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Fundraising through iPads reaches new levels of sophistication

Raising funds for charity via iPads has hit the news pages again this summer as Fundraising Initiatives launched its new mobile-optimised, face-to-face fundraising solution to a packed audience of third sector professionals at the National Convention 2012. More than 2,000 delegates gathered to hear the latest in best practice techniques, with raising funds through iPads a hot topic of conversation.

Charities are progressively turning to electronic devices to capture potential donors’ imagination with visually-led content. Meanwhile, electronic methods of data capture are proving more efficient than traditional paper-based methods in terms of donor acquisition. Using the Fundraising Initiatives solution, for instance, it’s possible to quickly enter new donors’ details and run an instant check on their postcodes.

The new mobile-optimised solution launched at the National Convention uses a front-end iPad App together with mobile validation technology. Fundraising initiatives says that early pilots in the UK have outperformed traditional paper-based face-to-face methods, with average time between sign-up and first payment dropping by 29%, leading to a 33% increased return over the first four months.

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home was among the first charities to trial the new programme, running simultaneous ‘traditional’ campaigns to compare effectiveness. The charity has tripled its regular givers since 2010, and the new method already accounts for approximately 10% of Battersea’s new donors. It has also learnt some interesting lessons about video content, realising that in order to be effective, videos should be short, compelling and to the point, lasting no longer than a minute and a half.

“One of the benefits of fundraising with an iPad is the powerful engagement it offers, and the immediate connection with potential supporters,” explains Christine Joyce, Managing Director, CJAM. “Strong images, inspiring videos and educational animations can really help to motivate and enthuse potential donors, leading to a greater level of engagement. It’s also possible to update video content within seconds to take account of new developments. This allows charities far greater control over their public image.”

While it’s clear that the new system offers strong potential, with promising ROI credentials, enhanced visual ‘story-telling’ capabilities and sophisticated data capture, some charities are concerned by the cost implications of iPads, as they remain a highly expensive purchase. Fundraising Initiatives leases iPads to charities and in this case, the agency’s own employees represent the charity on the street. But what of the charities that would prefer to have their own employees speaking to the public? After all, the role of the ‘human’ fundraiser in all this is still very influential.

Greenpeace is using PDAs rather than iPads to keep costs down. The organisation’s face-to-face manager has enthused about electronic means of assisting the fundraising journey, explaining that previously, nearly 20% of sign-ups from the street would fail to process. Capturing data electronically also means that following up with donors post sign-up is far more rapid – ‘thank you’ text messages or emails can be sent immediately, while a phone call can easily be arranged within 48 hours.

Another consideration to bear in mind is public perception – charities will need to be cautious about potential donors getting the wrong impression and assuming that because they’re using expensive electronic devices, they are therefore not in need of funds. It’ll be important for any charities planning to adopt the electronic route to decide how to respond to such queries in advance – answers might include for instance the fact that using such devices proves highly cost-effective by cutting processing times and reducing data entry errors. Charities using the Fundraising Initiatives scheme could explain that they are leasing the devices and do not own them.

It will be interesting to see how the nation’s charities make use of electronic fundraising methods in the future. The options certainly seem to be opening up, offering a world of potential new donors and increasingly efficient methods of both data capture and staying in touch.

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