WaterAid’s The Big Dig Appeal brings supporters closer through Instagram liveblogging world first

Since writing my last post on what makes for great digital fundraising content, I’ve had the privilege of travelling to Malawi with a small team from WaterAid and Misfit Inc, who were training WaterAid field staff in the use of smartphones to live blog from the remote communities they work with. All with the aim of enabling them to create fantastic digital fundraising content for WaterAid’s ‘The Big Dig’ Appeal that launched earlier this week.

The Big Dig (#thebigdig) aims to raise the £1.2m needed to provide safe water and sanitation for over 134,000 people in some of the poorest communities in rural Malawi, with all money donated by the public over the three month appeal (to September 18) being matched pound-for-pound by the UK Government.

But WaterAid also wanted to use the appeal as a unique opportunity to bring supporters closer to the real work their donations make possible in Malawi, by enabling them to follow progress day-by-day throughout the three months of hard work that needs to happen before the ultimate highlight of drilling safe water boreholes for the communities in September. To achieve this two WaterAid field officers, Michael Kalawe and Nathan Chiwoko, equipped with Smartphones running the wonderful Instagram photo sharing App, have become the eyes and ears of the appeal – recording the highs and lows of their day-to-day work with the villagers of Kaniche and Bokola, live as they happen.

It’s an incredible fact that while the people in these villages have no access to clean water, instead being reliant on filthy scoop holes in river beds which make them and their children sick, through the wonders of the mobile internet as you stand in their village you can take and upload an Instagram photo in under a minute – and see it shared globally through Facebook and Twitter just minutes later. As I did with this photo of the scoop hole at Bokola.

As far as I know, the use of Instagram in this way by a development non-profit’s field officers to share their day-to-day work with supporters in support of a rolling fundraising appeal is a world first (at least @ajleon from Misfit Inc hasn’t heard of it being done before – and he should know!). However, given the compelling authenticity of the content that results – telling the real story of the need being faced and the impact your donations can have, day-by-day, as it happens – I’m sure it won’t be the last.

For more of a feel for The Big Dig appeal, take a couple of minutes to watch the great appeal promo video below and then click-on down to their website at thebigdig.org (and perhaps even give them a donation? Remember every pound you give is doubled – and it is a great appeal!-)


Then, have a think about how you can come-up with your own innovative fundraising approach using some of the wealth of digital storytelling tools available to us today.

Instagram was used in this case because it proved to be by far the easiest way to share stories from these remote communities, live. We would have loved to use live video, but while the mobile internet there is good – it’s just not that good. So video content like this has to be uploaded separately.

Your cause might not be the same as WaterAid’s and the situations you work in may be very different – all this means is that the tools you can use and the approach you take to bring your supporters closer is likely to be different. But used in the right way, the positive impact on your fundraising should still be the same.

And one last thought. Just incase you think this type of digital storytelling is too much to ask your front-line workers to help you with, I’ll leave the last word to Nathan in Malawi (that’s him liveblogging in my photo at the top of this post). When asked if he was happy to keep-on liveblogging throughout the project he replied “How can I stop? I feel the future development of Kaniche and Bokola is in this phone”.


12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #8 Contactless Payments

According to the people at Visa Europe, 2012 is going to be the year that ‘contactless payments’ take off here in the UK – heralding a new era when we will all be purchasing low cost items (£15 or less) with a wave of our payment card or NFC equipped mobile phone. No need to type-in a pin number – just ‘wave and pay’.

The technology to enable this has been available here for a while now, with Barclaycard launching their ‘OnePulse’ card using Visa’s contactless system back in 2007 and partnering with Orange to launch the UK’s first NFC mobile phone payment system in May last year. But it seems that a combination of lack of consumer trust and lack of bank and retailer interest has kept the take-up at a pretty small scale to-date. Two thirds of the UK population are currently unaware of which banks offer the service and only 20% of people with suitable payment cards have ever actually used them, according to recent YouGov research.

However, this is apparently all set to change – with Samsung and Visa capitalising on their sponsorship of this year’s Olympics here in London to make it “the world’s first contactless games”. Plus a growing number of retailers joining early adopters like McDonalds with the introduction of suitably equipped tills; and Transport for London planning to equip all buses and Tube stations with contactless payment units by the end of 2012. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but certainly on that basis it looks like you won’t be able to escape the Contactless Payment trend if you’re anywhere inside the M25 this year.

If all this takes off, then we will be running to catch-up with the US where the introduction of Google Wallet and the launch of a number of NFC-equipped Smartphones (no sign of an NFC iPhone as yet though) have led to contactless payments growing apace. Although, in turn, they are some way behind the world leaders in contactless mobile payment – who are the Japanese, where over 10% of the population were already making NFC-based mobile payments by the end of 2010.

What’s in all this emerging ‘wave and pay’ technology trend for fundraisers? Well, it offers a very simple additional form of mobile donation opportunity beyond the current SMS or web-based transaction. While I guess it won’t offer the equivalent contact data collection, thanks to the simplicity of contactless payment perhaps at last we could see the cash collection tin come into the digital age – with street and event fundraisers able to take ‘wave and pay’ card or mobile donations at a rather higher value than the traditional coin in the bucket? This Christmas the Salvation Army in the US started accepting card payments using Square card-swipe readers attached to Smartphones as part of their seasonal red kettle collections, to overcome reductions in the number of people carrying cash. So an NFC red kettle can’t be that far away!

Depending on just how the NFC reader technology is implemented, we might also be able to have donations made through charity show windows (good for emergency appeal donations) or by waving a phone across a suitably equipped poster or in-store fundraising point.

This is the eighth of twelve posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Getting Smarter With Email, here.

The fast growing potential for Smartphone Fundraising

Last week, Ericsson analysts announced that, according to their estimates, the world’s 5 billionth mobile phone subscription was reached on Thursday July 8th, and they illustrated the pace of growth with the fact that there are now more mobile subscribers in China alone than there were globally in 2000.

While such a milestone is a clear reminder of the growing ubiquity of mobile phones, it’s actually the parallel growth in mobile broadband subscriptions that Ericsson also report in the same news release that I think is all the more exciting from the fundraising point of view. They forecast 3.4 billion mobile broadband subscribers by 2015, up from 360 million in 2009 – which is in-line with other market estimates and represents the level of growth that has led analysts at Gartner Research to announce earlier this year that mobile phones will actually overtake PCs as the most common web access device world-wide by 2013.

This might seem like a crazy forecast, given the relatively low levels of mobile web use we see today. But with multiple studies showing month on month exponential growth in mobile web user numbers and eMarketer analysts predicting that there will be more mobile internet users in China by the end of this year than the entire population of the US it’s already looking like the technology adoption curve to beat them all.

All of which is why, when I was asked to present the Hot Topic: Digital Fundraising session at the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention here in London last week it was Smartphones and the incredible range of new fundraising opportunities their mass adoption looks set to offer us that I took as my hot topic subject.

You can see my full presentation above or view it on Slideshare here – and if you’d like to read more about some of the emerging new fundraising opportunities then you can also take a look at my article in the April edition of the Resource Alliance’s ‘Global Connections’ e-newsletter.


Square brings credit card fundraising to a smartphone near you (if you’re US-based)

A couple of months back I heard about the trials of a great smartphone-based service called Square that allows anyone with an iPhone or Android smartphone to take credit card payments – or donations – simply by registering, downloading an application, and plugging a little square card reader into their phone’s headphone jack. At that time, as I mentioned in an article on Smartphone Fundraising, a beta version of the service had been tested for fundraising at events by Charity:Water and also by Reshma Saujani, a democratic congressional candidate for New York’s 14th District whose fundraisers were using it for door-to-door fundraising – and it struck me what a fantastic service this could be for any fundraiser looking to raise donations at events.

Essentially, a Smartphone version of the traditional charity collection tin – for credit cards!

The great news is that the trials seem to have gone really well, and Square is now available for anyone who wants to take credit card payments – and has an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or Android Phone.

The bad news is that it’s only available in the US, with no current plans to bring the service to Europe. Although the question is being asked quite a bit on the @Square Twitter feed – so here’s hoping they do expand it sometime soon.

For a full write-up on the service, have a read of the coverage in the latest issue of Fast Company – or take a look at the Square site at squareup.com.


New digital tracking study reveals UK consumer views on promotional email and social media use

Last Thursday I was out at the launch event for the DMA’s Digital Tracker Study, a research initiative (backed by online research company FastMAP and email marketing company SilverPop) that aims to provide regular insights into some of the key questions online marketers are asking in relation to using email and social media use.

I’ve embedded a copy of the main research presentation above, so you can take a look at the top-line findings (or click here to view on SlideShare).

As is always the case with such research, some of the observations just confirm what most good online marketers know already – like the fact that traditional sales promotion techniques (money off or free delivery) work well in email.  But I did find some of the insights related to people’s use of Spam flags and also the difference between use of mobile devices to access emails and social media sites of real interest. Plus, there are also some great headline stats – like almost two thirds of recipients finding less than one in ten promotional emails of interest (which might explain some of the dismal click through rates many email marketers see).

Here are some of the insights that jumped out at me – but do take a look yourself and see if the results confirm or counter your own experience or current thinking:

  • 43% of UK adults receive over 20 promotional emails a week – so there’s lots of competition for attention in their inbox
  • 64% of people find just 1 in ten (or less) of these emails of interest to them – suggesting that if you can be truly relevant than you can really stand-out
  • 19% of people will flag your email as Spam if they feel they receive too many and 18% will Spam flag emails they don’t recall signing-up for- so make sure you send a memorable ‘welcome’ email in response to every sign-up and then watch your frequency if you don’t want your email campaigns blacklisted (although the more relevant and thus ‘valuable’ your email, the less frequency should be a concern)
  • A further 8% use the Spam flag instead of opting-out if the opt-out process seems too slow or unclear – so, again you’re risking blacklisting if you don’t make it as easy to opt-out as you did to opt-in
  • The majority of email is still read on desktop (67%) or laptop (49%) devices – but 11% of adults now also read them on mobile devices
  • Interestingly, this contrasts with 18% of people using mobile devices to access their social networks – suggesting a very different mode of use between email and social networks, which marketers need to take into account


Getting excited about smartphone mobile fundraising

Back in October last year when I was over in Holland giving an online fundraising session at the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), I was asked to give a short comment to camera on what I was most excited about in terms of the future of digital fundraising.

At that time, I’d just started to research new ways for fundraisers to make use of the incredibly rich functionality becoming available on the latest generation of ‘smart’ mobile phones, so that’s what I chose to chat about. You can see the result in the video above, this being the first of 30 such short videos being used by The Resource Alliance to promote the 2010 IFC.

For a rather more detailed introduction to the sort of new things fundraisers may be able to do as smartphone adoption continues to grow, I’ve also just written an article for the April edition of the Resource Alliance’s ‘Global Connections’ e-newsletter. Entitled ‘The emerging opportunities for smart fundraisers to use smartphones’, you can read the full article here.

This is a fascinating new area for digital fundraising, so you can be sure that I’ll be posting more about it over the coming months as well as talking about some of the latest examples at the UK Institute of Fundraising National Convention in July.

Meantime, if you are working on any smartphone fundraising yourself, do let me know by leaving a comment below or sending me a message through the ‘Hello and Welcome’ page.


NSPCC offers virtual flowers by email or mobile for Mother’s Day

On Sunday it was Mother’s Day here in the UK. So, to help children of all ages celebrate their mums, the country’s largest children’s charity the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) launched a neat little fundraising microsite offering virtual flowers that donors could send via their mum’s email or mobile phone on the morning of the big day in return for a £5 donation.

I’m not too sure quite how those mums at the receiving end will have felt when their usual chocolates or roses were replaced by an email or text message, but it’s a nice example of a charity extending the reach of its online fundraising activity to incorporate internet-equipped mobile phones.

With well over 10m people in the UK now using smartphones to browse the web, and that number growing by the month, I’m surprised that more charities aren’t already taking advantage of the emerging opportunities to engage people through their phones as an extension to traditional ‘virtual gift’ offerings like Oxfam’s ‘Unwrapped’.

However, I expect we’ll see a lot more such campaigns over the coming months as fundraisers realise that mobile fundraising can now go way beyond just telemarketing and SMS donations.