Joining the dots

I missed the first Institute of Fundraising convention as I was
rather preoccupied in a Guildford maternity ward, but have been lucky to attend
many others since then. Each year the institute aims to provide a fantastic
reminder to fundraisers of why we do our job and how we can do it better. This
year was no exception, and now the dust has settled a tad, it’s as good a time
as any to take stock.

Each year inspiration comes from unexpected
places: there are great sessions packed full of useful tips, and other sessions
which are perhaps a bit thin on content. I call these my join the dots
sessions. We don’t have that much time to sit and stare (to misquote William
Henry Davies), so these sessions provide the time to think about a subject and
let your mind take a wander. All sorts of ideas bubble to the surface.

So what did I get from this year’s event?
For me, the main topic of interest was surely that new best friend for
fundraisers: the mobile phone.

Vodafone chief executive Guy Lawrence told
the convention that its SMS donation service JustTextGiving has signed up more
than 9,000 charities in less than two months. This is astonishing considering
it took the JustGiving website over a decade to get 8,000 charities to sign up
to its online sponsorship service.

The popularity of JustTextGiving is
apparent: SMS donation removes many of the barriers to giving. Donating via a
website requires a potential donor to find their wallet, fill in a long form
and confirm their details. With SMS donations, potential donors can now give a
small amount to a cause they feel strongly about both quickly and easily.

For campaigns such as the East Africa
Appeal, text giving is unquestionably a useful way to collect money quickly and
with the minimum of fuss. 

Of course, the downside to this speedy and
easy solution is that it doesn’t allow charities to build on one of their key
assets: data. JustTextGiving does not allow charities to collect the details of
those who donate. This means that while SMS giving is useful to collect money
quickly, it won’t help you build up a database of supporters in the long term.

Perhaps this could be a point of discussion
at next year’s IoF Convention.

Gail Cookson is strategy partner at Watson Phillips Norman