Can digital bridge the charity generation gap?

In September 2012, the Charity Aid Foundation (CAF) published new research findings which predicted that the charity sector is facing an alarming donation deficit in the years to come unless the younger generation starts to match the generosity of its elders. In this post we take a look at how charities can overcome this challenge by utilising technology to engage with younger audiences.

Despite an increase in the use of ‘pre-committed’ methods of giving, i.e. regular donations through standing orders and Direct Debits, younger people are less likely to give to charity than older generations, and over-65s now supply approximately half of all donations.

(Source: CAF ‘Mind the Gap’ report 2012)

The graph demonstrates how the only age groups that are increasing their percentage of donations are the over 60s.

Therefore, it is increasingly important for charities to consider how they can use digital media to generate awareness and engage with new audiences. In November 2012, 94% of charities surveyed by Lasa stated that they used digital for communications, whether that was social media or email marketing.

Social media in particular has created huge opportunities for charities to find creative ways to support their cause or generate awareness, whether this is asking users to make a donation or complete another action.

Here at Code Computerlove, we work with some of the UK’s largest charities, including Oxfam, Greenpeace, PDSA, Refuge and The Woodland Trust, to help them address these challenges. .

We think it’s important for charities to optimise the use of their online platforms and leverage emerging technologies in order to reach a younger audience and help bring out the better, more generous side of human nature.

Here are our Top 5 tips for charities tackling this problem:

1. Make it personal

Charities generally offer a wide range of donation and involvement products that appeal to different audiences. Using implicit and explicit personalisation, we can deliver more relevant content for younger audiences based on their browsing behaviour and previous actions.

Another way of making it personal is to connect the users to others with similar interests and values. One example we’re really proud of is the online community we helped set up for Oxfam, which has enabled the charity to encourage users to form real world connections with the charity.

2. Make it interesting and worth sharing

Brands in this space need to stand out; developing strong creative campaign activities that are engaging and interactive, whilst delivering a strong brand message, is imperative.

We think we achieved this in our work with Refuge by crafting a beautiful yet haunting interactive animation video that takes the viewer on a personal journey through the decisions we all have to make if we think our friends or family are being subjected to abuse at home.

You can read more about Refuge and the ‘Support a friend’ campaign here.

3. Create other ways to give

Charity is not just about giving money. In many cases, the focus is on spreading awareness for an issue and using social pressure to cause policy change. In this area, digital has proved to be a very successful medium when it comes toin involving the younger generation; although they may not have money to donate, they can still show support by offering their time instead.

Greenpeace uses a combination of physical action and social media to highlight important issues, and make the companies and governments they’re targeting sit up and listen. A recent example is the campaign which asked users to email Waitrose to encourage them to #DumpShell.

Another very successful tool is to use online petitions to demonstrate that large numbers of people are aware of and care about an issue.. When developing the Oxfam site, we included components that enable editors to embed advocacy widgets from Engaging Networks anywhere on the site, allowing them to quickly set up online petitions.

4. Show it works

With some of the big issues that charities tackle, people can feel they are not able to make a difference. Communicating the impact of someone’s action is really important for engaging new audiences, especially if it is done in a way that they can easily share.

For example, Oxfam utilises video to show how contributions have changed lives:

Sending out a message that actions really make a difference acts as a powerful motivator that creates trust and loyalty. For example, showing that the charity reached a specific goal, such as hitting a target for donations, is a nice way to inspire people to act again.

5. Go social

Recent research from suggests that more than half of social media users are aged between 25 and 44 years old. Although the number of young people that give to charities is low, it is now the fastest growing segment due to the increased use of social networking sites such as Facebook.

With the right social strategy and technical knowledge, charities have shown it is possible to engage with this audience where they feel most at home. Users will generally be willing to spread a message that they believe in, especially if there is something personal to share; for example, photos of ‘Movember’ moustaches.

Technology has made it quick and easy to make donations through tools like JustGiving and Facebook apps. Young people will often give to a cause they don’t know much about because someone they know asks for support via Twitter or Facebook. By providing ways for users to respond quickly before other distractions appear, charities have a higher chance of success.

Another important consideration with this generation is mobile. Campaign activities need to be accessible to supporters on the go, either by creating a community page accessible on mobile or ensuring that users can complete the required action cross platform.