Why Bitcoin probably shouldn’t be top of your 2015 digital fundraising To Do list

Bitcoin Fundraising

There has been a whole lot of discussion and a fair amount of hype over the last couple of years about the growing use of the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin as it evolves from a secretive online currency used on the Darknet to something you can use to buy pizzas with.

Understandably, this has led to quite a bit of talk in the fundraising world regarding the importance, or otherwise, of adding bitcoin donation functionality to charity websites – and a number of organisations have already started to test this, including the RNLI in the UK and United Way in the US.

With Boxing Day 2014 seeing the inaugural Bitcoin Bowl college football game, promoted through the antics of its mascot Mr. Bitcoin, the Bitcoin hype looks set to continue apace this year. So, while not wanting to quash any Bitcoin-fuelled new year spirit of fundraising innovation, I thought it might be a good time to suggest four things to think about before you spend too much of your time on Bitcoin fundraising in 2015.

1. Bitcoin users currently represent a small, specialised market
While it certainly is growing, Bitcoin is still a very long way off being a mainstream payment option and there is no real evidence as yet that it is approaching the point where adoption goes beyond a relatively small number of tech-savvy innovators and early adopters. Estimates of the size of the active Bitcoin userbase vary widely, but most put the number at somewhere between 500k and 5 million world-wide (and I suspect the active base is closer to the lower than the higher estimates).

Added to this, Bitcoin users don’t currently look like your usual online donors. A typical Bitcoiner is apparently a 33 year old male, with above average household income, living in the US or Northern Europe. Some fundraisers believe that this very disparity is the key opportunity offered by Bitcoin – highlighting it as a way to attract younger donors. However, the truth is that attracting sufficient young Bitcoin donors to represent a viable income stream is unlikely to happen simply because you announce that you can take their cryptocurrency gifts.

Any non-profits whose brands are already relevant to this audience may not find this a problem – but I imagine they’ll be few and far between. The majority of organisations are likely to need to invest some serious effort in defining and supporting a fundraising proposition attractive to the tech-savvy, youth consumer demographic to generate sustainable income. Interestingly, in line with this, United Way has focused its Bitcoin initiative on funding for their Innovation Fund.

Combine the current market size with the challenging profile of the typical Bitcoin user and I fear that most Bitcoin fundraisers may be fishing in a rather small pool for a few years yet.

2. Bitcoin value is highly volatile
With its exchange rate to the US$ fluctuating from over $1,100 to under $320, during 2014 Bitcoin was the most volatile ‘currency’ in the world (although for a while the Ruble gave it a run for the title) and there is no certainty that this will not be repeated in 2015. As such, to make the most of Bitcoin fundraising your finance team will need to keep a very keen eye on exchange rate trends.

3. The smell of the Darknet remains
While several well known consumer brands, from Dell to Expedia, now accept Bitcoin, it retains its historic (and ongoing) association with dubious and downright criminal transactions on the DarkWeb, which for some years yet may lead to non-Bitcoiners questioning whether you’re asking for ‘dirty money’.

4. No fundraising team has unlimited time and resources – so you must focus where the largest fundraising opportunities lie
I have written before about the danger of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) leading to fundraisers trying to test every new digital opportunity that comes along and as a result not being able to focus sufficient time and effort on those tests most likely to deliver the best income returns. Many of these may involve far less trendy things than Bitcoin, such as properly addressing Conversion Rate Optimisation on fundraising pages, but are more likely to lead to increased online income.

I remain very interested in the long-term potential of ‘independent’ digital currencies like Bitcoin (and even more interested in potential applications of the block chain platform beyond Bitcoin). However, I believe there are so many other opportunities to deliver digital fundraising growth in 2015 with more potential than Bitcoin fundraising that if you’re serious about prioritising your time based on income potential (and not just PR potential) then Bitcoin will not come even close to the top of the list.

“But if we shouldn’t spend our time on Bitcoins, where should we spend it?”

Well, I’m very pleased you asked that. Because there are an exciting range of other digital fundraising opportunities that I would say should certainly be on your list for consideration this year – and over my next few posts here on Giving In A Digital World, I’ll be sharing some specific ideas about these.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss any suggestions for your 2015 Digital Fundraising To Do list, you can subscribe to blog updates by email here or simply follow me on Twitter @millbry.

Meantime, if anyone has any insights to share from their 2014 Bitcoin fundraising experiences – then please do share them in the comments section below.


What’s not to Like about Facebook Likes?

Rather a lot, according to this video by the smart folks over at the YouTube educational science channel Veritasium.

If you’ve got ‘Volume of Likes’ as a KPI for your digital activity but don’t know about the murky world of click farms and the impact they’re having on engagement and organic reach on Facebook, then sit back and invest a few minutes watching their interesting video report.

It’s a really clear explanation of a pretty complex challenge facing digital marketers and fundraisers – and may well change just how much you like your Likes, for ever!

(Hat tip to @harveymckinnon of Harvey McKinnon Associates in Canada for spotting it)


Are organisational silos blocking your online fundraising growth?

Charity Departmental Silos

Research from eMarketer reveals that the UK’s love of online shopping is well ahead that of the rest of the world, with an estimated 87% of Internet users here shopping online – compared to 73% for the US and 72% for Western Europe overall. According to the latest IMRG E-Retail Sales Index this results in online now making-up an estimated 21% of all UK retail sales.

On this basis, and given all of the talk over recent years about the new fundraising opportunities that online offers, you’d be forgiven for expecting that online donations should make-up a pretty substantial percentage of individual giving here too.

But the truth is that for most charities the proportion of individual donor income received online remains irritatingly small. Indeed, Blackbaud’s 2013 SONI research says online giving represents just 15% of individual donations in the UK.

So, what’s causing the gap between our high expectations and the low proportion of income most fundraisers currently receive online?

Some say “online shoppers are just not the same people as our donors”. However, Blackbaud’s Next Generation of American Giving research found that valuable ‘Baby Boomer’ donors (born 1946-1964) said they were as likely to give online as via direct mail. While a recent report by online affiliate giving platform Give as You Live found that 22% of people aged over 75 named email as the form of communication most likely to prompt them to donate.

It seems to me that the challenge we face is less about donor audiences not evolving to embrace giving online and more about our charities not really evolving to fully embrace fundraising online.

Often at the heart of this is the fact that most charities have yet to evolve beyond the discrete silos they’ve always worked-in. But online engagement is now so all-embracing that no organisation can plan and deliver it in an effective manner whilst still working within traditional silos.

If this rings a bell, and you’re a fundraiser whose online income is suffering because of traditional silo-itis, then here are three quick tips to help you on the road to recovery:

1. Don’t treat Fundraising and Online Fundraising as different disciplines. Fundraising is all about inspiring people to help change the world for the better by funding your organisation’s work. Online Fundraising simply adds digital to the donor engagement mix. So, don’t start by thinking about doing new things online. First look at what fundraising is working for you already and consider how online activity might make it work even better.

2. Focus first on the basics that will help you deliver more income before investing in innovation. User experience specialists Nomensa report that 47% of would-be online donors give-up before donating because of badly designed websites. So, ensuring your donation pages are really effective is likely to deliver you far more income than trialing innovative new ways to fundraise online or tinkering with your Twitter feed. The clarity that you’ll gain from such focus will also mean you’re far better prepared to brief your organisation’s digital folks (who are often in a different silo) on the key things you need them to do to help you raise more money.

3. Adopt a consistent approach to planning online activities across all teams. Those organisations who are seeing their online income really grow typically use a clearly defined approach to planning, implementing, and evaluating online activities across all teams needing to use them – from Fundraising to Communications and Campaigning. That way, conflicting requirements can be addressed as early as possible; consistent and coherent messaging delivered; and effort and investment focused where it delivers best value.

If you have any tips of your own to offer in support of fundraisers suffering from silo-working – do share them by leaving a comment below…

A version of this post was first published as a guest post on the UK Institute of Fundraising Blog

Kick-off the New Year with a healthy dose of global digital stats

The strategy projects I work on often involve organisations working in multiple countries, so I’m always on the look-out for research reports that offer country-by-country comparative digital usage data – to help assess the need for office-specific variations in plans or expectations.

With this in mind, it was great to see the Global Digital Statistics Report the kind folks at We Are Social Singapore have just made available through Slideshare (you can flick through a copy above).

From Regional Comparison data across internet, mobile, and social media usage, to detailed snapshots on 24 countries, it makes very interesting reading for anyone wanting to keep-up with how the digital world is evolving outside their local market.

Australia’s FebFast 2014 fundraiser to include a Digital Detox option

Digital Detox Fundraiser

While the idea of individuals raising money for charity by being sponsored to give something up for a period of time isn’t by any means new, there does seem to have been a growing interest in charity ‘abstainathons’ just recently – with new takes on the old idea cropping-up all over the place.

To name just a few, Cancer Research UK raised almost £4 million ($USD 6.4m) earlier this year when over 35,000 people signed-up to it’s inaugural Dryathalon – raising sponsorship for giving-up alcohol for the whole of January. Then there’s Macmillan Cancer Support’s Go Sober for October (based on the Australian Dry July campaign). The fundraising extension of the annual NHS stop smoking campaign Stoptober, with ex-smokers raising funds for a wide range of different charities. And, of course, this month there’s Movember (another great Aussie import) raising awareness and funds for Prostate Cancer charities through guys giving-up shaving their ‘tash for the month.

But now, the folks at FebFast over in Australia have moved beyond booze, fags and facial hair to fundraise from the other big over-dependence that so many of us have these days – over-dependence on all things digital. What a brilliant idea!

They’re challenging people to go on a digital detox for the 28 days of February 2014 to help raise funds for organisations working to find solutions for youth addiction.

Other FebFast fundraising options are to abstain from Alcohol, Sugar, or Caffeine – any of which seems to me likely to be easier than giving-up my regular digital fixes throughout the day.

Is there any real future for QR Codes in fundraising?

Any future for QR Code Fundraising?

The news last month that Microsoft has decided to discontinue Tag, its proprietary alternative to QR Codes, has sparked a fresh debate as to whether there is really any future in them at all.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of QR (Quick Response) Codes – you’re not alone, based on the lack of success being achieved incorporating them into campaigns. In short they are the little square maze-like icons that you may see on press ads, posters, or product packaging that smartphone users who have downloded a relevant App can use to open a related webpage simply by snapping a photo of the code.

Sounds great! Just one-click from a press ad or poster to your website – what could be better for things like emergency appeal donations? That’s certainly what I had hoped when I first blogged about these neat little response icons back in 2008.

However, five years on QR Codes really haven’t caught-on with smartphone wielding consumers and are more often the focus of ridicule than the basis for great campaign results. Just last week Econsultancy commented on how hard it was to find any recent success stories to update their list of QR Code case studies.

This really is a great pity. As the idea of users being able to respond online through their phone to any physical advertisement without the need to type a URL into their mobile web browser remains a good one – especially with so many people now carrying smartphones. Unfortunately, a couple of key issues have combined to seriously restrict successful QR Code adoption to date.

Firstly, there is the issue of the user having to download a QR Code reader app and open it before they can scan a code. If only the in-built Camera Apps pre-installed on smartphones made scanning them easier then adoption would have been far faster.

Secondly, for those consumers who have bothered to equip their phones with an App the experience of using QR codes has generally been very far from satisfactory. The ease with which the codes can be created and linked to existing websites has led to them generally being thrown in to campaigns as an afterthought – often placed in stupidly unscannable places (from the top of buildings to footballers heads) or linking to non mobile-optimised websites. The end result being that many of those who did bother to adopt the technology have now generally given-up on it.

Recent research by Global Web Index apparently showed “Scanned a QR Code” as the mobile behaviour showing the greatest increase from Q2 2012, with 30% of respondents globally saying they had used them. So perhaps there is a future in them – if advertisers and fundraisers start to use them properly.

But, for now, I see no evidence of any successful fundraising application of the technology at all – while the use of good old SMS response on advertising has seen such a resurgence in the UK that it has led to restrictions on the number of charity ads being allowed on London trains.

Anyone out there seen any successful examples of QR Codes in fundraising? Do leave a comment to let me know.

American Red Cross Hurricane App wins Digitals 2013 Not for Profit Award

A diverse range of campaigns and projects were shortlisted for the Charity and Not for Profit Category of this year’s The Digitals Awards, including the WaterAid Big Dig campaign I worked on in Malawi last summer. However, when the winners were announced last night it was the American Red Cross Hurricane App that took the prize.

Developed by Dorset-based digital agency 3 Sided Cube, the Hurricane App was launched in June 2012 and became the third most downloaded app in the US (only beaten by YouTube and National Geographic) when Hurricane Sandy hit in October that year.

Providing everything from a live location-tailored hurricane tracker and preparation checklists, to shelter maps and an ‘I’m Safe’ messaging service, it’s a great example of when Mobile App technology can really meet a need in a way that no other solution can (which is sadly not the case with the majority of non profit apps I see).

A worthy award winner!