Rory talked about the phrase ‘designated driver’ and how it was born out of anti-drink driving campaigns. He told us how the label was seeded into TV programmes and other media to get it accepted into mainstream language. And how this new label meant ‘not drinking’ went from being unsociable to acceptable.
It got me thinking about how we might apply this learning in the charity sector. With my digital focus the first thing that came to mind was the difference in adoption between ecommerce and online giving.
For commercial organisations, ecommerce is often a higher proportion of their income than online donations are to many charities. I stand by my previous statements that charities might be behind because of the available technology. But reframing the question using this case study from Rory provides some interesting thoughts.
We need a new language for online giving, a label which makes it more of a social norm than it is. There’s a strong case for this, particularly if you are an endorser of CAF’s research into the giving habits of younger generations.
Looking back at the language around charitable giving I’m not sure its changed that much in the last few decades (please tell if you know different!). If this is correct it’s not surprising that online giving is not aligned with the modern media environment or younger generations.
So what could that new label be?
I think that’s because I’m not sure how new it feels.
A proportion of individuals have always given directly to someone in need without needing intervention from a non-profit brand. Rewind the clock and you can see that’s how charities started (and continue to start).
Of course, technology is now a part of the journey, and that is new(ish). The convenience of crowd-funding platforms is a real enabler. Yet, that feels new mostly because we’re just in another tech adoption curve; we’ll move past the spawning of many platforms to a small set of reliable platforms that become the way to get something done.
We don’t know if disintermediation will result in more philanthropic giving than pre-internet – it just wasn’t tracked or published before. For example, I recently heard a charity praise their crowd-funding website for giving visibility of the fundraising by their local services. I’ve also pondered if the big successes in crowd-funding are simply aggregating money that would have been involved in smaller informal giving.
That’s not to say the third sector isn’t feeling a little bit unsure and perhaps even at risk due to the concept. You only need to look at the number of events and articles that have started to crop up to know that.
The perceived challenge is the fit with the way many charities currently work. Established charities have processes that help them comply with legislation, to manage reputation and brand, and to ensure investment in long-term sustainable impact as well as the short-term. All things that crowd-funding appears to handle very differently, if at all, at the moment.
But, there will always be people who just want to ‘do their bit’ without too much thought of who is handling the processing. For most, philanthropic acts are only a small part of their life. Based on the hypothesis that this has always happened and it’s just more visible now, what we’re really talking about is not a total shift in behaviours but about finding a way for both to work together better.
I think what we might need to adopt within charities is the Amazon approach; provide a user driven ‘marketplace’ alongside the brand. Provide choice transparently where the charity is facilitator. From what I’ve heard, Amazon’s business was strengthened by this rather than weakened…
This week I was lucky enough to be a facilitator at the first CharityComms digital leaders roundtable. There were a few familiar faces but the strategic level promised also attracted many new people too. The topic of the evening was digital literacy in charities.
We spent quality time debating the current state of digital literacy, the impact of this and the approaches being used to build capacity while also handling existing challenges. All a very relevant topic for me personally since my job description tasks me to “mainstream digital at UNICEF UK over a period of 5 years”.
Vicky’s blog sum’s up the key points well so I won’t repeat them here. But I promised to share more information on a few of the capacity building approaches I’ve been taking.
- Digital competencies framework: a table showing what we expect everyone to be able to do, and then three other levels based on whether you’re external facing or identified as a champion or super-user. This will form part of the organisation’s personal development and recruitment processes in the near future.
- Training and stimulus sessions: we’ve been hosting external speaker sessions to stimulate interest and learning plus we’re building training programmes based on the competency framework.
- Internal stakeholder group: with reps from all external facing teams, and key partner teams such as IT and CRM, we meet to shape the strategic direction jointly, and to provide a forum for concerns to be expressed so we’re always listening.
- Contact management approach: we’ve paired a member of the digital hub with a contact point in another team to ensure a regular dialogue happens. The contact pair discuss plans and opportunities but there’s also capacity building discussions in the regular catch ups.
- Just doing it: we’ve been modelling the behaviours we want to see by stating ‘digital first’ in project objectives upfront. One example of this is our ownacolour project, it pushed many teams outside of their usual working processes and we’ve all learnt a huge amount from it.
I’ve said before that digital teams needs to be impassioned tutors and coaches and that’s certainly true for my team who are helping to deliver this. Alison, another facilitator from the event, has reaffirmed another perspective for me with her reflection on how digital roles have changed – we also need persuasion and change management skills.
I was chatting with someone today and we hit upon something I think I’ll be pondering for a little while. I thought I’d put it out there so hopefully some of you can join me!
We were chatting about the phenomenon where a particular digital tactic becomes something everyone thinks they should do without question, yet it’s previously been something no-one outside the digital team gave the time of day to.
The example we talked about was twitter in advocacy calls to action. But we started to see a potential pattern…
- Early adopters take a chance on a tactic after some risk and value analysis, and/or small scale pilotting. The digital team assumes the role of ‘drum banger’ and innovators.
- Assuming it works, and / or other charities have made it work, the tactic ‘drum banging’ is at its noisiest.
- Everyone then wants to do it but doesn’t (always) consider the value and risk appropriately. The digital team find themselves having to switch to more of an overseeing role, typically perceived as controlling rather than empowering.
- Moving from perceived innovator to controlling in a short period of time causes challenges, both in team and across teams.
So is there a way around this? Can you avoid the challenges?
When a tactic becomes mainstream should it move out of digital?
… the pondering continues.
That’s the principle of Barcamp non-profits. A time and place for people with a particular interest to come together to share learnings and come up with new ideas.
I volunteered to be an organiser just before Christmas and now the event is just around the corner (17 Feb 2012). So I met with a few of the other organisers (Amy, Nick and Sylwia) to confirm the basics.
Once we finished chatting about tea, coffee, biscuits and whiteboards (the important stuff!) we couldn’t help stirring up a few potential ideas for the day. I won’t give anything away – but I will say I’m confident it’s going to be a great day!
So … over to you to make sure I’m right. Bring your challenges and gems of learning and be prepared to share.