There are 160,000 charities in the UK with a combined income of about £39 billion a year. We are a charitable nation, with 44 million of us donating an average of £16 a month. According to the UK Giving Report, people are – on the whole – becoming more charitable. While it may sound like the charity sector is ticking along nicely, it still has its challenges. An increasingly cashless and fast-paced society are two of the biggest problems, as well as associated challenges like raising awareness.
While CharityTech is able to provide some solutions to these difficulties, technology also creates a few problems of its own. Let’s take a closer look…
For generations, the rattling of a collection tin has been the theme tune of charities. Similar to cars moving over on the road when they hear a siren, the rattle of a tin has us reaching for our spare change. However, there is a problem – we don’t have any!
Thanks to the rise in contactless debit cards and mobile payments apps, the average Briton now carries less than £5 in cash on them. That doesn’t leave very much change spare for dropping in the charity tin!
Luckily, contactless payments have given rise to the tappable donation tin. Instead of searching for loose change, a simple tap of the credit card means the ‘cash’ keeps rolling in.
Where is the empathy?
Just a few short years ago, harrowing adverts from St Johns Ambulance and NSPCC were making headlines. Viewers found them distressing and too much to handle. Charities stood by their shock tactics – they needed them to really bring home the message and make people understand why they needed the donations.
Fast forward a few years, and we are less empathetic than ever before. According to US psychologists, we are in a “narcissism epidemic”. and when tragedy unfolds, it could be said that there are more people filming on their mobile phones than rushing in to help.
We are bombarded with images 24/7 – good and bad – and we are almost becoming numb to what we see and hear. Could VR wake up our senses and feel a little more?
While some charities have tried their hand at using VR to support their missions, the results and reactions have beeen a mixed bag. At an event in Sydney, the image of CEOs using VR headsets to gain an understanding of homelessness attracted large amounts of scoffing and ridicule. As one Twitter user put it, “Yes! Dealing with the virtual cold, the virtual violence, the virtual hunger, the virtual untreated illnesses, the virtual despair…”
While you can’t tap into the real emotions, feelings, or the history of the situation, at a time when we struggle for empathy, it could assist charities in driving the message home. Charity: Water’s recent fundraising event featured a virtual reality movie documenting a week in the life of a 13-year-old girl and her family getting clean water for the first time. Just a few hours later, once the VR headsets had been packed away, donors committed to giving $2.4 million.
Help is at hand, via a chatbot
No one in the UK could disagree that one of the biggest challenges facing charities is the lack of resources. Often those turning to charities in need are looking for advice and assistance, and financing a team to answer the questions or provide support can be draining on the money pot.
Up steps one of the biggest megatrends of the tech world – AI.
Chatbots are being used by charities to provide personalised advice and support through their websites. While it will not work for everyone – sometimes you just need to speak with a real person – chatbots are perfect for answering practical matters. For example, an AI charity chatbot could support those needing help to fill out forms. This has been used to great effect by charities supporting those with medical conditions, while real-time language translation services are being offered to refugee and migrant charities.
And the use of AI to support charities doesn’t stop there. We’ve already discussed tappable buckets to collect donations, but what about using your Amazon Echo to make a donation. Your card details are already stored, so when a cause touches your heart, a simple “Alexa, donate £20 to this charity” could make all the difference.
Digital skills in crisis
As part of the recent Charity Digital Skills Report, 500 charity professionals were surveyed on the digital workings of their organisations. Worryingly, 50 percent admitted that they did not have a digital strategy in place at their organisation. When 75 percent also said growing their digital skills would help to increase fundraising, the question has to be asked: why is the charity sector still so far behind? And more importantly, what can the tech sector do to help?
With spending tight at most charities, it is not as easy for them to invest in recruiting or developing digital talent, so maybe we need to start needs to start stepping up to the plate – not with technology, but with talent. Volunteering some time to help, advise, and teach could bridge the gap.
All it takes is a little bit of time. Here are Luminous PR, we are passionate advocates of sharing our skills with not-for-profits and charitable organisations. There might not be an actual tech solution, but there is a tech sector solution.
Give, give, give…
… and give a little more.
It feels good to help those in need, and just as good to do it with technology. There is a charitable place in the world for CharityTech and we can already see it making a difference.