A guest post from Katia de Gregorio, who’s been spending some time with us this summer…
We often hear about what a tough environment it is for fundraising at the moment and how challenging it is to attract new supporters to our causes. There’s certainly some truth in that but it strikes me that sometimes we make life more difficult for ourselves (and our potential supporters) than we need to. Take online giving as a prime example.
Unless you’ve been hiding in a cupboard for the last couple of years, you’ll be aware of the explosive growth of mobile use. Think how your own behaviour has changed. As users we’re becoming less tolerant of barriers to mobile browsing, which in turn impacts on our purchasing behaviour and even brand loyalty. Network for Good shared recently that 61% of people say they have a more favourable opinion of brands that offer a good mobile experience. And the mighty Google has highlighted our lack of patience when it comes to page load times (less than 2 seconds if you’re wondering).
There’s no reason why our expectations should be any different when we engage with charities. So I’ve been working with Open on some mystery shopping to see just how easy charities are making it for people to give via their mobiles.
In short, not very easy at all. Less than half of the 48 charities we looked at had a mobile optimised site. Where they did, it made a huge difference. It took a minute and a half longer to make a donation on non-optimised sites. That’s an eternity in mobile browsing.
No real surprises there, but more of an eye opener is that regardless of whether sites were mobile optimised or not, it took much longer to make a donation on a mobile device than on a desktop: about twice as long on average. Talk about making life difficult for people trying to give us money! I bet many real donors wouldn’t have persevered with the 5 ½ minutes it took to make a donation. And quite frankly why should they?
All sorts of things will have influenced this: search position, navigation, page load times and the efficiency of the donation process to name but a few – Beate Sorum has blogged brilliantly recently on the huge impact user experience alone can have on donation volumes.
But the difference between the mobile and desktop donation time is so huge it makes me think that having a mobile optimised site is just the first step. After all, it still takes 70% longer to make a donation via mobile when the site is optimised. Don’t we actually need to offer alternative payment options like SMS or Direct to Bill that suit the fact people are on their mobiles, rather than defaulting to the mechanisms we’re used to? More charities promoted postal donations than SMS. Think about it.
Mobile is not going away. It’s not even new anymore, it’s normal. Charities are losing income every day by not responding to how their potential donors live. So when we talk of tough times, maybe we need to ask ourselves if we’re doing absolutely everything we can to make it easy for people to give us money.
You can find Katia on Twitter.
Something popped up on my Facebook the other day. It was an article from 2012 about why it’s fine to give money to homeless people who are likely to spend it on alcohol or drugs. Not the most recent piece of commentary but it was pretty striking.
As a copywriter I spend most of my time on the defensive. Please give to this charity, they are sure to spend your money wisely. No really, give to help this person, horrible things have happened to them – through no fault of their own guvnor, honest.
This article does not agree that this is always OK. I agree with this article.
It’s written by someone who used to sleep rough – and never experienced a hand up, or a hand out, from a charity. It’s not easy going – it’s full of pain. But that means you should probably read it.
No one is so flawless that they can get up on their high horse and tell people how best to spend a freezing night on a filthy pavement, even if their coping mechanisms are self-destructive.
I’ll be honest, I don’t have a pithy finish to this. But it’s made me think twice about how much we lean on good guy/bad guy narratives in fundraising. They aren’t always honest or accurate. So we need to be really, really good at making cases for causes where sympathy doesn’t come naturally.
That’s all for now.
Fundraisers walk a fine line. We need to engage people, mainly emotionally, sometimes intellectually. But we can’t afford to spook them. So all of the information we communicate has to go through a common sense filter.
Is what we are talking about interesting? Is it easy to understand? Did we go too far there? Will it scare supporters off?
I’m all for the filter, it’s sensible. But I also think that in a world full of horror, where children arrive at schools hungry, where a family can be one mortgage payment away from losing their home, that charities need to be brave. They need to speak out against injustice.
Otherwise we’re just fire fighting. We can’t hope to change anything.
This is why the government’s ‘Charity Gagging Act’ is seriously bad news. You can watch a concise and articulate overview from campaigns group 38 Degrees here. But to give a brief overview, it’s a proposal to restrict money spent by non-political organisations on communications campaigns in the run-up to general elections – should parliament determine that they could affect the outcome.
Wrapped up nice and cozy in wooly language, the bill’s room for manoeuvre is sinister. It could stop a children’s charity from speaking out against a proposal to abolish free school meals, or an elderly person’s charity from mounting a campaign against pension cuts.
If this bill is passed it would be difficult to imagine a repeat of Shelter’s last Christmas campaign should they wish to run it in the twelve months before an election. Bit too political, those homeless kids.
Dozens of charities might find the stranglehold on their budget too restrictive to affectively campaign about issues like this in the future. And if they did, they could face criminal prosecution if they were found to have achieved their goals.
This affects all of us. From fundraising, to campaigns to frontline charity services. Most of all it affects the people we’re trying to help. They deserve more than silence. So let’s speak out.
Join the fight against the gagging law here.