With more people looking to donate than ever before, is your charity making the most of its online presence?

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It’s a given that the internet has fundamentally changed the ways in which charities operate – but the full extent of the shift towards the web has never really been fully understood. As an increasing amount of people migrate towards doing all of their personal business online, is your charity or organisation making the most of their web presence? Are you missing out on potential donations simply because you haven’t made the most of your website or social media? The signs all seem to point towards this being the case.

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August 2014 was the all-time peak for people looking to donate to charities through Google.

At a time when commercial companies are having to be more nimble than ever before, causes in the third sector don’t appear to have the same sense of urgency to move towards less traditional methods of getting their word out – and it could be the case that this lack of foresight could soon catch up with some charities.

More people looking to donate to charities online than ever before

Google’s trend graphs show that more people than ever before are searching to give to charities – but from our own research, most of the UK’s charities and non-profit organisations simply do not have the level of visibility that would allow them to tap into this base of potential funding.

While there are certainly other ways for people to find out about a charity than simply through searching, the fact that there is clearly a vast amount of people who are seeking to give their money to local appeals but are simply unsure about who they can donate to should be worry. In this kind of environment, it is only ever going to be the biggest organisations that benefit – and smaller charities may soon struggle to survive due to a lack of visibility online.

What do these trends mean?

It could be argued that the increase in people searching to donate money online simply matches the rise the amount of people connected to the internet – but that in itself is another point in favour of organisations needing to migrate their services towards the web. Just as high street stores are continuing to struggle in the face of the rise of e-commerce, recent years have seen that the charities that have managed to most successfully transition towards the web are the ones who are thriving in this new landscape.

While the peaks for people looking to donate to charity had previously coincided with disasters and emergency appeals – such as the Phillipines Typhoon appeal in November 2013 – the all time peak came due to the popularity of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Gaining support from celebrities and the general public across the world, it became one of the most important talking points of the year. It has become the gold standard for viral marketing and rightly so – despite the internet being a more crowded place than ever before for charities searching for attention, the ice bucket challenge managed to cut through the noise simply by offering a focal point for donations.

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Most importantly, it increased the amount in donations that the MND Assocation received in donations per week from £200,000 up to a high of £2.7 million – a 1250% increase created purely on the back of a campaign going viral.

While it would be next to impossible for all organisations to have the same successes through their social media strategies, the fact is that most organisations do almost nothing when it comes to publicising their appeals or getting people to interact through Facebook and Twitter. The wider meaning of this is that the pool of people who could potentially help your organisation is forever going to be extremely limited, purely due to lack of public knowledge about the situation.

Where are the main cities in the UK looking to give to charity?

As would be expected given the volume of people that live there, London leads the way in people searching to give to charities in the UK. The trends generally follow the amounts of people that live in each area – with the surprise inclusion of Brentford in 7th place – ahead of other much larger places such as Bristol, Sheffield and Cardiff.

Manchester is also disproportionately generous in terms of giving money online – beating the wider Birmingham area, Leeds and both Glasgow and Edinburgh into second place. This could be related to the kind of appeals that have recently happened in the Manchester area – such as the problems that Manchester Dogs Home have recently faced – but it largely seems to be an ongoing trend rather than due to a couple of major spikes.

With Google becoming increasingly more based around local search results – especially when it comes to businesses – engaging with a local audience is more important than ever before. While your organisation may already have strong links to the local community offline, there are always going to be more people online that are looking to connect with charities and donate either their time or their money towards your efforts.

The underlying theme with a lot of smaller charitable organisations is that of unfulfilled potential on the web. If your organisation hasn’t bothered to make the effort to try and publicise your appeals online, it not only potentially makes people think that your organisation are less worthy of funding than they are, it also potentially cuts off thousands of people who might be desperate to get involved with your cause.

How can I make the most of our online presence?

It is in the nature of local charities that every is always strapped for time, and most organisations are normally run on a shoestring budget – but it is difficult to underestimate the worth of spending even a little time each week making sure that you maintain an online presence. One of the easiest ways to do this is by starting a blog based around your organisation, documenting what goes on day to day in your organisation.

People searching for local charities is one of the fastest rising searches in the UK, so just by doing a weekly update of anything that you’ve been up to, listing any ongoing appeals or even posting a few images that the people might be interested in seeing. All of it will serve to give your charity a platform to engage with the local community and potentially grow the amount of people that know about your cause.

As mentioned in regards to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge above, social media can be provide an enormous boost for your efforts too. Of course, not everything needs to have the potential to go viral or be an internet sensation – but simply posting regular updates through twitter and Facebook can simply allow the people that are interested in being involved with your charity the chance to find out as much about what you do as possible.

Aside from people looking for charities in their local area, there also a growing number of people looking for employment in the third sector. this is something that has been supported in recent times by reports that ‘millennials’ (i.e. people who have grown up in the era of the internet) are more likely to want to have a job that gives something back to the world, rather than simply wanting to make as much money as they could – which seemed to be the overarching trend of the generations that preceded them.

Especially if you’re running an appeal, making sure that people on social networks and readers of your website are kept up-to-date can be the difference between smashing your goal and just missing out. Doing constant updates of where you’re at, what you need and how it could help your cause are key in providing a sense of urgency and giving people the sense that they are actually helping to change the world – one of the main reasons that many give to charity.

How can I make my appeal more visible?

Having dedicated pages on websites such as JustGiving, GoFundMe and Virgin Giving that allow people to quickly see what it is you’re raising money for and give funds, regardless of where they are in the country. It is to be direct about what exactly it is that you’re raising money for, and how donations will help you going forward.

Allowing people to see an overview of your appeal in one place should mean that people are more likely to share the link – and the people that do click straight through to a donation page can instantly see what it is they’d be contributing to.

Part of the reason that Dial2Donate was set-up was in order to make sure that important appeals from local and national causes are given a spotlight and can connect with the kinds of people looking to help our featured charities. If you’ve got an ongoing cause that you would like our team to write up and give an extra push, we’d be more than happy to hear from you – just fill out the contact us form opposite.