How Charities Can Make Use of Technology
The future of charitable organisations is changing and, as some reports have shown, not necessarily for the better. In this rather uncertain economic climate it is not really surprising that as people have reduced their spending they have also reduced the amount of money they are donating to charities. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Charities Aid Foundation produce a yearly report on how people make donations. The report for 2012 found that the proportion of people who donated money to a charitable organisation fell from 58% in 2011 to 55%. The people who are donating money are also giving less, reducing the total amount of money donated to charities in 2012. News reports have also shown that the voluntary sector could lose up to £3.3 billion of government funding. In order for charitable organisations to weather the tough economic climate they need to ensure that they are ‘moving with the times’. The best way that charities can do this is through embracing technological advances.
Utilising the Smartphone
So how can charities do this? An important avenue that can be used to reach people is through smartphones. More than half of the population who use a mobile phone have a smartphone and will use it constantly throughout the day. The internet, and smartphones by extension, can be useful for spreading the message of a charitable organisation and increasing awareness. Social media is a key aspect of doing this. Through utilising Facebook and Twitter, charitable organisations can interact with their supporters, letting them know about events and projects but also gaining their input and feedback. In addition, ‘retweets’ and ‘likes’ can help spread the word to friends and followers of supporters.
Smartphones can also change the way that people donate. Long gone are the days of sending a donation through the post, today money can exchange hands at the press of a button (or the tap of a touch screen). Many charities have already started to make use of mobile phones as a way to donate – last year 1% of donations were made by text. In a similar vein online donations have made up 7% of the total donated each year since 2009. Charitable organisations should make the most of text-giving and online donating. Many people are more responsive to spontaneous giving and are more likely to donate if they can do it quickly and with minimal effort. Apps are a great way to encourage spontaneous giving and even to raise awareness. Some apps have sponsors who will donate a certain amount of money if a user does a specific task, such as running a mile for example. Other apps encourage ‘mini-volunteering’, i.e. setting a task that will aid the charity or its aims but will only take a small amount of time on the user’s side.
Games & Apps
Smartphone owners use their phones for much more than simply calling or texting; many will have downloaded a selection of games. It can be particularly helpful for charitable organisations to have their own games available to download. These games can have built in donation schemes while others may simply donate a proportion (or all) of the game price or in-game purchases. Games for mobile phones and tablets can increase supporters understanding of the cause and its aims in a fun way that will hold their attention. Some games have built in a level of reality into their game, for example an in-game purchase of an item that a player needs may equate to the purchase of supplies in real life.
Projects & Charity Work
Capturing the interest and attention of smartphone users is not the only way that charities can utilise technology to evolve with the times. Smartphones can also be used for much more than just fundraising and connecting with supporters. The Vodafone Foundation is a good example of a charity using technology in their projects. For example the Foundation has done research into the development of applications for mobile phones that would allow disabled people to view information about their medication. The Vodafone Foundation is also involved with the ‘EasyWay’ app. This app for smartphones aims to improve awareness and give information about accessibility for the elderly and the disabled in public spaces.
Charitable organisations should embrace modern technology as it can help them to reach modern audiences and supporters. It can help them to improve awareness, connect with their supporters, carry out fundraising and can even play a role in project work. Technology is used by businesses to help them create a presence all around the globe and could be used in similar ways for charitable organisations. There are a huge variety of ways that charities can make use of technology, some have held virtual marches while others have put up interactive billboards. Donations may have fallen in recent years, but with the help of technology charities can engage with people and encourage them to lend their support.