Subscribe via RSS

Digital trends for charities in 2016

Charities are aware of the potential for digital to help them connect with their supporters and beneficiaries. Yet the opportunities for real innovation have moved beyond the next campaign or fundraising activity to how charities operate at their core. So where should they focus their strategic digital efforts in 2016?

Later this month I’ll be speaking at an event about digital trends hosted by CharityComms, alongside leaders from the sector. We’ll be looking at how charities can harness digital to respond to some of the sectors biggest challenges such as delivering digital transformation in their organisation, re-building trust with supporters, adapting communication and fundraising methods for digital natives.

Here’s some of the trends that will be presented at the event.

Think product, not website

We’re yet to see the real impact of digital on how charities deliver products and services. To reach new audiences online Chris Thorn, head of digital at British Heart Foundation, says: “Now is the time to develop digital products that meet specific objectives or challenges. I’ve set a challenge for the senior leaders at the British Heart Foundation to look at how we can use digital technology to meet the specific needs of their target audiences and expect some exciting new digital products and services to be developed over the coming years to transform the way we interact with our beneficiaries and supporters.”

Cashless society

With the introduction of the digital collection box Matthew Patten, CEO at Mayor’s Fund for London, will be exploring how charities can use the ability to collect change electronically to engage with their supporters. Matthew says: “Charity fundraising has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Digital collection boxes, which actively put donors in control of data and channels of communication, could be the key that unlocks happy, engaged and generous supporters.”


Cultivating relationships offline is important for online success says Marie Campbell, Deputy Programme Director at Greenpeace UK: “Finding ways to bring your audience into the heart of your real world activities can deepen their connection with you as an organisation. It can encourage people to do more, give more, care more. Not only that, if you're a campaign organisation, finding ways to bring your supporters faces, words and voices to your target's doorstep can have a visceral impact on decision-makers beyond what's possible in the solely digital sphere.”


The online experience brands can offer their supporters is increasingly personal. Diabetes UK now provides content that is relevant to the user’s type of diabetes, their age, and diagnosis date. Said Dajani, head of digital at Diabetes UK, has been exploring how much control they can and should offer users over this process. “Trialling personal online journeys has been central to our digital strategy to ensure people with different types of diabetes can find information that’s relevant to them. In the future we will be looking into personalising regional content, giving people local information based on their postcode.”

Developing digital trust

Recent reports by the Charities Aid Foundation suggest the blockchain could revolutionise charitable giving and help to rebuild the public’s trust in charities. Damien Austin-Walker, head of digital at vInspired, agrees: “This new technology is about much more than bitcoin – this model of a decentralised digital record could have huge implications for online trust and transparency. It can provide a foundation for concepts including smart contracts and autonomous validation of all kinds of transactions, including transfer of assets or even volunteering time. Some charities have begun to use the bitcoin in their fundraising and I’ll be looking at how vInspired and the sector can take advantage of the blockchain in 2016.”

Virtual reality vs virtual fiction

Ashleigh Adair, head of digital strategy at Forster, believes the potential for charities to use virtual reality to offer access to the people and causes they’re working for is a trend not to ignore: “People are becoming numb to fundraising that uses traditional content to tug at heart strings. Augmented and virtual reality gives non-profits the technology to reconnect with people by giving them an immersive experience that triggers the empathetic brain. Imagine being able to transport yourself virtually to a loved one in hospital to offer them comfort, or to experience what it’s like going through everyday life for someone who suffers from anxiety, for example.”

Emailing smarter

Our old friend email is anything but dead. Rhiannon Sullivan, UK director at Care2, will explore the ever increasing ROI and impact for email in 2015 and the importance of email when developing your digital strategy. Rhiannon says: “Email is action orientated, not passive. A top tip for 2016 is to use permission-based online communities to grow your email list, keep it relevant, segment, and avoid cross posting on similar channels. Target emails accordingly.”

Breaking out of our bubbles

The future of our campaigns and our sector depends on reaching beyond our social media comfort zones, says Joe Hall, but how do we do this? "A majority of the British public quietly back many charities' causes – but frequently we only mobilise a small niche,” he says. “That has to change. With shifting political sands, increasing social fragmentation – especially online – and an urgent need for support for charities' work, now more than ever we need to engage with a wider group of people."

Digital leadership is changing

What are the skills needed to drive digital transformation, and what do digital leaders need to think about? Eva Appelbaum, Partner, Digital Talent @ Work, says: “There are certain leadership styles that are emerging as best suited for transformation: being curious and ready to try new things, while also being accountable and able to step into ambiguity. Being collaborative, able to see situations from multiple perspectives, and exercising power through influence rather than command and control. Successful 'digital transformers' commonly have these traits. They will take on challenging roles, sometimes without adequate resource and support, and make the impossible happen. What they must watch-out for is that they do not burn themselves out. They are generally not complainers, but need to remember not to drive change at the expense of their own well-being!"

You can follow the event live on Periscope on Thursday 28 January.

See how Positive works with charities and education clients

posted by

Three tips for choosing technology for charities

It’s unlikely that your organisation’s mission will mention which CRM or CMS you use, but it will mention people – those that benefit from your services and those that support you.

The technology your organisation chooses to run its website, contact management, fundraising or campaigning activities is a vital part of how you connect with these people. Getting it right is imperative to your organisation’s success.

Just as people don’t tend to fit into one group, neither should your technology. This was the consensus when we held a roundtable with a group of charity digital experts recently as part of our new report looking at technology choices for charities. Experts agreed that, despite suppliers drawing you in with extra features and functionality, there are disadvantages to getting too invested in one system.

As Chris Thorn, Head of Digital at British Heart Foundation, explains: "If you have discrete systems that talk to each other, it’s easy to update or replace one rather than doing it all together." Here we look at how you can use some of the key recommendations from our new report to help you when implementing new technology.

Break it down

Many organisations understand the scope of digital technology and the impact it can have on how they deliver services. Yet it can still be easy to think of technology as one large project. Whether it’s integrating new tools with legacy systems or introducing task-orientated technologies, it’s important to be clear about what you want the technology to achieve. You can then create smaller project-based teams that work closely with suppliers to ensure change is managed effectively and user experience is put at the heart of your decision making process.

Choose the best

Once you know what you want to achieve, you will need to identify the right technology. Technology is always evolving so it could be tempting to stick with a platform you know well, but we all agreed that you must always review new tools against the competition and choose best of breed for individual tasks or areas. Our report highlights some of the popular technology choices among charity digital leads so it’s worth taking a look.

Make it work for you

You need technology platforms that speak to each other. Everyone agrees that integration issues are inevitable, but you can make it easier by using APIs and finding out the options before you invest. This is one of the reasons our experts believe that open source technology – such as Drupal and WordPress – is increasingly popular. It’s reassuring to know that their developer communities are constantly improving integration. Good tools will have good APIs, allowing you to connect with other good tools.

Find out more in Pick n Mix: a free guide to technology choices for charities.

This article first appeared on Third Sector online, 07/12/2015

posted by

Three reasons to get excited about WordPress Calypso

This week WordPress released a groundbreaking new tool to the open source community. Called Calypso, it offers users a quicker, more responsive alternative to the traditional wp-admin CMS. And the beauty is that if you’re already using, you can benefit from it right now. Here’s why you should care.

1. It’s integration heaven:  Calypso has been entirely built on JavaScript – including both the client side (the bits you use) and the server (the bits that do the work). The interface uses the REST API to integrate with WordPress core. Meanwhile the traditional wp-admin tool is built in PHP. What this means for the end user is it’s built to load an admin page and submit it to make changes. Until now, WordPress has always been PHP.

2. You can make edits in real time, from your phone:  Because Calypso uses REST API’s it means you no longer need to load pages to make changes: it’s so responsive, you can administer it from your phone. And it’s real time: you see your changes reflected immediately as you edit – no refresh needed.

3. You can take advantage of it right now: If you run your own WordPress site, you just need to install the jetpack plugin, and download and run the code from their Github repository (all the instructions are there). Perhaps the most exciting option is the desktop application, although it’s provided for mac only at the moment you can sign up to be notified when other platforms are available.

In my view, Calypso is providing the revolution that web CMS’ need. It might be cold outside, but I’ve still got time for Calypso.




WordPress Calypso:

posted by

And The Drum Network Awards nomination goes to…

It’s been all smiles at Positive as we celebrate our work being recognised by the prestigious Drum Network Awards!

We’re proud that our work with The Children’s Society re-developing their blog has been nominated for both Charity Campaign/Strategy of the Year and Social Media Campaign/Strategy of the Year. Meanwhile Send a Cow’s Lessons from Africa hub for teachers is also up for Charity Campaign/Strategy of the Year.

We’re happy to be recognised by The Drum as industry leaders alongside some of the best creative talent out there. We focus on delivering effective solutions for our clients and these nominations demonstrate how hard our team works to achieve results.

Check out all The Drum Network nominations here

Winners will be announced on Thursday 3rd December. Fingers crossed!

posted by

Pick 'n' mix: a guide to technology choices for charities

Which technology should you be backing and how should you go about it? This is a common problem for charities. Describing your organisational challenges might come easily, but pinpointing which technology provides the best, most cost-effective solution is a different matter. The reality is there’s no single right solution or approach when it comes to choosing your digital technology. So where do you start?

That’s where our new report comes in: Pick ’n’ Mix: a guide to technology choices for charities, developed with CharityComms.

We surveyed 74 digital leads working in the charity sector on the technology they use and the challenges they face. Then we took these findings to a team of digital experts from The British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, The Children’s Society, Arthritis Research UK and more to share case studies and recommendations for choosing digital technology. Our experts identified six recommendations for choosing digital technology.

What’s clear throughout the report is that if your organisations are to get the most from their technology, digital teams must be more involved in these decisions. They are often in the strongest position to demonstrate how your organisation can use technology to meet its organisational objectives.

This guide covers all this and more, including:

  • Planning a digital technology project
  • Personalising the supporter experience
  • Mapping customer journeys
  • Digital’s potential to use data
  • Saving time and money through documentation

Download Pick ‘n’ Mix: a guide to technology choices for charities and share your thoughts on Twitter @PositiveBristol #TechChoices.

posted by

Three lessons for engaging your fundraisers

When someone signs up to fundraise for your event, it’s clear your campaign has caught their eye. But if the campaign centres on a personal challenge, such as The Children’s Society Tough n Buff campaign, keeping them engaged over a period of time can prove a bigger hurdle.

Tough n Buff is a 30 day fitness challenge where participants take part in tasks such as squat challenges and burpee time trials and compete against others, whilst being sponsored to get fit. One of the key aims of this campaign was to develop a platform that could be re-used and that would keep fundraisers engaged throughout the one-month Tough n Buff process. We created a Drupal module for the new platform and used JustGiving’s APIs. We learnt a lot while developing the platform, and as any charity can use JustGiving’s APIs, we thought we’d share our top three lessons for keeping your fundraisers engaged:

1. Simple is best

Presenting information and data to your fundraisers in a way that’s clear and easy-to-use is the Holy Grail. We wanted to make it simple for fundraisers to access all the information they need in one place. We’re working to improve the sign-up and login process on the Drupal module in time for the Tough n Buff campaign’s second release in January.

2. There’s nothing like a bit of competition

It’s important to keep your supporters motivated and creating a little competition can work well! We created leaderboards for fundraisers to see how they’re faring against others, or to challenge their friends to take part. All of this information appears on the fundraisers’ own personal campaign profile. We’re still improving the ability for fundraisers to share the campaign and to build fundraising teams as we know that this functionality is important to encourage sponsorship.

3. Celebrate success

One of the keys to engaging your fundraisers long-term is to show you’re with them every step of the way. This means tracking their progress and thanking them. We made it easy for fundraisers to see who is taking part, how much each supporter has raised and how they’ve shared the campaign – this data could then be used to lead the campaign communications, personalised emails and to help The Children’s Society thank their fundraisers.

Sarah Espiner, digital fundraising manager at The Children’s Society, explains how they’re using the Drupal module for Tough n Buff: “The Tough n Buff site has been built especially to provide a really easy sign-up process where, using your Facebook log-in, users can automatically set up a JustGiving page in support of their fundraising, which includes a Tough n Buff profile page to show you how many exercises they should be doing on a certain day. At The Children’s Society we’ve tried to make it as simple as possible for the supporter, knowing that they’re likely to be short on time.

“We ran competitions on social media to spark conversations with our Tough n Buff participants, and keep them involved and entertained. We also encouraged fitness bloggers to get involved. We kept the tone of our engagement really light throughout and we gave supporters the option of whether they wanted to receive daily or weekly email reminders of their fitness goals for that day. Our emails had a great response throughout and we had some participants raise really high sums of money to support us!”

Find out more about how we're making Drupal work for The Children's Society.

This blog first appeared on the JustGiving blog on 27/10/2015.

posted by

Five reasons you’ll love Drupal 8

This week (19th November) the Drupal community announced the release of Drupal 8. With more than 200 new features, this is the kind of news that gets community regulars like me very excited indeed.

If you’ve just invested in a new Drupal 7 site don’t panic – it will take time, tweaks and a few more releases before it’ll be worth migrating, so right now we still think Drupal 7 is the best content management system that’s out there; we won’t be recommending a Drupal 8 build for our clients for quite some time yet.

That said, anyone using Drupal or thinking about switching should know the possibilities that lay ahead. So here’s our run-down of the top five reasons we love Drupal 8, and we think you will too…

1. More fields in core than ever before: To those already using Drupal the importance of this development does not need explaining. To those who are discovering it for the first time, it basically means that Drupal 8 is a more complete ‘out-of-the-box’ product than its predecessors. In the past Drupal has relied on modules to fix elements that aren’t already there. But with Drupal 8 the core CMS now includes fields such as telephone, link, image, email and even views (the ability to easily list types of content e.g. blogs or new products). This is good news for users but also for contributors, who can now focus on improving Drupal rather than fixing holes.

2. Mobile editing is here! Drupal 8 offers users a first-class responsive admin experience. It’s mobile first, allowing you to post from a tablet while at a conference just as easily as you can on a desktop. There’s also a quick editor option available across the system to make small changes easily, wherever and whenever you want.

3. Better user experience: With additions to the core you can get set up faster, and there is now a live guide to help you when using the CMS so you don’t have to leave it to look on the help page. They’ve also made editing simpler with in-place editing of content – no need to use the full-edit form – and it’s much simpler to migrate from earlier versions.

4. Improved performance: In some cases Drupal 8 is twice as fast as Drupal 7. It’s built for developing enterprise level websites and it’s now easier than before to set up multilingual sites to help you reach a global audience.

5. Still Drupal: While a lot has changed, what we probably love best is that it remains the product of a global community who genuinely care about the product and the people that use it. Why not join us?

Check out how we’re making Drupal work for The Children’s Society.

posted by

Do Different Relay for The Guardian and MAA

Last week we spent a day doing differently for the Marketing Agency Awards #DoDifferent relay and the entire day has been caught in a short film now showcasing on The Guardian website.

Taking the theme seriously we sent Ringo, our Creative Strategist, and Project Manager Nick off to spend the day carrying out agency business while relaying across the beautiful city of Bristol, where our studio is based.

Sounds simple enough? There was a twist. Ringo and Nick had to spend the day travelling on a tandem bike and hit all the sights of (very hilly) Bristol to celebrate becoming the first UK city to win the European Green Capital Award.

The guys had to think on their feet (literally) as they attempted to collect stories from sustainability experts across Bristol – including Sustrans Cycle Network, TriodosUK and Bristol 2015. We will be featuring these #SustainableStories in detail on our blog throughout October and the the plan is to feature them as part of an online resource we're developing to help young people learn about sustainability.

For us, the day was all about challenging the way agencies work and seeing what could be achieved when we take a different approach to our work. Ringo and Nick had to spend a day away from their beloved technology, warm studio and coffee on tap, but they came back inspired by the stories they’d heard (and a little bit fitter!).

We can’t wait to share these stories with you, just look out here on our blog or for #SustainableStories @PositiveBristol

Check out the short film of Nick and Ringo’s big day out in Bristol (as we’re calling it!) now on The Guardian website.

posted by