Big Society Online – thoughts on the future direction of digital fundraising

The Cabinet Office recently asked me for a few thoughts on how technology could be harnessed more effectively to support the “Big Society” objective of increasing charitable giving and volunteering.

The resulting essay was published (alongside several others, and the green paper itself) on the Cabinet Office website. I’ve received some kind comments from those that have found and downloaded it.

For those with limited time, the key trends mentioned are:

1) The convenience and speed of social networks in spreading awareness of a cause and building relationships with potential future donors (usually via current donors)

2) The use of online platforms to reduce dramatically the costs involved in creating volunteering opportunities in certain highly skilled areas, and make “micro-volunteering” possible, and (analogously) to make micro-donations (such as eBay Give at Checkout) financially viable.

3) The future is “restricted”: some donors’ increased demand for control over how their money is spent, and the growing use of online platforms to market and restrict donations in this way (cf Donors Choose), and to facilitate direct contact with beneficiaries.

4) The potential of mobile donations (e.g. using GPS technology to find and support local charities), and the need for a more supportive stance from Apple (see my previous post).

I also suggest ways in which businesses could be encouraged to contribute more to charities via digital platforms, for example by opening up data on charities, providing scalable legal and financial infrastructure for small businesses to enter into partnerships with charities, and creating opportunities for charities to engage with digital developers (cf PayPal’s Charityhack)

Finally, I suggest a way in which Gift Aid could be extended more openly across digital fundraising, through a couple of simple policy changes at HMRC:

“HMRC should explore simple changes of policy that would enable a far wider range of donations to be tax‐effective. The single‐click, impulse donations of the online world are far removed from the form‐filling culture demanded by Gift Aid regulations. Simple innovations such as enabling phone numbers or email addresses to be used as unique identifiers for donors would spectacularly simplify the process of claiming Gift Aid on many digital donations. Allowing charities and companies to offer a “universal” Gift Aid declaration, in which donors could enable Gift Aid to be claimed across all eligible charities, would give the fundraising world the basis for exploring a more efficient and better adopted system.”
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One Response to Big Society Online – thoughts on the future direction of digital fundraising

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