This article was originally published in Civil Society in June 2018.
Since BIGKID Foundation was formed in 2008, the world has seen a lot of technological innovation. In the past decade alone we have seen the invention of Netflix, the kindle and 3D printing - the iPhone wasn’t even invented until 2007. The charity sector has not gone unaffected by this technological change; in fact, fundraising has been transformed with the help of new technology including online donation mechanisms and the advent of social media.
When BIGKID Foundation was formed, fundraising was largely dependent on face-to-face interaction. This was how we met almost all of our donors and funders. Though this form of human interaction remains invaluable, technology can be useful in helping small charities to grow their supporter base. Today we can fundraise nationally (or even internationally) at the click of a button! Crowd funding sites, text donate mechanisms and sites such as CAF, Virgin Money Giving and JustGiving have been vital in improving our visibility, and attracting new donors. At BIGKID, we use the sites for everything from taking donations on our website, to making fundraising pages for our London Marathon runners. Just being registered on these platforms has helped us to attract attention, by ensuring our name pops up when a donor hits enter on Google.
In 2018, we are infinitely more likely to receive a donation online than we are to receive a cheque in the post - and, in a lot of ways, this is actually a relief. Part of the reason that online fundraising mechanisms are so great is that they reduce the amount of time spent on administrative procedures - which is particularly important for a small charity like BIGKID without the resources to carry out these processes ourselves. I know that I, for one, am eternally grateful that CAF claims Gift Aid on online donations on our behalf.
One of the biggest technological advancements in the past decade has been the advent of social media. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook help BIGKID to connect with people across the globe, and spread our message far and wide (in 140 characters or less, of course). The value of this cannot be underestimated for small charities, who would otherwise never be able to reach such large audiences - we are just over 1000 follows on Twitter, but have nowhere near that many supporters on our donor database. We use social media to give our followers - who should always be viewed as potential donors - realtime updates on our charity and our work in all its multimedia glory. Providing followers with this information gives them the chance to get to know you and your cause, which means they might be more likely to donate the next time you send round a tweet promoting your latest fundraising campaign.
BIGKID Foundation also uses social media to connect with partner organisations, local authorities, and even our beneficiaries. Working with teenagers, we have found Snapchat to be a particularly great engagement tool - as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. We use Snapchat to broadcast videos of our youth club nights and football sessions, which all the kids that follow us can see. Using Snapchat helps us to reach our target audience, and also helps to earns us some much needed credibility (amongst our young people, at least). Social media also has the power to be more engaging than your bog-standard email or letter - photos, videos and even emojis all help to make your message more personable. Social media also helps BIGKID to stand out from the crowd - though we may have fewer followers, we are able to reply to tweets and posts and truly engage with our audience in a way that larger charities may not be able to. There’s also always the possibility that we will go viral - every small charity’s dream!
For small charities, a lot of this new technology can be intimidating. At BIGKID, we don’t have an IT department, or the capacity to develop our own app. However, there are ways that we can use technology to enhance our fundraising in a way that bigger charities can’t. What’s more, the small charity sector is big on information sharing, and wonderful organisations such as the Foundation for Social Improvement are on hand to help us harness this technology and learn how to use it to our advantage.
Oh, and don't forget to follow us on social media!