Charities should keep digital innovation at the heart of their approach

Ahead of the Institute of Fundraising’s Innovative Fundraising in a Digital World’ conference on Monday 3rd October Michael Docherty, Director of Digital and Supporter Experience, Cancer Research UK blogs about how charities should keep digital innovation at the heart of their approach. Having worked on Cancer Chat, I can attest that CRUK definitely has their finger on the digital innovation pulse. 

Over the past five years we’ve seen drastic changes in how people interact with digital things. The average person now checks their smartphone 85 times a day, spending five hours browsing the web and using apps. Google processes a mind blowing 40,000 searches a second; it’s fair to say we live in a digital world.

The third sector is as impacted by this digital world as any other sector. In just the last year Cancer Research UK has seen a 30% increase in single donations being taken through our online payment platform and mobile traffic has grown 35% and now makes up over half of all visits to our website.

This is a world where the pace of change is very fast, changes can bring upside or downside, and occasionally those upsides/downsides can be sudden and spectacular. #Nomakeupselfie and Google’s Panda Update are examples of both which have affected CRUK.

To keep pace with the digital world and to deliver the types of experiences that people expect, we’re organising ourselves to put our focus on the main things our audiences need to do with us. Through this focus we’ve been developing capabilities that can be utilised across the organisation in serving our audiences’ needs. Some examples of our capabilities include our ecommerce , online fundraising and online communities platforms, and our new schema enabled approach to content management.

Through our audience led approach, through our new digital capabilities and by working to up skill the organisation, we’re building an environment that allows our teams to be digital first. It’s this approach and framework that lets us be innovative, giving our teams the tools to quickly try different things whilst easily measuring impact and success.

Innovation is at the heart of our approach, and to ensure we are preparing ourselves for the future we’re exploring cutting-edge technologies and experimenting with them to understand how they can support the outcomes we are trying to achieve.

We keep track of new behavioural trends driven by technology in any sector, and we look for ways to apply trends to our objectives – particularly fundraising growth. As an example, given the decline of cash on the high street we’ve explored contactless payments. We’ve also seen market-leading digital organisations invest significantly in virtual reality and have subsequently been actively exploring how we can utilise the technology. These are just two examples of future income and engagement drivers that we believe charities must explore in order to keep meeting their audiences’ needs and remain relevant.

Keeping up with the digital world requires a culture where it’s possible to test and learn, and crucially, acceptable (and dare I say it, desirable) to fail. The way we make it OK for us to fail is to do it cheaply, and ensure we learn quickly so that we aren’t making the same mistake twice. This is helping us grow towards becoming a more digitally mature organisation, where everyone has a responsibility and commitment to be innovative and put their audiences first – and we think that’s helping us keep pace with the ever changing digital world.

Michael will be chairing the Institute of Fundraising ‘Innovative Fundraising in a Digital World’ conference on 3rd October – are you on board with the changing digital world?

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