Jan @ the Sangonet “Fundraising in the Digital World” Conference. 1-2 September 2010

Jan attended the Sangonet “Fundraising in the Digital World” http://www.ngopulse.org/conf2010/ conference held in Johannesburg on 1 and 2 September 2010. Here are a few of the things he heard.

It is not difficult to feel that the internet has always been there and have a perception that everyone has access. Unfortunately this is not so, but access to it is growing fast. The growth in internet access can be seen when considering that in 2005 there were an estimated 3.4 million internet users in South Africa (population 49 million). This number has grown to approximately 5.3 million in 2009 and is projected to further increase to around 11 million by 2015. 

The biggest factor affecting the future growth of internet usage in South Africa will not be capacity of infrastructure but the cost of access to and use of the network. South Africa and Africa can, as result of 3 new under-sea fibre optic cables, only now really start joining the internet world. The 3 new cables will mean that by 2012 Africa will have approximately 220 times the capacity for data transfer that it had in 2008. The effect is already becoming visible in changes taking place in countries throughout Africa as they receive real, and more affordable, broadband connectivity.

Although 15% of businesses in South Africa with access to internet connectivity still used dialup, 46% utilised broadband (ADSL). The number using ADSL is however projected to grow to 86% in the near future, strongly followed by satellite. 

This growth in connectivity has a direct impact on the need for businesses to have some form of web presence and technological footprint. The use of the internet should however not be considered from a limited perspective of providing or accessing websites. The internet should be seen as part of a total revolution that includes electronic banking, social media and even related technologies such as cellular phones.

Despite the internet growth in South Africa, a few practical aspects should be kept in mind. It was indicated that whilst 12% have e-mail addresses but only around 9% of the South African populations have credit cards. This means that the utilisation of e-commerce based businesses – which, other than EFT’s, require credit cards - limits the South African market to a maximum of 9% of the South African population. The banking services available to people still has a limiting influence on web based fundraising.

Regarding other electronic management of money two systems, available in South Africa, introduced at the conference were a cellular phone based system “Mpesa” managed by Vodacom. This system is working well in Kenya where it was developed. The internet linked payment system “Paypal” was also presented but it requires people having an FNB bank account. Pay Pal is also not yet set up to do transactions in South African Rand.

A factor that must be considered with electronic fundraising, is what is called the Digital Participation Curve.  This curve indicates that it takes approximately 5 years of experience with the internet before people start becoming comfortable in utilising e-commerce and making electronic donations. This is also true regarding EFT’s (electronic fund transfers) and online banking.

In contrast to the number of people with internet connectivity, approximately 62% of people in South Africa have cellular phones and thus become potential participants in short code / premium code donation systems and  the new Mpesa programme. There are also numerous international examples of successful cellular phone based fundraising activities.

It must be emphasised that the use of cellular phones for fundraising has many risks attached. Phones are a technology that was designed for conversation and people see unsolicited cell phone contact as a more personal invasion of privacy than they do emails. The indiscriminate use of cellular phone contact could thus result in the creation of resistance against an organisation and cause.

Should a cellular fundraising activity be considered, a few aspects to consider when planning include:
How does the cause/organisation being marketed make a difference?
  • What is the target market of the fundraising?
  • How can mobile numbers be obtained voluntary – with permission for usage?
  • What communication strategy will be followed?
  • How will the money be collected?

In South Africa it should be kept in mind when considering a cellular phone based process that service providers take a very high percentages of all donations made via the phones. Based on the percentages taken by service providers, Sangonet launched a petition entitled the “Mobile Giving Initiative” where service providers are petitioned to waive their percentages for NGO’s. The petition is available for signing and supporting at http://www.ngopulse.org/conf2010/

On a more practical level, the effect of digital age has a number of key aspects that directly influences its use in fundraising. As result of the internet and increased connectivity around the world, the sense of community has changed and is busy changing further. People have a desire to connect and develop “digital friends”. There is however no magic solution, fixed recipe or specific software package that will build a network of friends. The process is slow and requires methods similar to those utilised when cultivating face to face relationships and friendships. The difference is that it is now done electronically.

Organisations must stop thinking in terms of fundraising and start thinking about building digital relationships. The essence of digital fundraising is not asking for funds but cultivating and developing relationships (on or off line) by addressing people’s expectations of transparency and getting to know the real organisation.

People want to share a dream and be part of a story. They want to invest in success and become part of something whilst being kept busy with other aspects of living. To raise money on-line organisations must stop fundraising and start inspiring action. This means the focus should not be on the needs of the organisation but on getting people to become part of, and buy into, the organisational dream by supplying visitors with information. The increased availability of information however means that people have stopped being inspired by the same story presented in the same way on hundreds of websites.

Organisations must ask themselves, and communicate, what the organisation’s big story is and what it is that they are selling. People want to know;
  • Why the organisation really exist and who they really are.
  • That the organisation is vibrant with many facets.
  • The highlights the organisation are most proud of but also that the organisation realises, and can face, their own shortcomings.
  • Answers to the hard questions such as if the organisation is making a substantial difference and ultimately if, and by who, their function be missed if they close their doors.

People that support an organisation must be able to tell “the company story” to their friends. People want to be given a sense of belonging to a cause. When they belong, they will – in the offline - world put things in their own words and start marketing on the company’s behalf. This is the basis of what is called viral marketing.

Contrary to popular belief, people do not donate because of a Facebook page or e-mails.  They are donating because they are hearing a dream and by belonging to this dream they feel that they too are making a difference.

To start building relationships organisations must start by understanding where they are. The process of utilising social networking technologies should be implemented slowly and in a sustainable manner. The key is to listen more than to talk as social networks are not public broadcast channels.

Organisations and CEO’s should join sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn in ways that are related to the organisational cause. They must then respond to every post on their wall, update their status as often as possible, post recommendations on LinkedIn request from others and post pictures and videos. It is important to increase the network by “liking” pages and accepting friend requests but this should be done with thought as it would be done when accepting friend requests in real life.

Where applicable and to keep up to date with what is going on, key members in the organisation must join twitter and follow related twitter hash tags (#). To build authenticity, cover special events before the event to build interest and then reported on and pictures included afterwards.

Organisations should however, be careful as too much technology could frustrate donors. Lastly also remember that an e-mail is not an invitation to solicit funds but merely an invitation to start building a relationship.

Share this