3 big challenges charities face with Digital Fundraising

THREE BIG challenges that Charities face with Digital Fundraising

5 min read

Digital fundraising is the quickest way to engage with donors and generate campaign funds.

But it’s an area that is still often left under-resourced and, as a result, serviced in the wrong way.

Some charities have complained that after they have gone through a digital transformation programme, they still aren’t seeing the results they were expecting.

That’s because the world of digital is constantly evolving and, by the time you’ve implemented something that was working a few months ago, it might not work for you now.

If you keep reading, I’m going to show what you should be doing to develop a rolling strategy

We’ve been using digital techniques over the last ten years to help charities grow from relatively nothing to leaders in their niche.

You can read more about the 5 growth hacks we used at Penny Appeal and, if you’re patient, you can use some of the same techniques to increase your income.

Turn these 3 next challenges into opportunities

The digital marketing landscape is always fast-moving but recently, there has been a lot more change taking place.

If charities want to take full advantage of inbound disruptive forces, then they need to improve their strategic thinking skills.

Here’s a quick look at my top three challenges that, with some thinking, offer some great opportunities.

1. Perception

Consumer trust in charity organisations is at an all-time low.

The Veracity index, the longest-running poll on profession trust, shows that Charity Chiefs ranked as some of the lowest trusted professionals – grouped at the bottom with bankers, journalists and politicians.

Something else worth noting here is that advertisers ranked the lowest.

So, it’s not just charities that people don’t trust as much, they have stopped trusting the adverts they are constantly bombarded with.

Personally, I think charities can be doing a lot more to build positive perceptions.

Over the last decade, charities have matured, grown and scaled-up. But donors haven’t been informed of how modern charities now operate, and their prejudice views have been just left to flourish.

Utilising digital channels gives charities a way to boost transparency and feed the donor’s desire for this type of information. Those that can be quick to utilise this, can repair some of that broken trust.

It’s one of the main reasons that we are seeing more individuals go online themselves and, through being timely and transparent, fundraise for their own chosen projects.

Here’s one example of someone doing it extremely well:

2. Technology

One of the biggest disruptors to charities is just how fast technology is evolving, which is enabling humanitarian groups like the one above to scale and do even more.

We’re all familiar with the rise of online fundraising platforms, with JustGiving being a fundraiser favourite.

We actually helped host a charity telethon on Channel 5, where the main donation portal used was BT MyDonate – that’s how far these platforms have come along, and they’re only set to get bigger.

Facebook Giving has raised $1 Billion since it launched in 2015 and, following this success, something similar is set to launch soon on Instagram.

This format has become so popular that Penny Appeal used it to raise around £300k in just 3 days for their recent appeal. So, it’s no surprise that they also teamed up with JustGiving to launch a new digital platform just for Muslims communities.

This year, we’ll also see charity collection buckets complimented with ‘Tap n Give’ boxes, which is timely as nearly half of us say we carry less cash then we did three years ago.

The way smartphones are used for charitable giving will keep on changing, and now we’re seeing the ability to set up regular giving through text messaging – so get ready to see donations by SMS rise by 34%.

There will be more virtual bots talking to us and some charities are even working on systems that will report back to donors with details on the impact of their donation, no matter how small it was.

Artificial Intelligence is going to really change our lives in a big way, and there are some start-ups working on some fantastic tech that will further enhance donor relationships.

Then there’s 5G coming later this year – a faster and stable phone network that will spearhead another digital revolution. I can still remember how 4G accelerated the growth of YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook and even Instagram.

Insider tip: Get ready for ‘stories’ advertising. You might have seen this format on Snapchat, but with Facebook combining their messaging platforms with Instagram and WhatsApp, we’ll be sure to see more of it.

After all, the checking of ‘who has viewed’ your story has become the new social addiction.

Tech is going to make it easier for those who have a lack of trust to peel away and give elsewhere. So now is the time to invest in solutions that will serve you in the long-haul. A great place to start would be a CRM.

3. Digital Ad Dependency

The greed for instant results has been infectious across all sectors, but especially in charity. But as advertising has become less impactful, so has the returns from it.

I talked earlier about dwindling consumer trust after they’ve been bashed with ‘adzy’ content for years. To add to this problem, marketeers are now fighting for ad space.

Simply put, there are more ads then there is space for. This gives platforms like Facebook the power to favour the ads that engage better, over the ones who are bidding the most.

So you can’t just pay your way to the top anymore, you have to work to it.

The days of ‘one advert type’ fits all are long gone, so if you’re not tailoring your content, you’re burning through budgets.

Just look at the different video sizes across the main social channels and how your content should be tailored. For example, short clips work better on some channels and longer, informative pieces work better on others.

To get the same results as yesteryear, it will cost you more in ad spend and ad production, so charities need to brace themselves for evolving digital costs.

What they also need to be doing is thinking about organic advertising too, as this is a far better long-term solution that will eventually bring spiralling marketing costs down.

Penny Appeal hasn’t been too great at this and they hardly appear organically in some of our search engine results for some of their key search terms.

Why is appearing in Google searches important?

Well, Google reports that only 30% of people click the paid ads on their pages, leaving the majority to pick from the top four organic results.

That’s a lot of web traffic charities are potentially missing out on. Getting in the top isn’t that hard, it just takes time.

Time is one thing digital marketeers aren’t given a lot of, which is criminal when you consider that they are now trying to combat post GDPR databases, drops in donations, stagnant appeals and predictable campaign rhetoric.

So how can you make digital still work for you?

My advice is to realign digital functions to fit with business objectives, not just marketing ones.

Value and trust is the new digital currency, which is the formula online influencers have been successfully using to grow their audiences.

Once you start applying this to your content, you’ll start to see your engagement and donations boom.

But before you go out with any content, you need to ask yourself what purpose is it fulfilling. Is it to drive donations, increase awareness, boost loyalty or bring more people to the database?

This may help you cut out some of the ad-based stuff and focus on emotive storytelling, which performs way better in engagement anyway.

We live in an information overload world right now, so don’t be afraid to drill the same message home in various formats and in multiple ways. 

It’s an age-old rule, but the Rule of 7 still works today. It’s based on how audiences are more likely to take action once they have seen your message at least seven times.

Traditionally, this was done using touchpoints like mailers, newspaper ads and billboards, but by focusing on digital, you can actually drive fast results.

According to research, 93% of donors said they used a smartphone or tablet to make a donation to a charity, either through apps, SMS, social, going online or by calling.

That’s why I developed a new digital diversification model, which acknowledges the importance of having macro and micro content.

Of course, the outputs are grouped in this model. It’s only when you start to break them down that you realise just how much diverse content can and should be produced.

To put this into perspective, here’s a look at our digital content matrix and the many ways you can share your messaging.

Be smart though, don’t use this as an excuse to roll out ‘call to action price point ads’, trust me – it doesn’t work anymore.

Usually what I see is charities spending 80% of their digital resource focussed on delivering just a few channels, like Facebook, and then using the remaining 20% to do all the rest.

For me, the way content is delivered online is one of the most important things you can get right. Digital is the only marketing output that lets organisations directly engage with their audiences, and there’s so much you can learn just by listening.

Here’s a quick look at how we deliver campaign pieces. We’ll take a base piece in long-form or video, and then chop it to create micro content, which will then get shared across social.

Depending on the piece, we’ll even repurpose it so it can be shared on relevant sites, amplifying reach.

Our insight part is what makes us really unique, as we do things like social listening to see what audiences are responding to. This, for example, could be reactions to posts or comments left on certain parts of a video.

We’ll then create more of the content audiences want to see in the form of stories, quotes and mashups.

Listening to your supporters not only helps shape your organisation but makes them feel valued, and digital makes you much more agile in responding.

Then there’s Millennials and Generation Z who are constantly demanding more than just online transactions with charity, they want to discuss and engage.

This is not to be ignored as they are very influential, not just online, but in their homes too, as they are quick to share their opinions and research.

This is where content marketing really helps. The process here is to get audiences to like, know and then trust you.

So when it’s time to give, they’ll think of you first.

Once your content is rich and out there on the web, you can actually appear in more places than you think. And as search engine result pages evolve, along with the way we use voice search, you can rank even higher in some places.

Here’s a look at how Google uses infoboxes in search results, which has actually resulted in Wikipedia losing almost a third of their web traffic.

If you compliment your donor giving model with a supporter engagement model, you’ll start answering some of those questions like, “who should I donate to and why this charity over that one?”


By embracing digital, Penny Appeal has pulled off a Tesla, and it’s still not too late for charities to get the best out of online.

Digital technology is still the best growth engine and an audience centred-approach to your marketing communications will help build trust, loyalty and donations.

Generations are spreading themselves across multiple online channels one minute, only to disengage the next.

Yes, this presents some challenges, but you need to have a diverse digital content portfolio so you can keep engaging with audiences, wherever they are.

Charity has become saturated but there are still huge opportunities to access frustrated, neglected or information-hungry donors. If you can adapt to new ways of engaging and giving, along with thinking long-term, then you can become even more successful.

Want more insight? Or want to work with some of the brightest thinkers in this space? Then get in touch and find out how we can help you get ready for the new world of digital marketing.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

More To Explore

Need some tailored advice?

Fill in our quick form to book your FREE 30-min call.