As Voltaire first said – or was it Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in Spider-Man? – “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is so true of technology. And we feel that the charity sector is best placed to use technology wisely and for the greater good.
Some are creating the technology itself, such as Breast Cancer Care who developed BECCA (Breast Cancer Care App), their app to support women with breast cancer. Others, like RNLI and Dog’s Trust, are using it to fight back against ‘fake news’. UK sport for employment charity Street League, meanwhile, built a live dashboard to show its impact, as well as what it hasn’t been able to achieve. It’s clear that technology is helping charities become more transparent while also helping them to amplify their impact.
Here are three ways charities are using technology to amplify their voice.
One of the most powerful outcomes of technology is how it brings causes and people closer together. Social media, for example, has enabled charities to reach more people in more effective and cost-efficient ways. The same can be said about websites and email when used to offer more personalised content and journeys. Fundamental to this is how charities create engagement with their supporters, beneficiaries, members and the public through being authentic and telling their stories.
There are so many good examples of this, from the monthly joyful action calendars from Action for Happiness to RNIB’s #HowISee campaign, which encourages people affected by sight loss to use social media to share their daily experiences.
Apps are another powerful way to engage with your audience, but it’s important that they are not considered a silver bullet. The can be effective when their use case is well developed and understood. Two such apps include BECCA, as mentioned above, and Oxfam’s My Donate which brings supporters closer to their work and shows how much money they’ve raised through charity shop donations or through donating directly.
The charities creating the most impact are the ones that understand that infrastructure and good governance is crucial to giving supporters and beneficiaries better experiences online.
Having a good CRM and using it and updating it correctly, as well as integrating it with other parts of your digital presence (e.g. website / social media accounts), gives a holistic view of your audience. This means being able to tailor content and services to them, therefore providing greater value.
Technology is also about governance and culture. In order to create positive change, charities need strong leadership and a culture that is open to experimenting, testing and perhaps even failure. The sector is definitely getting better at this. I’m pleased to have been involved in the annual Charity Governance Awards with a category dedicated to Embracing Digital, which this year was won by Bliss. A wonderful charity for babies born premature or sick, Bliss adopted a digital-first strategy, which has not only transformed the way they support parents, but also their data-informed digital marketing has helped 30 per cent more people access essential information online since their strategy was launched.
Technology offers the ability to respond quickly in a crisis. You only have to look at how social media mobilised people after tragedies such as Grenfell Tower and the Manchester Attack. Then there’s the ability to quickly raise funds online, through online giving platforms and via email to help those in need.
Charities are also starting to fight back against inaccuracies in the media. The recent examples from the RNLI, in response to a Daily Mail article, and Dogs Trust, in response to an article in The Mirror, show how they are taking matters into their own hands and using their channels to set the record straight. It’s also great to see how many people show their support in these times and also how people’s negative stance can be won over.
Technology has become increasingly affordable to charities to help them achieve their aims and greater impact. Social media, an area we’ve invested in to help the charity sector through our platform, offers charities a level playing field, no matter their size or income. Indeed, just look at how The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) has raised $18m (and counting) in the last week in the US following President Donald Trump’s border policy.
Charities do vital work and technology and social media has given the sector the ability to share their vital and impressive stories with the right people in the right place at the right time.
Lightful is a tech for social good company designed to revolutionise the way charities and social enterprises drive genuine positive action through social media.