Marketers and fund raisers in the Not-for-Profit world know every dollar on a first-name basis. That’s even more so after the last year as the sector was one of the hardest hit by COVID.

Charities that have traditionally relied on gala dinners and physical events for fundraising have had to pivot to accommodate a world of social distancing. In such circumstances, generating a return on marketing investment was never more important.

COVID doesn’t care.  Children still get cancer, women are still assaulted by their partners, and the homeless still go hungry.

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In a world where, as St Matthew famously observed, the poor will always be with us, Australia’s huge $150B charity sector has turned to online platforms to reimagine their business models, bringing the sector into the 21st century and enforcing a digital transformation that is long overdue.

According to Katherine Raskob, the CEO of Fundraising Institute Australia, the peak body for fundraising in the nation, charities have for many years fallen behind in the uptake of new tech, but they are quickly catching up to improve methods for both the raising of funds and service delivery. 

She says, “In the past 10 years, maybe even a bit longer, there has been a lack of investment in technology in Not-for-Profits. And the reason that happens is because there’s so much pressure on fundraising organisations to put every bit of their fundraising dollar into the delivery of services. And they also have a sort of an ethos of operating in a very lean and as efficient way as possible. But sometimes that means that they don’t make the investments that are required.

To better understand the relationship between the fundraiser, the charity, and the tech platform we hosted a panel with Pieter Lindhout, the former CEO of Suncorp Life Insurance and fundraiser for the charity Batyr, Amelia Hart, the Head of Partnerships Fundraising of Batyr, and Martyn Ryan, the CEO of the tech platform Benojo

Batyr works with schools and universities delivering programs to address youth mental illness in Australia. More than 350 Australians aged 15-24 die by suicide every year in Australia and for every youth suicide there are 100-200 more attempts. 

Lindhout will be fundraising for Batyr by embarking on the physical challenge of walking for 520km, over 33 days*, reminiscent of the Coo-ee March that Australian volunteers walked in 1915, when they enlisted recruits to join the armed forces and fight in WW1. As many of these soldiers returned to Australia with debilitating PTSD, Lindhout has chosen to fundraise for Batyr to help smash the stigma around mental health and reduce youth suicide, the leading cause of death for young Australians. 

Describing the link between youth mental health today and the mental health afflictions of WW1 Australian war heroes, Lindhout says, “For not just soldiers, but for nurses, anyone involved in those conflicts is deeply affected for their life. Anything we can do to help understand that and to onboard them back into civilian life, whatever that looks like, is really valuable, because I think the fallout from those brutal campaigns is terrible. And I think our youth today, there’s a real cry for help there and providing the resource and the support is critical as well.”

In order to raise money for Batyr, Lindhout is using the tech platform Benojo to engage donors and meet his fundraising target. Benojo is a “purpose-driven” tech platform that assists the Not-for-Profit sector in cost-effective and efficient fundraising.

Ryan says, With partnerships with organisations like Batyr, we’ve now got a functional suite that allows those charities and businesses and the public to actually have robust technology that says, look, I’ve got something I want to achieve, I want to reach a broad audience to do it, and I want it to be easy for people who want to support me.”

Amelia Hart, the Head of Partnerships Fundraising of Batyr

Batyr’s Hart says, “What we also love is platforms like the Benojo who offer a really great donor experience for the people that Piet is actually broadcasting, bringing into Benojo and saying “donate to me”. They’re having an amazing experience through the platform, but they’re also allowing Batyr to ensure that the messaging is being received is true to our brand as well and that is really powerful for us as a charity.

We spoke to Michael Turnley, Head of Digital, Data and Business Intelligence at the World Wildlife Fund about how WWF uses data to better understand their audience, in order to correctly target donors.

He says, “We have followed a data-led approach for quite some while and we focussed on integrating data into our digital strategy some time ago. And that’s what I’ve been working on and leading,” he said

Michael Turnley, Head of Digital, Data and Business Intelligence at the World Wildlife Fund

“It’s certainly enabled us to use improved targeting and audience segmentation to identify the individuals within the public that would support our mission and to broaden, in fact, our supporter base by starting to build relationships with people where we have around about six priorities, which we focus on across the board, from species protection to habitat restoration to protection of oceans etcetera.”

While the pandemic has forced the charitable sector to adapt their fundraising methods, using tech to do so, Not-for-Profits are also making strides in using tech for service delivery.

Katherine Raskob, the CEO of Fundraising Institute Australia

According to Raskob, Increasingly we’re seeing that fundraising organisations, the larger charities especially, are making investments in technology which will allow them to get better ROI, not just on their marketing spend, but also on their service delivery spend.

Raskob highlights the use of data integration, AI, and wearable technology as some of the ways that Not-for-Profit organisations are using tech to their advantage.

She highlights The Shepherd Centre, a charity providing services to the deaf and hearing impaired, which uses AI to show people who are not deaf, what it is like to experience hearing loss, helping them to walk in the shoes of the deaf community, generating empathy and therefore, action.  

Turnley meanwhile describes the ways WWF uses tech to innovate. He says, We’ve invested quite a significant amount of money in order to, sort of, get the most out of our supporters’ funding and make sure that we are actually delivering results in the field … We have an innovation centre and that centre has implemented a strategy which is data and digital lead and it certainly has been delivering results in terms of targeting, improved results in our fundraising campaigns and in our supporter engagement and brand awareness.”

Charities are being brought up to speed with the ways that technology can assist the donor experience. Ryan describes the general public’s short attention span, where technology is critical in keeping audiences, and in this case donors, engaged.

He says,The technology is all about being relevant. It’s about actually using the most modern and up-to-date technologies through multiple devices so that when we do want to distribute information in a relevant fashion, I can do it, because often if that isn’t there as an enablement, the opportunity potentially is gone.

Martyn Ryan, CEO Benojo

While digital platforms and tech innovations are allowing Not-for-Profits to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and deliver high-quality outputs, perhaps more importantly tech is impacting the relationships built between the charities, recipients, donors, and volunteers. 

Ryan says, “It’s all about helping understand how to use technology, how to develop a strategy around it and make sure that when you do go out and you do address the market, that you’re having the right conversations and you are really sort of putting people in the position where they can create the most impact.”

Speaking as a fundraiser and long-term volunteer, Lindhout describes the role that Benojo has played in streamlining his experience.

He says, “I think if you look at it from a user or a supporters perspective as well or a volunteer’s perspective, you’re making it easy for me to connect with Not-for-Profits that I have an interest in, because I might know Batyr, but I might not know of the other two or three that are also doing great work. And for you to give me access to them or visibility of them could be really powerful.” 

Pieter Lindhout, the former CEO of Suncorp Life Insurance

However, when it comes to the broader charitable sector, Lindhout suggests that there is a lack of tech enablement of volunteers, particularly with reference to matching skilled volunteers and micro volunteers with opportunities relevant to their skills and availability. 

Lindhout says, “If I scan the tools and the companies out there that facilitate, say, volunteering, it’s not a great experience for people. And I think that’s a gap in the market. And I know that’s something that Benojo are working on as well. And also the whole skilled volunteering piece. So many willing and abled skilled are volunteering, but it’s not a simple process for the skilled volunteers to use their skills in a Not-for-Profit. So they end up doing gardening or painting a house.

“I don’t think we’ve got the marketplace that identifies the people that have capacity now. So think of micro-volunteering, I might have an hour a week. It’s very difficult to identify a cause that I’m interested in that needs my skills for an hour a week or for two hours a week. Often if you look at volunteer roles, they’re permanent part-time or full-time volunteering. Doesn’t cater to the whole range of capacities that people have.”

Ryan suggests the need for a platform or marketplace with the purpose of connecting philanthropists with the causes that are of interest to them.

He says, “If we can bridge that gap between “I’ve got a huge desire to do something meaningful” and being able to find the organisation that can actually use it in the most impactful way, I think we’re well on the way to technology making the difference that I think it needs to.” 

I think the quicker we can all work towards an environment that does that in an online perspective, I think the much better we’ll be around developing a thriving philanthropic economy.”

While the COVID pandemic accelerated digitisation and innovation by 7 years in a matter of months, according to McKinsey and Company there is no room for complacency. The Not-for-Profit sector is incentivised to invest in tech, as key to fulfilling organisational goals, maximising the return of their investment in marketing, and generating significant societal impact. 

*The production team for the video series included Blake McIntyre, Lloyd Ashton, and Sharon Mani.

*To support Batyr in preventing youth suicide, donate to Pieter Lindhout’s fundraising event, Coo-ee Walking For Youth Mental Health.

If you or anyone you know needs help or support, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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