Online life gives charities cause to rethink

Friendly faces, daffodils clutched to their hearts, hustling spare change by the bucket-load. That's charity, but perhaps not for much longer. CHARLIE MITCHELL reports.

CHANGING TIMES: Charities are re-evaluating the methods used to fundraise.

CHANGING TIMES: Charities are re-evaluating the methods used to fundraise.

Freda Matthew twice tried to give money to charity in the space of a week.

Those asking did not end up getting a cent because of the way she was approached.

One charity directly asked her for $25; the other turned up its nose at her gold coins, refusing to take less than $10.

"You're not being asked to donate. You're being given a sum," Matthew said.

"Neither me or my husband like that, so we just smiled and walked away. It is a bit off-putting."

Street collectors for Greenpeace do not accept cash. When you talk to a collector, you will not hear the comforting rattle of coins on plastic. They carry iPads.

They want your signature, not your spare change.

"Our fundraising entirely relies on us going out and speaking to people one-on-one," Greenpeace fundraising director Michael Tritt said.

"Our day-to-day bread and butter are people who sign up for regular donations."

The environmental organisation accepts donations of any kind on its website but that is a small part of the fundraising effort.

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David Bishop, a charity marketing expert from the University of Otago, said charities, much like businesses, were adapting to the rhythms of modern life.

They had recognised that it was no longer just about accepting anything, he said. Establishing a baseline, and pushing for subscribed giving, could bring in more in the long run.

Even the Cancer Society, a master of street collection with its annual Daffodil Day appeal, recognised its future was not on the streets.

"You have to make your social media a lot more engaging," Philip Hope, the society's development manager, said. "It's about having a relationship with your donors in real time."

The society used to raise most of its money by sending out letters. Those days are well and truly dying.

It could not just rely on flooding the streets with collectors, Hope said. A great Facebook page could make a difference.

Now, it was all about peer-to-peer, digital platforms, market diversification and branding.

"Diversification is really key but embracing the digital media and resourcing social media are the major emphasis," he said.

Last year, Toyota gave away 25 cars to 25 charities through its Facebook page.

Hundreds of charities were voted on by Facebook users; Orphans Aid International, based in Queenstown, received the most votes.

Founder Sue van Schreven pounces on every new trend. Her 10-year-old charity began with sausage sizzles - now it is a pioneer of the digital realm.

Its Facebook page has nearly 20,000 likes. It is on Givealittle, FundraiseOnline, Loyal and others.

Van Schreven is trialling a new app called Little Lot, which gives advertising revenue to charity each time a user downloads an advertised image to their desktop. It is free for user and charity.

Orphans Aid still uses the old stand-bys - mailers, fundraisers and bucket holding. But it has become able to compete with bigger charities, as tools to reach people become cheap and effective.

"Facebook has been a really big thing for us. We've been putting a lot of effort into that. We can get out to a much wider audience than we could speaking to a hall or something," Van Schreven said.

"Street appeals are good for getting out in front of people . . . it's still a valid way to fundraise but trying new ways when new opportunities come along is important."

 - The Press

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