The past year has seen the world flock to digital. With social distancing restrictions in place and entire nations home-bound, internet usage, gaming and social media have all surged, creating a myriad of opportunities for fundraising. Fundraising Europe explores some success stories from across the sector and features experts’ insights on future developments with digital.
At a time when many traditional routes for fundraising are closed off, nonprofits have had little choice about pivoting to digital and transposing physical events into the virtual world. The impact being widespread acceleration and greater breadth in nonprofits’ use of digital for fundraising, sparking new levels of creativity.
In our recent survey of European nonprofits with Salesforce.Org, almost seven in ten respondents said they increased their use of digital for fundraising during the pandemic and over one third started using fundraising channels that were new to them. Accessible, flexible and cost-efficient, the digital world enables organisations to come up with creative solutions, to finely target campaigns, test new thinking, take risks, track, learn and adapt, all at great pace.
This feature explores some of the recent success stories from fundraising in Europe, together with digital leaders’ insights about future developments.
Embracing social channels
Social media usage soared by 13% in 2020, according to the Digital 2021 Global Overview report, giving nonprofits the potential for even great reach. And while Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are most widely used by charities and cited by donors as the channels most likely to encourage them to give (2020 Global Trends in Giving Report), 2020 was the year that TikTok emerged onto the fundraising scene.
With the ability to post imaginative and authentic content to attract and engage younger followers, nonprofits have become increasingly visible on the channel, achieving levels of high engagement. The light-hearted style of video posts provide much-needed entertainment and distraction from more serious news and life events, enabling early adopter charities like the Norwegian Sea Rescue Society and British Red Cross to have great success on the platform.
So far, relatively few organisations have made much use of TikTok for fundraising and it remains primarily a space for younger audiences (Gen Z and Millennials), but it seems that there is much greater potential and it will no doubt be exciting to see nonprofits how nonprofits experiment with the channel to educate, inspire and appeal to supporters in 2021.
Live-streamed gaming events
Gaming and live-streaming are massively on the rise. Viewing time on Twitch – the world’s largest live-streaming platform – increased by 83% over the year to 17 billion hours and Facebook Gaming grew by 166% (source: StreamElements), so it’s perhaps no surprise that world records were broken for live-streamed fundraising in 2020 too.
Z Event in France, the annual live-streamed gaming marathon on Twitch, smashed global records in 2020 by raising over €5.7 million for Amnesty International. Led by Adrien Nougaret and Alexandre Dachary (better known as ZeratoR and Dach), the marathon brings gamers come together for 50-hours of non-stop live-streamed gaming, encouraging viewers to donate to a different charity each year. First launched in 2016, the event has continued to grow, with the 2020 campaign seeing an 84% annual uplift in viewing hours and almost a 60% rise in donations.
Mais… que… quoi ?! On a dépassé les 5.000.000€ pour @amnestyfrance , et pas qu'un peu !
Vous êtes complètement fous ! Merci ! Merci infiniment ! On aura bientôt le total final, mais on est déjà abasourdi ! pic.twitter.com/95uTyzsUEz
— Z Event (@ZEventfr) October 18, 2020
Greater interaction with social media is further maximising the potential for live-streaming as a fundraising channel and predictions are that gaming will become even more important as an income stream in the years ahead. And with the likelihood that physical events will be limited for some time yet, gaming is yet another opportunity for expanding the virtual events space.
Goats on Zoom
One of the biggest advantages of digital is its ability to level the playing field, with small, local organisations having been hugely creative in lockdown and expanding their supporter base. Simple, authentic and often humorous posts can go a long way in capturing people’s attention and building understanding of the cause.
Animal organisations were quick to get in on the action and offer both quirky and endearing experiences. In the UK, a local farm in Lancashire (UK) tapped into the spike in Zoom users to offer up its goats to ‘butt in’ on calls, raising over €57,000 (£50,000) – a substantial surge in income for Cronkshaw Fold Farm.
Similarly, a live streamed campaign from the Donkey Sanctuary enabled the charity to connect with over one million people across the globe on Facebook Live, leading to a 110% increase in year-on-year online revenue and winning Best Audience Engagement Campaign at the 2020 UK Social Media Awards.
Taking to a virtual stage
Without the ability to perform in the same live space as their audience, artists and nonprofits worldwide are taking to the virtual stage in an urgent bid to generate funds.
At the Youth Centre and School of Arts (MaTeMù) in Rome, (managed by CIES Onlus), performers transformed their Christmas concert in 2020 into an online campaign. The show, “This Christmas, thinking is not enough”, was recorded in Scomodo’s premises – the nation’s leading student magazine, which supported the campaign by hosting the show for free and publishing it as a series of episodes throughout December and early January. The campaign integrated online tools and social media channels (Facebook, Instagram and YouTube), including a landing page on the website with a donation facility. Email and national press coverage further boosted the campaign, raising around €6,500 at almost no cost, with donors giving an average of €92.
Similarly, the VOCES8 Foundation – a UK-based charity which promotes choral music and uses it to educate and develop young people – took its concerts and fundraising drive online to boost donations by 250% over the year. Typically, the Foundation’s two professional singing groups VOCES8 and Apollo5 perform 200 concerts worldwide and, alongside a freelance teaching team, reach thousands of singers each year with music workshops.
“At the start of the pandemic we moved quickly to online delivery,” says Chris Wardle, director of external relations. “We already had a considerable presence on social media and used this to promote daily online interactive content.”
Raising around €260,000 euros (£227,000) between April and October last year, the Foundation was able to invest in professional audiovisual equipment and deliver a series of ten online concerts. Digital ‘seats’ were sold to 40,000 viewers in 62 countries, leading to two further concert series and the launch of a Digital Academy. During the year, they gained 500 new donors – almost a 700% increase.
Wardle adds: “Our use of digital has enabled us to reach a much wider audience, broadening our donor base and helping people to feel connected during the crisis, particular older music-lovers who have been shielding. VOCES8 and Apollo5 will return to touring when they are able but will also set aside time for online concerts and workshops, helping us to continue to reach bigger audiences.”
As and when social distancing restrictions ease, the challenge will be for nonprofits to offer a balance and blend of offline and online events and other activities, enabling them to continue to engage with digital communities as well as a live audience.
Leveraging the power of a brand giant
Nonprofits are also finding increasingly inventive ways of reaching out to new audiences. Henry Rowling, co-founder of Flying Cars Innovation – an innovation agency for charities and cause-driven brands, cites a recent example from France:
“Amazon saw relentless growth in 2020 as lockdowns globally meant home delivery of goods was highly desirable. So it was exciting to see French NGO L’Auberge des Migrants hijack the Amazon review functionality to raise money and highlight the plight of refugees in Northern France as they face icy weather conditions, the threat of Covid-19 and governmental hostility. Not to mention the trauma they have already experienced in being forced to flee their home countries.”
“This is a great fundraising campaign as it leverages the power and utility of a huge brand to increase awareness of a cause and people that are sidelined and often forgotten about. Hijacking the very commonly used review features to bring to life horrific stories visually is an original creative element.”
Rowling adds: “The campaign places the voice of the Association’s beneficiaries at the heart. The reviews are left by real refugees that are in contact with L’Auberge des Migrants. This kind of tactical, opportunistic campaign shows daring and a fleet of foot we at Flying Cars would love to see more often.”
An example of ‘brandjacking’, this campaign leverages the brand equity of another to promote their cause. He highlights that this is an approach that organisations could emulate so long as they understand where their audience spends time online and what brands they interact with.
Impact of widespread digital adoption
The shift to digital has been significant for organisations across Europe, particularly those in Eastern Europe, where internet usage is fast-growing. Donations doubled through the national online donation platform in Slovakia (Darujme.sk), and the equivalent Czech site saw similar levels of growth (over 80%).
Igor Polakovic, fundraising campaigns coordinator at FOUR PAWS International and board member of the Center for Philanthropy, says that this steep curve in digital growth over the past year has been a ‘game-changer’ for nonprofits in Slovakia and other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, where regular giving is relatively new.
With no functional Direct Debit system in place, he references online giving and crowdfunding as a ‘gateway’ to normalising donations from the public, saying: “This shift has enabled NGOs to build supporter relationships more easily, integrate online donations with their CRM systems, develop welcome processes and other automations.
“Of course, this isn’t just about digital technology. During the pandemic there’s been more need, more reasons for NGOs to ask and more reasons for the public to give. Plus, it’s been almost impossible to fundraise by other means. So while this may be a case of digital adoption rather than innovation, the impact has been substantial.
“Ultimately, we’re seeing more and better fundraising across a wide range of platforms and social channels. NGOs launched many creative campaigns with the aim of mobilising people and prompting solidarity. There’s greater focus on lead generation, clear targeting, supporter segmentation and more tailored messaging. This once again proved that a crisis can be an opportunity; a swifter shift to a new fundraising era.”
Maximising supporter value
In Italy, Mattia Dell’Era, digital fundraising manager at Fondazione L’Albero della Vita, reiterates that digital has been transformational for the sector, while cautioning the need to ensure that digital activities are still derived from the fundraising plan, rather than allowing the plan to be dictated by digital opportunities.
“We must also be careful not to confuse digital fundraising simply with acquiring new donors,” he says. “The digital component should be seen as an opportunity to give donors greater value and to channel other donations with new tools, using a different transaction system.
“For a fundraising campaign to be incisive and achieve its objectives, communication remains the most important aspect: associations must emphasise their uniqueness and the impact of their work on people’s lives.”
He adds: “We tend to overestimate what will happen in two years and underestimate what will happen in five. In this new technological scenario, we need to invest in the development of new professional skills, but we also need to re-plan traditional soft skills like empathy in a digital key. There is a need and opportunity for innovation.”
Looking to the future
Exploring how nonprofits can maximise digital for the future, Beate Sørum, fundraiser and digital consultant at b.bold, reiterates the importance of the personal approach in digital : “My hope and prediction for the future, is that organisations will start using digital channels not just for mass communication, but to bring back the personal touch and connection to each and every donor.”
“For too long we’ve been focused on how digital tools can automate processes, thus removing humans from the equation. When what digital really should do is allow us to connect as humans to our donors in a much more efficient manner.”
Sørum suggests: “Send a personal email on someone’s birthday. Set up a Zoom meeting with all new donors this week/month/quarter to introduce them to your work or beneficiaries. Find ways to create offline experiences that leave digital footprints.
“By all means, let your software help you automate the process that keeps track of all this – but let the humans make the actual connections. Let’s remind ourselves of best practices of the past, and ensure we bring them forward with us.”
Main image credit: Photo by Andras Vas on Unsplash