Why online and offline is the new community fundraising blend…..

Once upon a time, several hundred years ago, I had forgotten the second spool for the film I was to show at the Luton Ladies Circle. Disaster.

In those days, we used film projectors which used 2 spools – one for the film, the second to collect the film. So, in the best traditions of community fundraising I had to improvise. In the kitchen at the church hall where I was presenting, I found a corn flake packet and emptied the contents and as the film was showing, caught it in the box. Genius if I say so myself.

The low tech world we have left behind was in reality not that long ago. In those days Community Fundraising relied on the tried and tested tools available – face to face, community leadership, committees, organisers, personal recommendations, asking, the mail, phones, events and talks with old projectors in church halls. Staff, if there were any, supported volunteers to make it happen – that was the deal. Then the edges got blurred. The need to raise more and the slow decline in traditional committee based fundraising meant new staff started to try to do it themselves. This was always a hiding to nothing as cost and scale never added up. Even today many still don’t get this simple equation. Cost and scale need to drive others through engagement and empowerment. Maybe its this realisation that has driven a recent and new renaissance in community fundraising in the last 2 or 3 years or maybe its simply the continuing and powerful search for belonging, for community, for local and tangible satisfaction of doing good where you can see it. Maybe its old meets new and it never really went away. Either way, there is an emerging opportunity for those able to take it.

However late many of us may be to the use of new technology and social media, there is no denying the scale and scope of this new world across the generations. Whilst the use of Facebook and Twitter and Just Giving sites have fuelled fundraising, the challenge is to find a way to take the low tech volunteer led tradition that still generates millions and blend it with the energy and immediacy of online fundraising and social media to fire up a new community fundraising revolution. And its not all about products, though they are important. It will be about thinking how to empower what’s already there – the secret will be in the ability to make the blend …

There are some good examples of this mix emerging already. Philip King from Artez Interactive has written in Fundraising Success about the Australian Cancer Council New South Wales new Do your Thing site. Its taken the traditional local based and community organised activity and created a site where you can establish your own pages. In the UK Cancer Research UK has taken the online page concept as well and created their own Give in celebration and Donate in memory pages. In legacy fundraising the NSPCC has created the whatwillyouleave site linked to a TV campaign and supporting community fundraisers to talk about legacies and on the back of their tribute funds site.  Soon mobile phone technology will mature to mean that the majority of web activity will be mobile and emerging location tools will give a new energy to the term local. Some charities make this work when they bring global to a local audience – how about local to local?

The smart blend of offline and online works if you get both. It’s no good living in a digital bubble if you don’t get what its like to boil a kettle and make tea in a church hall with real people in a real community. But work out how to mix the two and we could be in for something special.

Posted in Charity, Community, Digital, Fundraising, Giving, Innovation, Insight, Legacies, Strategy, Technology, TV, Uncategorized, Volunteers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Great post Stephen, I definitely agree that getting a mix of offline and online is the most effective way to approach community fundraising – as for many people, the online network is just an extension of a pre-existing offline network, it’s just connecting the dots virtually and removing the geographical element of having to be physically near someone to be connected to them.

    The trend you mention of people “doing their own thing” is something we’ve seen on JustGiving too – we’re calling it the rise of “lifestyle fundraising” which involves those traditional things like sitting in a bath of baked beans, through in memory and in celebration fundraising.

    These lifestyle pages now account for 10% of the fundraising on JustGiving and it was something I talked about a lot at the IoF Convention this year (see slide 10 of http://www.slideshare.net/jwaddingham/discover-the-secrets-of-online-fundraisers-iof-national-convention-2010).

    The do your own thing site in Australia is a great example of *enabling* that sort of fundraising – but the tools for donors/supporters to do this already exist, and the comms channels of Facebook, Twitter and email already make it easy to share these activities, so all a charity needs to do is persuade people to do something for them.

    But then, I say that like it’s easy – when persuading people to fundraise, not only give, is not the easiest thing to do. Still, whoever cracks that nut is going to be *very* successful.

    • Couldn’t agree more!! Many thanks for your comment. But i think there is an added dimension of finding a way to all you have said AND link them locally or geographically. This lifestyle fundraising is a dot joining up exercise for sure …but its the quantity and quality of the dots that will make all the difference!

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