Published: 14 September 2018

Why voice technology is becoming hard for charities to ignore

It is no secret the charity world has moved at a quantum pace in the last twenty years. Whether it’s being able to get your message out through social media, donating in just a few clicks using technology such as Apple or Google Pay, or the need to create multi-device experiences, the opportunities for charities have never been greater. Even in a post-GDPR world, refined databases of contacts mean marketing can be tighter and more focussed.

If the big technology companies are to be believed, the next technology advancement to become mainstream will be voice and associated artificial intelligence. In every sector, voice technology is rapidly growing – over 20 billion voice searches are conducted every month and millions of devices are now sold with voice enabled assistants. This includes Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant on smart phones, as well as devices in the home or workplace – currently dominated by Amazon’s Echo devices.

While voice tech is still in its infancy, commercial companies are starting to realise its potential. Companies like Virgin Trains and Ocado are thinking about how customers can make purchases without needing to physically access payment details. Voice is not replacing our screens any time soon, but it is making for a more rounded and enhanced experience. You might still do your main food shop on a desktop or tablet computer, but may then add to it later with voice, most likely while your hands are tied up using the last of the ingredients you forgot to initially order!

What opportunities does voice technology offer for charities? These were the questions on the lips of senior charity staff at a CharityComms Heads of Digital event earlier this year. What users are looking for is an experience that they can return to, will fit into their daily lives, and most likely makes an existing task easier and quicker.

This means there’s a need to think outside the box for ways to link developments to your charity’s main vision and audiences. Potential for voice was explored at the event, including exercise advice for those with muscular problems, puzzles and games for the elderly to keep their brains active, ways to check for various cancers, and tips to reduce food waste whilst help homeless people in the process. Charities such as Breast Cancer Care and Age UK have already started testing the new technology.

At the time of writing, there are approximately 40,000 Skills (the equivalent of apps for voice) on Amazon’s Skills Store, but only 60 from charities globally. It’s clear this is a space with huge potential, especially given the number of devices in users’ pockets, homes or workplaces.

At Addition, we are currently working with charities to explore what voice can offer. To start off the thinking process, we have developed a user-led framework. If you’re thinking about how to take advantage of voice in your charity, consider these five areas before getting started.

  • Objective – how does the skill fit within your organisation’s objectives?
  • Context – where will your users be when using your skill? (voice technology is not just available in the home, but increasingly on the move in cars, workplaces or on smartphones)
  • Frequency – are users going to be engaged with your skill regularly?
  • Audience – who are you targeting?
  • Tone – think how natural speech is different to a website tone of voice

While voice is not likely to replace existing digital assets any time soon, it’s clear voice experiences offer charities a wider way of helping those who need it and encouraging a wider awareness of what their core purpose is.

We are actively designing and building voice experiences for charities. Get in touch if you’d like to understand more about voice and how it could benefit your organisation and supporters.

Explore voice technology and more at our Charity digital conference on 21 November.

Image: Andres Urena on Unsplash


Freddie Herzog, digital client services manager, Addition

Freddie Herzog is digital client services manager at Addition, focusing on delivering user-centric digital solutions, including voice experiences, for UK charities.