Donating By Text: How Charities Raise Money in 2020:

There’s a donkey advertisement which appears occasionally on Sky News TV. It begins by showing a skinny, bedraggled animal named Indar who is clearly finding it painful to stand on his overgrown hooves. A voice in the background then tells the viewers that Indar is just waiting for someone to rescue him and asks why so many other donkeys like him are being neglected and abandoned. A request for a donation then follows, with the assurance that texting only £2 per month will enable Indar and his fellow-donkeys to be safe and happy for the rest of their lives.

Many people watching all of this will have been understandably so moved by it that they will have reached immediately for their mobile, tapped out the phone number given on the screen and sent the money. What did they do, however, if it was followed a few minutes later by a similar advertisement, for example from the Guide Dogs Association, this time asking for £5 to be texted to them?

As Donr.com, an organization which provides guidance on text-giving, has observed, 34% of the respondents to a survey it conducted find it difficult to choose from among the abundance of charities competing for funds or to distinguish which ones represent the most deserving causes. UNICEF (the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund: £5 per month), WaterAid (which aims to help poor communities around the world to establish sustainable water supplies: £3 pm), the British Red Cross (£10) and the British Heart Foundation (£3 pm), among a plethora of others, all campaign fiercely for donations.

Indeed, data provided by the market research company Nielsen and quoted by Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent for The Times, has revealed that charities now spend a combined total of well over £476 million per annum getting their message across not just on TV, but in cinemas, by direct mail, door drops, in the street, in the media and on the radio.

A recent Barclays Bank analysis on “The Future Of Giving” notes that 73% of charities have been experiencing a decline in street donations, hence are “exploring new and creative ways of connecting with donors”. The rise of donating by text has thus provided them with a welcome alternative source of income.

According to Donr.com and “Mobile Squared”, £37.5 million was donated to charities via text in 2017 /18, increasing to £49.6 million in 2019. The Charity Aid Foundation’s (CAF) “UK Giving 2019” Report lists Animal Welfare (26%),  Support for Children / Young people (26%), Medical Research (25%) and Hospitals / Hospices as the current most popular causes.

Hugh Radojev, a correspondent for Civil Society News, has pointed out that charity TV campaigns are not always successful. On the contrary – so he was told by Will Goodhand, commercial director of the market research company System 1 – over 80% of their advertisements get a “one star rating” from the public, compared to 53% for advertisements from other sectors. That’s because they elicit a negative reaction from the viewers, who often feel sad or even fearful about what they’ve just seen. Although humanitarian and natural disasters are likely to provoke an immediate and generous response, in the long-term “ a happy charity ad builds a helpful and positive association for the brand”.

Donr.com highlights several “barriers” which inhibit support for charities: 53% of those questioned said they couldn’t afford the contributions, 37% don’t give because they don’t know enough about how their donations will be used and 32% simply don’t trust them. Likewise, research by UK Fundraising.co.uk has indicated that 71% of donors want their money to be deployed wisely, 69% attach great importance to the charity’s reputation and 68% contribute because they have a strong belief in its mission and cause.

The “Better Business” organisation advises potential donors to check what will happen to the amount they’ve agreed to pay before allowing it to be automatically added to their mobile phone bill. For instance, how much of it will be spent on administrative costs and executive salaries.

Meanwhile, several contributors to the Mumsnet website have expressed annoyance at the aggressive tactics adopted by some charities. One of them had donated £5 after watching a UNICEF appeal for people suffering in South Sudan. She subsequently received several phone calls asking her to donate more: “It was pretty relentless and I felt very uncomfortable having to constantly defend myself by telling him that I’m on a low income and can’t give any more money”.

Another had “foolishly” given his postal address, so now constantly gets charity junk mail. A third had offered a £3 donation the previous day and was now being rung up and asked for £8 a month: “The gist of most people’s complaints is that this behaviour is very ungrateful and greedy”.

Donr.com acknowledges that there is a “considerable degree of cynicism” regarding how donations are used. The charities, it concludes “ need to find more compelling ways to explain their missions and distinguish themselves from the competition, if they are to achieve their growth ambitions”.

Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on February 10th, 2020 by Colin D Gordon

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