Technology The Future of Charitable Organisations

Recent observations about the charity sector have led to some concerns about its future. Some reports have shown that the voluntary sector will lose 3.3 billion of government funding by the year 2015. Annual research carried out by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Charities Aid Foundation has shown that the proportion of people donating money has fallen in the last year from 58% to 55%. The typical amount given by individuals and the estimated total amount of money donated have also decreased in 2011/12. No organisation can stand still, they all have to evolve and develop as society changes. These observations show that charitable organisations will have to think carefully about the future and work out how best to ‘move with the times’. Embracing technology and the internet is an important way that charities can move forward.

It has been estimated that currently over half of the mobile phone-using population of the United Kingdom are using some form of smartphone. Technology has become engrained in everyday life and should be utilised by non-profit and charitable organisations – not just to spread their message but to carry out projects and events. One of the simplest ways that charities can improve awareness of their cause is through social media. Twitter and Facebook, amongst others, can be useful ways of connecting with supporters, sometimes in a one-to-one fashion. Supporters ‘re-tweeting’ and ‘liking’ posts can quickly spread ideas and charitable messages to new audiences.

Fundraising has also started to change as the internet has become a part of everyday life. Since 2009 online donations have accounted for 7% of donations and in the past year text donations have increased to 1%. Text giving is a quick and easy method of donating money and it can be useful as it taps into spontaneous giving. Some people may be more likely donate if they can do it immediately and through a quick and simple process. Charities need to make sure that they are making it easy for the tech-savvy generation to donate. The proliferation of apps in the past year or so has also helped to develop the ways that people donate. There are a number of apps that encourage people to donate to a cause. Some incorporate exercise; sponsors will donate a certain amount of money for every mile that you run, while others encourage you to help out by doing five minute mini-volunteering tasks.

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It isn’t just straightforward apps that can be used for fundraising but online games can also be useful in encouraging donations. The success of games like Farmville has shown that there is an audience for smartphone games or games built in to social media. Charitable organisations can create their own games that have a built in donation scheme. Some will simply donate a proportion of the game price to their cause while others will use a proportion of in-game purchases. The games can help to spread awareness and give information about a particular cause so that people know what they are donating to. Some games have an aspect of reality about them – if you buy supplies in-game, it will go towards the purchase of real-life supplies.

Technology can help with more than just awareness and fundraising – the types of projects that many charities and foundations carry out have begun to change as technology has developed. Some projects have especially started to incorporate the use of smartphones. The Vodafone Foundation runs a number of projects that incorporate recent technology. It has carried out a study into developments that would allow disabled people to understand and view information on their medication through their mobile phone. The Foundation has also been involved with projects such as the ‘EasyWay’ app that aims to increase information and awareness about accessibility for the elderly and people with disabilities in public places.

Though donations may have fallen in the past year, technology can be a useful tool for charitable organisations and can help them to embrace the future. It can improve awareness and help to create a global presence. It can also foster communication between charities and their supporters. It can facilitate the donation process and make it more streamlined and simple – encourage people to donate spontaneously. Games and apps can make donating and learning about different causes more interesting. There are so many ways that charitable organisations can utilise technology, and many have done so in creative ways such as holding virtual marches, putting up interactive billboards and creating interactive maps. In order to prepare for the future, charities will need to make sure they keep moving with the times.