A helping digital hand for charity

In Information Age's first piece in its Change the World series - the potential of digital tools for charities across the globe is discussed.

Businesses are constantly embracing paperless initiatives and the latest digital tools will transform operations and help them move at the pace their customers demand.

However, some sectors are still stuck in the past, including the one serving those with the greatest need. According to a YouGov report for the Charities Aid Foundation, the public perceive charities to be ‘behind the curve’ in their use of technology, and as a result, many miss out on the backing of the younger generation.

Developments in the cloud and mobile technology have the potential to bring out the best in a charity and help them reach those who can provide the critical support required.

>See also: Oxfam’s communication transformation

From boosting efficiencies through to attracting new, younger supporters – using the latest technology is the ‘refresh’ that charities need.

Invest in mobile initiatives

In the UK, 3 in 4 people own a smartphone, presenting a real opportunity for charities to engage with consumers in new ways – it’s high time they tapped into these mobile channels.

From social media campaigns to mobile-optimised websites – there are a number of small changes that would go a long way to helping the third sector engage more effectively with millennials.

More critically however, digital transformation can play a huge role in turning around the donation process. With contactless payments, such as Android and Apple Pay on the rise, it’s now more important than ever that charities adapt.

Asking for spare change in today’s cashless society is becoming increasingly less fruitful – being able to accept contactless donations is the way forward.

Partner with those that have the know-how

Embracing mobile strategies is just the start. The real difference comes when charitable organisations partner with technology companies that can take them to the level of enterprise businesses in terms of the technology that they are deploying.

This allows charities to engage with consumers in a language they understand – digital. At large events, attempting to gather the details of hundreds of people on clipboards and paper-based forms is slow and inefficient.

Similarly, gaining a potential donor’s interest in a face to face meeting is often a long way from receiving a donation. In today’s digital world, people must be allowed to upload their information through a mobile device in a matter of moments, and charities must have the capability of taking payments instantly.

>See also: Automation and austerity: will robots make you redundant?

Being able to take instant advantage of someone’s interest will prove the difference between charities getting the extra funding that they need to help another person, family or animal, whatever the cause may be.

Technology can also help improve back end processes that so often hold charities back. We’ve seen the Special Olympics take the signing of participation and medical release forms digital for thousands of athletes around the world.

Speeding up the process and avoiding the consequent errors by going digital can be the difference between allowing an athlete to compete and not. A huge difference to every individual involved, purely by eliminating paper from the equation.

Technology to bring you closers to those in need

However, there’s more technology out there to be utilised than mobile devices and it can bring the charity closer to those in need. By investing in digital tools, there is the potential to improve the way volunteers assist and help communities. In Zambia, malaria could be eliminated by 2020 with the use of cloud technology.

PATH, an international non-profit organisation and leader in global health innovation is partnering with analytic database provider EXASOL to take on the disease.

The technology will use big data to predict probable zones of an outbreak, to alert health officials to the area so they can work on preventing malaria spreading.

>See also: What is the CIO’s position in the business today?

In the same way, Team Rubicon UK, the international non-profit that deploys disaster response veterans, teamed up with DocuSign to challenge developers to create a solution to help with its mission in the field.

The software developers focused on enabling eSignatures to be collected offline, a critical feature in remote areas with no internet connectivity.

Working across refugee camps in Syria, Team Rubicon could complete vital forms without connectivity, safe in the knowledge that the information would instantly be uploaded to the server once a connection to the internet was restored.

The efficiencies this brings to the work that the team is doing is essential to providing support to those who need it most.

Developments in technology occur at such an incredible rate that even most forward-thinking businesses struggle to keep up. What’s clear, though, is the latest tools in the digital world open up immense opportunities for those in society striving to help those in need and to create a fairer world.

From engaging with a growing millennial audience to tackling deadly diseases and assisting during times of crisis – technology will transform the charities of today and the way we respond to the issues of tomorrow.


Sourced by Helen Sutton, VP enterprise sales Northern Europe, DocuSign


Information Age’s Change the World series will continue to roll out in the next two weeks and will assess how technology can revolutionise and transform society in a range of sectors; from recycling efforts to addressing the migrant crisis.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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