Digitally transforming charitable giving

June 13, 2022
Donation jar with Pay as you wish label

Talk to any charity and they’ll tell you about the challenges they’re facing post-pandemic, many of which are also being seen across other sectors. The ability to acquire new audiences and encourage engagement is increasingly difficult, particularly for organisations who are not digitally native or are not digitally transforming their operations fast enough. Becoming digital-first has long been a challenge but is now amplified as we move forward. 

From reduced in-person fundraising opportunities to out of date payment processing, we’re looking at some of the challenges experienced by charities and how adopting a digital-first service approach can help to overcome them. 

Fundraising opportunities

Before the pandemic, charities were able to more readily collect donations in physical locations. According to a report by DEMOS, “cake sales, concerts, fun runs were all events that provided a significant source of income for smaller charities. Larger organisations have also been badly hit with the Royal British Legion estimating a fall of millions from its Poppy Appeal”. Now with the pandemic over, the new ‘normal’ still poses several new challenges for charities to overcome.

According to the FT, office occupancy in London is running at near to a quarter of pre-pandemic levels and tube travel to the city of London is down by a half. With fewer people out and about, to and from their workplace, the opportunities to consider giving or be informed about fund-raising campaigns are reduced. Combine this with the worst cost of living crisis since the 1950s and recent warnings of the upcoming ‘apocalyptic’ food price rises means people have less disposable income and those who may have previously given their time or money are now less able to do so.

The result could be a perfect storm. At a time when people need the services charities provide more than ever, fundraising efforts are struggling. 

Making impact tangible

With less face-to-face opportunities available for charities to engage, it is important that they fully embrace the opportunity to digitally translate the feeling of empathy experienced when speaking to someone about a good cause and the impact of their donation.

One great mechanic to do this is giving people the ability to correlate the impact of their donation to a real world example. Save the Children allows you to select your donation from a slider and the numbers below update showing the user how many of each item their donation could buy. This is a great example, but is really only the tip of the iceberg of what we believe is possible.

Donation sliders screenshot from the Save the Children website

Value for money

Some charities offer an incentive to the user in exchange for a donation. For example, sign up to sponsor a puppy on the Guide Dogs for the Blind website and by way of a reward, they’ll send you a photo album, a personalised certificate, a magnet and a calendar once a year. While this sounds like good value for the donor and there is likely good reasoning behind it, it at least feels like a good chunk of the donation is going towards marketing materials rather than the actual cause. 

Examples of Guide Dogs marketing materials

According to the 2021 UK Digital Index, people are spending more time online than they did pre-pandemic, we’re all on our devices more than ever before, so maybe it is time for these rewards to go digital. Could badges or avatars be provided regularly to donors to facilitate sharing on social media, providing the charity with greater reach than a physical calendar? Or could unique digital tokens be created in exchange for a donation which unlock further rewards or digital experiences in the future?

Be flexible

People have high expectations when interacting with brands online, particularly when shopping where regular transactions occur. One touch purchases, digital wallets and payment with facial recognition are great examples. Online retail is making it easier and easier to get a checkout process completed as quickly as possible. However, there are fewer examples where these latest advancements have been translated to the charity sector, making it more difficult than it needs to be for users to donate. The latest payment and subscription technology coupled with a seamless communication strategy is becoming expected. It starts with being able to pay the amount you want with your favourite payment method at intervals that suit you. But as your relationship develops you want to be kept informed of your donation impact, receive rewards and see tailored opportunities for further engagement. 


Within the charity sector there can be a lack of cutting edge digital skills amongst those who hold the purse strings and set strategic direction, which makes it difficult for organisations to digitally transform operations. Projects become too reactive rather than proactive and a good digital-first strategy is hard to come by. We know that keeping up with the latest technology and platforms is a big struggle when you have to manage resources carefully and budgets are tight. Working out which technology or platform is worth the time and investment and which is a flash in the pan can be hard. Often the best policy is to wait to join in order to be sure, by which time you're behind everyone else and you’re playing catch up again, knowing that there is always a new platform beginning its ascent. 

Success in the charity sector will belong to those who not only embrace the latest technical advancements, but who also learn from their own experience and are able to apply creative solutions to solve the unique needs of their users. People who donate time and money to charity are rare, so their generosity should be rewarded appropriately. Tailored communication, updates on impact, and inspirational engaging journeys need to be the starting point. Some of the most effective change programmes start small, a few improvements to your digital experience, iterated upon over time, will make a big difference.

Using our strategic product and service design methods, we have helped digitally transform a number of for-profit and not-for-profit organisations. If you could use our expertise, please get in touch for a free consultation. We would love to hear about your challenges.

Cover image source: Unsplash

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