On innovations in digital fundraising

Today I gave a presentation  to a bunch of young charity sector professionals who are part of the Charity works scheme. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s the UK charity sector’s graduate scheme and is a great thing. Check them out (and then come back here).

As part of their training, they regularly come together to hear from various people in the sector about various things, and I was flattered to be put in touch with them by Lucy Gower (that’s @LucyInnovation to you and I) as someone who could talk about innovation in digital fundraising. Given the context was for people who perhaps haven’t had much exposure to fundraising generally, I wanted to go back to basics before showing the new shiny stuff. As basically, the new and shiny stuff is just a new way of doing the old tricks that have worked for years. In summary, it’s always about storytelling, it’s just the form of the storytelling that changes.

Personally, I found it quite interesting to reflect on this and what I thought was innovative, and what I believe to be the big (technology) trends that digital fundraising needs to be aware of. Funnily enough, one of my starting points was Mark Phillip’s excellent collection of old charity ads on Pinterest. They are just really, really good, and point to what *good* fundraising is about, be it digital or analogue or whatever.

So for me, the most innovative things in digital fundraising aren’t really that innovative, in a way. They just stay true to the basics of fundraising – telling a good story – and they use the opportunities new tech and digital give us to tell those stories in different, ever more engaging ways. Which is hardly a groundbreaking insight, and one I first spoke about four years ago

As part of trying to get people to think about how they would tell their charity’s story, I took a couple of the old ads and tried to imagine how they might look if shared on Twitter. It was fun, if surprisingly hard, to take those ads and think about how they would be communicated in 140 characters. But I’d recommend it as an exercise in thinking about how to craft an elevator pitch, and is quite like a piece of advice from the head of brand at Facebook that’s stayed with me for a while – when building an app or campaign, start from the point of view of what gets shared in the newsfeed, given that’s where most people will come across your campaign (depending on the type of campaign, obviously). I’d highly recommend you read their advice.

Hopefully the cohort who saw my talk will now think more about how they can tell their charity’s story too – be it in 140 characters, 6 seconds or over the course of a longer, integrated campaign. Ultimately, that’s what it’s about for me.

Have a look at the slides below:



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