The Internet – a Universal Panacea?

Written by our new intern Frey Case-Leng.

We live in an age of convenience and instant gratification.  Increasingly, society expects services, information and products to be available at the drop of a hat.  These expectations have been fuelled by the inexorable rise of the internet.  In the world of charities this omnipresent platform was optimistically supposed to offer a universal panacea for fundraising.  But in far too many cases outcomes are reported to have been disappointing.   Hardly surprising – not least since levels of eagerness with which the internet has been deployed have seldom been matched by levels of clear strategic understanding.

Yet all is not lost.  Recent research carried out by NfpSynergy based upon 114 UK charities shows that the proportion of donations secured through online activity has increased almost two-fold from 2% to 3.7% over the last three years.  The recent report Passion, Persistence and Partnership: the secrets of earning more online, produced by the Institute of Fundraising, MissionFish and eBay for Charity, hints at positive developments.

 The Internet offers charities a means to discover what people are saying about them and about the issues they are addressing

The report contains excellent case studies of charities, both great and small, which have flourished online.  The difference between those that have enjoyed success and those in the doldrums is in how they use the internet and, more specifically, social media websites.  Most charities using Facebook and Twitter do so to spread general communications and campaign information; fewer than half of these use them to glean the views of their supporters and to follow other organisations.  It is the charities that focus most on listening and engaging through social media that have seen the greatest returns.  The Internet offers charities a means to discover what people are saying about them and about the issues they are addressing.  Through careful engagement in these discussions, charities can connect with many more people and nurture new and beneficial donor relationships.  Of course, this takes time and commitment, but is that not the case when building any kind of satisfying relationship?

By entering environments in which people are already active, charities can participate in this age of convenience, make themselves transparent in more accessible ways than through impenetrable annual reports and build relationships with a wider audience in a more personal way.  If online fundraising is ever to reach its full potential, we suggest charities follow the lead of the most successful few and meet the expectations of society through immediate and personal engagement and transparency.  The Internet does not offer a universal panacea.  It will never produce instant success at the drop of a hat – but so much more can be achieved at the click of a button.

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