachel Capper is the creative content & engagement manager at Dreamscape Solutions, a digital agency working with charities to help them achieve sustainable fundraising through digital innovation. Rachel has over 10 years’ experience as a copywriter, with extensive knowledge in writing for a variety of sectors.