Charities embracing Technology

23 November 2020

Charities are still struggling to embrace technology, here’s why we think the change is important

Over the last decade, technology has evolved at an unprecedented pace. Look around: that sci-fi inspired image of the future you had as a child has fast become a reality. From self-driving cars and Artificial Intelligence software to virtual and augmented reality experiences, technology has transformed the world we once knew.

In this fast-paced landscape, today’s news is tomorrow’s history, so keeping ahead of the curve is essential in gauging which emerging technologies are right for your organisation. But while a large portion of private companies haven’t hesitated to take advantage of the digital revolution, it seems the third sector has been slower to load.

Indeed, in the 2018 Charity Digital Skills Report, 68% of charities claimed that digital technology will change the voluntary sector by 2027. However, the report further revealed that 45% of charities still do not have a digital strategy.

So, if the estimated ten-year target is to be met, the voluntary sector still has far to go. This means, among other things, leveraging discounts available to charities through initiatives like the Charity Technology Exchange, or Barclays Digital Eagles. But, as budget constraints continue to plague charity leaders, which technologies will prove a worthwhile investment for the third sector?

1. Digital fundraising

In an increasingly cashless society, traditional payment methods are under threat. With over £3.3 billion spent each month on contactless cards in the UK, the rise of two-second tap-and-go transaction has now overtaken chip-and-pin as the most common method of making a payment. Couple this with the sharp rise of online shopping and the slow death of the high street, and pocket change is rendered virtually unnecessary.  

Charities who still rely on cash-collection methods today are at risk of falling behind when it comes to fundraising. Instead of recruiting “chuggers” to sign people up or shake buckets, charities can use a myriad of digital tools to engage the public in a way that compliments their shopping behaviours, not least the latest announcements from Amazon that customers can donate via Alexa, and also through AmazonSmile, the affiliate marketing service that lets customers generate a donation for charity each time they shop on Amazon.  

As well as taking advantage of crowdsourcing sites such as GoFundMe and JustGiving and IndieGoGo, many non-profit organisations are eligible to a Google Adwords grant to run digital ad search campaigns in order to drive traffic to their sites. If the average adult spends 22.9 hours a week online, charities would benefit from turning their attention to the digital sphere to target their audience through their preferred means of communication.


2. Virtual Reality

VR may not be new, but the vast development it has undergone in recent years has brought this technology out of its basement-phase and into the centre stage. In the third sector, some organisations are already beginning to explore the potential that an immersive, virtual reality experience can have in increasing engagement with the public. After all, helping people to understand and empathise with a cause is perhaps the most pressing challenge shared by all charities.

Last year, The National Autistic Society created a 360 degree video titled ‘Too Much Information’ which put the viewer in the shoes of an autistic child experiencing a sensory overload. The campaign enjoyed phenomenal success, helping 56 million people gain a deeper understanding of autism.

This cutting-edge approach is a game-changer for charities; it evokes empathy by asking the audience to step inside the shoes of someone else and certainly has more traction than a TV ad. It also is the perfect opportunity to showcase what a charity is about by engaging the public through mixed reality.


3. Artificial Intelligence

In a submission to the Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence in 2017, the Charities Aid Foundation said charities should oversee the adoption of AI technology in the workplace, effectively becoming the “ethical guardians” to minimise the unintended consequences for society. If the third sector is to play a central role in the governance of artificial intelligence, it must lead the way by showcasing how it can complement, not replace the workforce.

The potential applications for AI in the third sector are many, and some forward-thinking organisations have already started to benefit from the integration of this technology. A notable example is Arthritis Research UK, who partnered with Microsoft to develop an automated chat-bot that provided advice and information for sufferers of the disease.

Meanwhile, others have explored the potential that machine learning programmes have in processing and analysing large volumes of data. By adopting this technology, charities can gain invaluable insight into the behaviour of their donors to better target their audience and save a great deal of time.

If you work in the Third Sector and need support or advice regarding your potential technology needs, speak to one of our wonderworkers today.