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.
Our events team wanted to build a Chatbot as part of the fundraising raising events acquisition journey.
They used the bot society simulator to design the flows and had intended to pay an agency to build the bot. Instead, I spent a couple of hours with one of the team to teach her the basics of building a Chatbot. She picked it up really quickly and built most of the bot in the first day.
Things I learned:
Digital transformation requires giving people the opportunities and space to develop new digital skills. This is more productive and efficient in the long run as it reduces reliance on external (and often costly) resources.
About using bot simulators specifically, beware of falling into the trap of thinking of the Chatbot as a visual interface like a webpage. Chatbots are conversational interfaces and need to be designed more as a two-way interaction then the kind of one-way passive interactions we usually have with screens.
Building something like a Chatbot yourself means you have a greater understanding of how it works, which will be a big help in iterating and improving the bot, puts the organisation in greater control of this and future Chatbots, and gives the team member another skill to go on their CV.