Fundraising: why mobile matters

 1 July 2014

Paul Cutts, chief executive of the National Funding Scheme, explains why mobile matters and how to make the most of its fundraising potential.

The DONATE mobile fundraising platform is free for arts, crafts and heritage organisations to use.
The DONATE mobile fundraising platform is free for arts, crafts and heritage organisations to use.

Digital fundraising is hardly new. But despite the all-pervasive nature of technology, mobile philanthropy remains largely focused on dated forms of giving such as text messaging.

As effective as SMS can be, there’s a bigger opportunity – one the National Funding Scheme (NFS) is addressing with its free mobile giving platform, DONATE.

DONATE makes it easy for anyone to support cultural causes by bundling text giving, web app, QR codes and the emerging technology of Near Field Communication into one simple platform.

Here are some of the reasons why we believe giving via smartphones and handheld devices will become increasingly important, as well as what, in our experience, you need to keep in mind.

1. Mobile is here to stay

In 2013, for the first time, more than 1 billion smartphones were shipped around the world. Ninety four per cent of UK adults have a mobile phone and 51 per cent of us own smart phones. 

Tablet ownership has doubled to penetrate 24 per cent of British households.

In the UK alone, there are now over 82.7 million mobile subscriptions, according to trade body the Mobile Operators Association.

2. Technology is the new fundraising tin

If you’ve recovered five £1 coins from your charity’s donation box, you don’t know whether five people have given £1 or one person £5.

You also don’t know if that person is a UK taxpayer and if you’re entitled to claim additional Gift Aid. In fact you’re likely to know almost nothing about your donor or what motivated them.

Donors who contribute via web app are more generous than those who simply text.

A mobile platform can overcome these obstacles. It can capture the exact time and amount that someone gave, which is useful if you’re running a time-sensitive campaign or championing a specific cause.

It can allow donors to identify themselves as UK taxpayers, add Gift Aid at the touch of a button and – subject to data protection – provide their email address and other personal information.

It’s a lot easier to lead a donor (in classic development patois) up ‘the escalator of engagement’ if you’ve identified them on the ground floor.

3. Web not text for raising more funds

As our statistics are proving, donors who contribute to fundraising causes via web app are inclined to be much more generous than those who simply text.

Over the life of the DONATE platform to date, 56 per cent of donors have sent text donations, compared with 44 per cent who’ve given via web app (entering a web address on their device or scanning a QR code or NFC chip).

Fewer than half the people who’ve given by text have allowed Gift Aid collection. Almost four in every five donors who gave by another route ticked the Gift Aid box.

If that’s not enough to convince you, consider this statistic: whilst the majority of donations have been by SMS, they account for less than 15 per cent of the total value of donations.

Our average donation currently stands at more than £20 yet we’ve only offered £3, £5 and £10 text channels. Whilst text campaigns serve a purpose, it’s web that adds the value.

4. The cause, not the technology, motivates people to give

Technology makes giving easy – and adds lots of incremental value – but it’s only a tool. It can’t identify what makes for a compelling cause, a successful campaign or encourage people to give to you.

Technology makes giving easy – and adds lots of incremental value – but it’s only a tool. 

It’s important that you explain clearly what you need, why you need it and the difference someone’s modest donation makes. Ensure your request is specific, targeted and realistic. We’re finding causes in the £1k-10k range are working well.

Mobile is a brilliant way to engage with lots of supporters and help build a new community of friends and advocates. But it’s highly unlikely to generate the £1 million you need for your next capital project.

5. Give a meaningful thank you

Technology enables you to bespoke a truly personal acknowledgement. At a recent Battersea Arts Centre fundraiser, donors received a unique audio clip featuring the artists they’d just supported.

But you could: 

  • add an e-coupon to someone’s mobile receipt, entitling them to a discount at the bar
  • send them a video clip preview of an upcoming exhibition, encouraging more ticket sales
  • send a CGI of what the damaged painting they’ve just donated to will look like when it’s conserved.

Alternatively, you could add a web link to your membership scheme, encouraging causal donors to make an ongoing commitment to your organisation and its work.

6. Use technology for creative fundraising

One of our biggest surprises has been arts organisations’ lack of creativity when it comes to using new technology for fundraising.

Why not print QR codes on beer mats? Put web addresses and links on box office and volunteer T-shirts, encouraging people to support your cause and bridge the gap between the human ask and the digital means? Include text giving codes in your email auto-signature? Print business cards with QR codes that point to your fundraising page? 

There are lots of ideas for how to promote your causes in physical and digital domains.

We’re all in the creative business. With a little creative thought, mobile technology can be as liberating as it is lucrative.

Find out more about fundraising for arts and heritage organisations using the DONATE platform.