This JustGiving blog post includes five “trends” (it’s questionable whether these five things are actually trends; a trend is the direction a thing moves or changes not the thing itself, but moving on…) that charities should avoid in 2019. I’m not sure blanket statements about what charities should avoid is very helpful so I wanted to reconsider them.
I agree that charities probably do need more focus, but given that the charity industry is going through massive changes and challenges, not least of which is concerned with how to be more innovative, perhaps the ‘head in the sand’ approach of avoiding things just because they haven’t necessarily reached the plateau of productivity on the hype curve may be counterproductive. There are models for considering new things (such as McKinsey’s three horizons) that can foster discussion rather than shutting down the conversation and prepare charities with a healthy pipeline of innovative ways to achieve their objectives.
A bit like buying a lottery ticket instead of learning how to earn money from an actual job every day
That senior management in charities prioritise short term fundraising initiatives in the hope of making a quick buck suggests a misunderstanding either on the part of management or marketers, but I struggle to accept that all the very smart people that I know who run and market charities fall into such an obvious trap.
Virality has a scientific definition. It is an achievable thing with sufficient planning and resources. The ability to understand and utilise vitality in trends should be one of the tools in a fundraisers bag, not at the expense of longer term planning, but as a means of leveraging current events and temporary things that pop up in the consciousness of people.
#Firstfiver was a great example of a viral campaign that could of benefited far more charities than it did if more of them had already considered how to solve the logistical challenges of getting paper five pound notes in people’s pockets into a physical donation tins. A charity that has prepared ahead of time to respond to raising trends, not just by sending a few tweets with a hashtag, but by offering solutions for members of the public to support a charity they might not usually consider could leverage a trend into a significant financial contribution.
So if 99.99% of charities choose not to consider the potential for viral trends in their marketing and fundraising planning for 2019, then that leaves more space for the .01% who do decide to commit to building the capacity to responding quickly to events in a fast changing world in a way that amplifies the trend and achieves their objectives, be they awareness raising, income generation, or mass action.
Transformation’ implies magical, overnight change
If digital transformation is being communicated as an overnight solution to all a charity’s ills then it is the communication that is at fault, not digital transformation. Just as the industrial revolution took hundreds of years to play out, so will the digital transformation of our society. It already and will continue to touch every part of our lives, from our health care records to traffic management to paying for a coffee. Digital transformation involves transforming technologies, cultures, mindsets, behaviours and thinking. It cannot be thought of as a quick fix.
Charities that don’t adopt the mindset and adapt to this changing world will find themselves irrelevent in the eyes of their staff, volunteers and supporters. Can anyone imagine engaging with a charity only through face-to-face contact because they don’t have a website or use email? No, of course not, because every charity has a website and uses email, so their digital transformation has already begun. To ignore ongoing transformation in 2019 and not embed digital into their strategy, not improve the reach, efficiency, and cost-reduction benefits of online fundraising, not support their staff and volunteers to improve their digital skills, will leave a charity even further behind. Charities should be accelerating their digital transformation in 2019 and beyond.
There are just three problems with Bitcoin
There are just three solutions with Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies of which bitcoin is one of many).
Mining bitcoins does take a lot of energy. Generating renewable energy from wind power had the same inefficiency issue when it was introduced. It cost more to produce the power than it was worth, but pioneers and early adopters used and developed the technology into a viable alternative and soon it will be more cost-efficient to use renewable energy sources than mine for fossil fuels. The more organisations looking at opportunities to leverage the benefits of cryptocurrencies, the more funding will be driven into development, and the more efficient and viable they will become.
Bitcoins are a currency used on the dark web, but far more criminals use cash. Does this mean charities shouldn’t accept cash? Of course not. Criminals using something does not mean a charity shouldn’t use it. There is no logical argument here for charities to not spend time understanding how cryptocurrencies might affect them or be utilised by them.
Third – and this is a big one – people who donate to charities just don’t use it… yet. No one used contactless cards to donate to charities.. until they did. But charities exploring options around cryptocurrencies should involve more than just taking donations, they should be looking at how cryptocurrencies will change their investment portfolio, how it may change banking practice and consequently their finance governance.
Charities might not be committing significant resources to building the systems and skills to take bitcoin donations in 2019, but cryptocurrencies should definitely be in their horizon three initiatives with people in Digital, Technology and Finance thinking about how to handle bitcoin and cryptocurrency in the near future.
Treat blockchain like I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here! By all means, watch it and follow it, but don’t spend precious work time on it
In the early 70’s when the relational data model was invented lots of people thought it was useless. Why would you want to establish a relationship between two pieces of data? Nowadays relational databases power every charity’s CRM system.
Blockchains are decentralized, distributed, sometimes-public digital ledgers that are used to record transactions across many computers, which although not the answer to every data storage problem, do have some specific uses which can apply to and benefit charities. Where a charity is working with multiple organisations who all contribute data, and all parties want unshakeable assurance that the data is reliable, and those partnerships require that no single organisation is the owner and controller of the transactional record, then blockchain might be a solution.
Blockchain will increase in prevalence over the coming years and become the de facto solution where data needs to be decentralised and distributed across a network to ensure trust in the recorded transactions. So if charities aren’t giving serious thought to use cases for blockchain and would rather continue in the mindset of centralising data under their control and watch reality TV shows instead, then they will find themselves investing in the wrong solutions in the very near future.
But don’t spend precious time importing agile wholesale when it’s a square peg for a round hole.
Referring to the original manifesto for agile software development as the only source of thinking about Agile is very limited, as is only referring to Scrum when speaking about Agile. Being agile means (among other things depending on whose thinking you’re referencing) getting closer to customers, working in small batches, having short feedback loops, and responding to change. Navy SEAL teams use Scrum to improve ownership among team members. Marketers apply agile thinking when they involve customers by testing ideas ahead of launching a campaign. There are lots of examples of how Agile can be applied to more than just software development.
Charities should most definitely not be avoiding working towards achieving greater agility, “moving with quickness, ease and grace“, as Joshua Kerievsky puts it. Agility is a key competitive advantage that has been realised in almost every other industry. If charities don’t become far more agile than they currently are they run the very real risk of being left behind, not only as an organisation but as an industry. They will quickly be overtaken as more agile startups and businesses move into their markets. There is nothing that charities do that could not be usurped by a business, leaving the charity behind and irrelevant in the eyes of its supporters. Having agility is essential for charities to keep pace with the changing modern world and people’s changing expectations.
There are lots of other innovative developments in thinking and technology in addition to these five that I also think charities should also be considering in 2019, things like machine learning, 3D printing, co-creation, autonomous teams, digital twins, the quantified and augmented self, AR & VR, voice & virtual assistants., etc., etc. A charity that has all of its focus on the mainstream technologies and thinking of the past is being left further and further behind. Charities need to be exploring all the new ideas they can using a robust innovation model that allows them to extract value at the right point in time.
Why should charities care about Blockchain?
Charities don’t have the luxury of thinking they can get away without thinking about disruptive technology.
Charities need to understand the nature of the changes Blockchain will cause or become irrelevant.
Disruptive = doing stuff in a way that makes the old way obsolete.
When a person suffers a sudden cardiac arrest every second until they receive a shock from a defibrillator drastically decreases the chances of them making a recovery. Getting a defibrillator to the patient quickly is literally a matter of life and death.
There are lots of defibrillators out there (although no where near enough to really be effective in a sudden cardiac arrest that could happen to anyone anywhere at any time) but no one knows where. The retailers who sold defibrillators know where some are, the fourteen different ambulance services know where some are, and a few other organisations such as charities know where some are. But just knowing where the defibrillators are isn’t enough. To be useful you also need to know if the defibrillator is available at any given time and whether it has been maintained.
And no one knows all of this, so no one is able to provide full and up to date information about all of the defibrillators across the UK for use by Ambulance Services and the general public when responding to a sudden cardiac arrest.
That’s the problem, what gets in the way of a solution?
The barriers to achieving this aim come down to two main factors; it’s a disparate space with lots of organisations doing different things, and many of those organisations rely on individuals who have lots of other work to before they get around to entering details about a new defibrillator in a place they’ve never even heard of.
There are fourteen Ambulance Services across the UK, retailers and suppliers, charities, and thousands of parish councils, sports centres, shops and offices that all have a piece of the picture about defibrillator availability and no way of sharing their information.
The second major barrier is that currently creating even the smallest piece of the picture is almost entirely manual. It requires individuals who are already busy with their day job at the parish council, sports centre, shop or office to check the defibrillator, record the information, and send it somewhere. And then it requires other individuals to receive that data and manually enter it into a database.
If we were trying to solve this problem in the 1980’s we’d definitely build a centralised database, controlled by a single organisation, that requires other parties to send their data to be added to this central system. We’d try to get all those parties to ‘collaborate’ with the central authority (which of course many of them wouldn’t want to do as they have a vested interest in not sharing data to make their solution the one that succeeds), and we’d spend lots of time and money building something that is out of date before it even launches.
If everyone who has tried to solve this problem in the same way, and no one has managed a solution yet, maybe they’re trying to solve the wrong problem. Maybe the problem isn’t about trying to get people to cooperate to get all the data in one place, maybe the problem is about getting all the data to all the people so they can do what they want with it.
Decentralise, distribute, and digitise is the future thinking approach. Use Blockchain technology to identify each unique defibrillator device at manufacturing source, record the logistics steps in the blockchain, record the location of where the defibrillator and it’s availability, record regular system checks (without the need for manual inspection), record the usage of the device in emergency situations.
Recording all this data about defibrillators in this way meets the Multichain criteria for choosing blockchain over a relational database: ‘Blockchain works for databases that are shared by multiple writers, who don’t entirely trust each other, and who modify that database directly, and there is some interaction between the transactions created by these writers, and an authoritative final transaction log on whose contents all nodes provably agree is required’.
Blockchain technology has proven use in the fashion industry for ensuring the authenticity of garments. If it works for a shirt it’ll work even better for a defibrillator that has a unique identifier and a proven and vital need to make location and usage data available to other organisations.
So, rather than trying to get fourteen ambulance services, numerous suppliers and retailers, and thousands of defibrillator owners to all share their data on a regular basis to update a single central system that none of them have any stake in, the blockchain approach allows for device to share it’s data to a decentralised ledger and make that data available to all the contributors, so if any of them choose to maintain their own centralised database of defibrillator locations they can pull that data and more from the blockchain, ensuring that all lists are always as up to date as possible.
If the aim is to make more available more data about defibrillators, then this approach achieves that in a way that the old approach could never do.