How do you give to charity?

It may seem like a rather mundane question, but donation mechanisms have been getting a lot of press recently. Lots of people are thinking about new giving channels which help donation fit seamlessly into peoples’ everyday lives.

Banks are beginning to offer donation at cash machines, as promised by the giving white paper. The Royal Bank of Scotland recently launching its ATM giving for anyone using a debit card at its cashpoints in Guernsey and independent operator Bank Machine recently announced that it had assembled an expert panel to decide which charities its users could support. As ATM giving becomes more widespread, it will be interesting to see which charities benefit; so far the RBS terminals offer a choice of eight charities including some which operate nationally and some which are local to Guernsey. The Bank Machine panel will select six charities per geographical region, again allowing for a mix of local and national charities to be supported.

Mobile and internet technology is also becoming increasingly important to donation, and we’ve recently heard that one third of visits to the donation website JustGiving come from mobile phones. Aiming to capitalise on the enthusiasm of these tech-savvy givers, a new donation platform for arts organisations has just been announced. The National Funding Scheme is due to launch in 2013, and allow donors to give direct to any participating arts or cultural organisation through digital channels, primarily mobile giving.

Yet despite these developments in giving channels there is still some way to go before online fundraising reaches its full potential. Recent findings from Give as you Live demonstrate that while online and offline donor audiences are almost equal, 70% of the total amount donated was offline. Of the 30% donated online only 3% was given via social media, even though almost 50% of charities used Facebook and Twitter to communicate with their supporters on a daily basis. Separate research by Halifax also demonstrates the continued importance of offline fundraising, finding that the most popular way of giving to charity was by giving cash to official collectors.

So if we’re interested in how to increase donations, perhaps it’s not just a case of making it easier to donate—we need to think about other things which might encourage people to give. In May, Michael Green wrote a piece for the Guardian discussing why charities need to make giving fun, claiming that donor experience is more important than the ease of giving.

Fortunately we’re also seeing new initiatives which do focus on the donor experience. We recently heard news of a new Young Philanthropy syndicate established at the Cabinet Office. The organisation matches young professionals with established philanthropists, who then jointly invest money, time and expertise in a charitable project. In addition, July saw the launch of City Philanthropy, an initiative which highlights how giving can be beneficial to individuals, to businesses, and to the city as a whole. Both these initiatives make philanthropy accessible and rewarding for those who may not have prior experience in the area, and they encourage giving which is closely linked to an individual’s interests and experiences.

At NPC we’re finding all these developments really interesting for our Money for Good research into donor motivations and behaviour. The research will give us fascinating insights into how and why donors give, and what charities can do to maximise their fundraising opportunities. We recently held initial focus groups, where participants echoed lots of these themes; they enjoyed the convenience of online donation but felt it was important to have a personal connection with the cause. We’re excited to see what comes out of the survey, and look forward to sharing the findings with you later in the year.