All sectors have had to considerably adapt in the face of the global pandemic. With income from events and face-to-face fundraising having dropped off a cliff, perhaps one of the most challenged sectors has been charities. This is especially the case as their services have rarely been so high in demand. There is an increasing focus on how digital can help make up the shortfall, and while loss of income is the major challenge at the moment, this is having significant knock-effects on digital teams. This was centre of discussion at a recent CharityComms Heads of Digital meetup.
Some of the challenges facing charity digital teams at the moment are:
- While one-off online donations have increased especially from Covid-related emergency appeals at the start of the pandemic (which you can read more about here), there is a difficulty in converting this to regular giving and maintaining the momentum now that this is no longer new (and despite recent vaccine news, not going anywhere anytime soon)
- There have been huge pressures added to digital teams to hit higher targets and to for fundraising teams to convert to completely digital fundraising quickly, despite not having the resource increased and improved tools to be able to do this
- The unpredictability of the pandemic and the subsequent changes in restrictions has made planning for the future very difficult. This includes whether events can run or not, but also has a wider impact as it is not known if it is worth investing in digital tools if things are going to go back to how they were pre-pandemic. There is definite a need to have a more fluid planning approach and be more responsive, but it is unclear what works and what doesn’t
- With more charities pushing activity for Christmas fundraising, the marketplace is more crowded, and it is harder to stand out while being digital only.
- As nearly all content is now being distributed digitally, there is a need to balance the ask for fundraising with other content, and ensure supporters aren’t bombarded with the same messages
However, it is not all bad as there have been some positive impacts of the changes:
- Cross team collaboration – digital and fundraising teams have been working much closer together and apart from the benefits to productivity and creation of digital work, this has also helped with everyone working from home being able to meet (virtually) new people that work for the same organisation
- Adaptions towards using more digital fundraising techniques are meaning senior teams are seeing the importance of digital in a charity’s portfolio of communication tools
- With the need to promote content digitally, it has been easier to get buy in from senior teams for digital marketing activity and some budgets have increased for this
- Pre-recorded content (such as using Facebook Broadcast) has helped to generate income from virtual events, but there is a concern about how this will work for larger events that would have been planned in advance of Christmas, such as carol services
While the pandemic has undoubtedly hit the charity sector hard, it is clear that there are strong signs of adaption and flexibility, and it will make for a very interesting few years ahead.