A world of good: JustGiving is transforming the charity sector through ‘social giving’

When JustGiving was founded fifteen years ago, its original purpose was to partner with charities to help them make the leap from traditional fundraising to accepting donations over web, charging a small transaction fee for each donation given. Although not an easy concept to sell to the non-profit sector initially, it’s since helped people in 164 countries raise over $3.3 billion for 13,000+ charities.

As JustGiving CIO Richard Atkinson explains, two or three years ago, the platform’s focus was on the features and benefits around the transaction. But his team has worked tirelessly to expand its role and give the charities it hosts more bang for their buck.

‘We’ve been on an interesting journey over the last few years, with a lot of things coming to fruition with the help of the cloud, as we move from a UK digital success story to a global, social success story,’ he says. ‘What we’ve been trying to do now is move beyond the transaction itself, figuring out what more we can offer to charities and the people that support them.’

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

What JustGiving aims to offer charities now is a place where they can come and tell people their story and good causes can come and find supporters. After stumbled around a bit trying to think of ideas of how they could do this, Atkinson eventually realised the goldmine they had been sitting on all along.

‘People had been telling us what they care about for the past 12-13 years by setting up fundraising pages or making donations,’ says Atkinson. ‘We realised that every time someone asks a friend to sponsor them or sets up a page we’re learning something about their social network. So we started to look at behavioural economies and the psychology of why people give to charity. It’s been an interesting journey over the last few years, with a lot of this coming into fruition- we’ve found that there’s some real holy grail stuff in there.’

The truth that Atkinson found at the heart of the service they’d been providing, is that ‘if a friend asks someone to support a cause you care about, you probably will.’

Most associate JustGiving with people running marathons or huge cycling events, but the same holds true whatever the nature of the ask, says Atkinson. So JustGiving began extending it service out to include a ‘care’ button, which functions in a similar way to the ‘like’ button on Facebook.

‘You don’t have to train all winter and run a marathon anymore just to support a cause,’ he says. ‘You can say ‘I like Greenpeace, or Oxfam, and click the ‘care’ button. We then created a social feed that shows you all the things we think you’ll be interested in across your social network that exist across the JustGiving ecosystem. And when people we think you know within JustGiving create a new fundraising page or says they care about something or adds their voice to a voice, we can share that with you.’

Atkinson’s hope is that instead of just landing on just the fundraising page they’re given, people will come to the JustGiving homepage to discover causes proactively, and act as charity ambassadors through social media. Launched in September last year, Atkinson has dubbed the new approach ‘social giving’- and early signs are positive. The company is in the midst of a growth spurt, with donations up 30% in 2015 so far compared to 2014.

Charity begins at home

Although JustGiving is the world’s largest fundraising platform, aiming for rapid global growth over the next few years, it relies on creating a ‘human scale’ experience for each individual user.

‘The overriding thing I’ve learnt from running a website of some size,’ says Atkinson, ‘is that no matter what the scale is, for each user that uses your service it needs to feel human from their perspective- it has to feel personal.’

‘We’ve worked very hard to achieve that at JustGiving. Using the Salesforce cloud, we can scale out processes in line with global growth plans without having to employ an army of people.’

Every day JustGiving gets a million ‘expressions of caring’ through someone clicking the ‘care’ button on the platform, each one of which is then shared with each user’s network.

‘We’ve put events into feeds 480 billion times, and at any one moment our servers are storing 22 million live feeds just ready for the user to call them up,’ says Atkinson, ‘but each feed is personal to an individual. So there’s a lot of work behind the scenes for it to appear like a personal interaction.’

Although JustGiving had been using Salesforce platforms for at least ten years, the team began looking into use of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud around a year ago in an attempt to push its strategy towards more targeted, personal communications.

‘Through the Marketing Cloud we found that we can provide very personalised and targeted communications towards donors or fundraisers. Click-through rate increased six times since moving to the platform, and unsubscribe rate has dropped ten times for campaigns we send out,’ says Atkinson. ‘All of this is a good sign what we’re sending out is being well received and relevant.’

Paying it forward

In 2011, JustGiving launched new global APIs allowing UK charities to develop their own mobile apps that connect to the platform, allowing an additional £76 million to be raised. Since then over 750,000 fundraising pages have been created via JustGiving APIs. Looking forward, Atkinson and his team have their sights set on more innovation around apps.

‘We have a lot of ideas around metadata,’ says Atkinson. ‘We’d like to be able to contextualise our service, so if a user is standing in a bird sanctuary they will receive notifications asking if they would like to make a donation to RSPB, for instance.’

> See also: The cashless payment revolution – what about the third sector?

As well as the consumer-facing aspect of JustGiving, at the heart of the platform’s new approach sits a dedicated community for its 13,000 charities, JustGiving for Causes, which went live in August last year. Underpinned by Salesforce1 Community Cloud, this has transformed relationship management for the company, allowing charities to sign up quickly and easily as well as providing analytics that help charities monitor their performance and see how they compare with similar organisations.

‘Historically we’ve seen the world as either charity side or consumer, but actually, most people who work in charities are fundraising too as consumers,’ says Atkinson. ‘So we’re looking at how we might plug in our Salesforce investment into the existing app ecosystem as an extra engagement channel for our charities.’

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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...