Why charities need to adapt data-based engagement strategies in the new digital world

With increasing pressure to raise much-needed funds, it is more important than ever for charities to understand the best way to engage with their donors in the new digital world. Have we entered the era of the ‘digital persona’, the demographics of a supporter when online, and how are charities responding to this?

Last year, the Ice Bucket Challenge swept across the globe, grabbing the attention of social media channels and becoming one of the most successful charitable campaigns the world has ever seen.

But one year on, has The Motor Neurone Disease Association succeeded in retaining their millions of new supporters and converting them into lifetime donors, or is this a prime example of the ‘one-hit wonder’?

Did they even manage to capture the data needed to maintain the interest of this new audience on an ongoing basis?

>See also: Digital transformation – the pressing three priorities for charities

The Ice Bucket Challenge encapsulated the issues around digital engagement. It provided the impetus for the Advanced NFP team to commission independent research, looking at whether charities are recognising the opportunity in the power of the emerging digital persona.

The results revealed that 78% of not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) stated that they did know about the concept of the digital persona.  Furthermore, the majority of NFPs surveyed admitted they are struggling to leverage the power of this online data.

The report highlighted that many are failing to capitalise on the opportunities to communicate with their supporters through social media channels. It revealed four major barriers holding back charities.

77% cited a lack of in-house expertise or digital champions as the most common barrier to analysing data about individuals

71% stated data integration was a stumbling block, specifically in linking data sets between existing systems to newer sources of data such as social media

59% stated a lack of access to the right tools to help create and manage ‘digital personas’

And finally, almost half stated that senior decision makers still do not fully understand or appreciate the benefits of understanding the digital persona of their existing and potential donors.

This highlights that senior decision makers are in danger of missing out on the insight that data-driven decisions can offer for both attraction and retention.

So what do charities need to do keep up with the evolution of the digital persona?

Consumers are increasingly shopping online and mobile banking is taking over as the preferred route of payment and donation.

Charities have followed suit to introduce quick and easy ways to donate, either via text or online. However, without the ability to capture the information around donors’ activity online, the success may only be short lived.

Charities need to invest in time and technology to capture data in one place and ensure they can analyse it to engage in a targeted and tailored manner to drive engagement.

Another opportunity to consider is around attracting offline donors into the online world. Although social media is a huge part of daily life to many, there are still some who have no online presence and prefer more traditional ways of donating.

If a large percentage of a charity’s audience is offline, they may question the value of investing in creating an online identity. However, although it may be a risk at first, the benefits and effects of engaging with the ‘digital persona’ are proving to be a necessity in the wheel of success. Charities must consider how they can encourage their supporters online and welcome them to the new world of engagement.

>See also: A world of good: JustGiving is transforming the charity sector through 'social giving'

The success of an online engagement strategy can be measured in several ways. If the charity has the ability to oversee the increase in followers it has on social media and how many new members and donors have been uploaded to its database, it’ll have all the metrics it needs to show how valuable these engagement strategies are, as well as seeking out other potential donors with similar attributes.

With a good online presence, results can be seen in days and therefore the new digital world is making it easier for charities to retain interest from supporters and attract the attention of new donors.

Charities must therefore ask themselves these questions if they are to succeed in the digital world: do they have the in-house skills to manage the data required to retain their donors? Do they have the senior buy-in to ensure they can see the value of the investment? And do they have the ability to measure the results of the success of their investment in the new digital world?

The research has highlighted that if NFPs don’t collect and analyse data from the raft of online social channels, they risk failing to understand and hence adapt to how and where members and supporters are operating in the evolving digital world.


Sourced from Simon Fowler, Advanced Business Solutions

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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