This workshop was the first in a series of three workshops with the Concern UK Extended Digital Team, which sought to co-design the digital strategy for the team.
This workshop was a deep dive on the external environment now and into the future. It sought to understad the major trends for digital fundraising in the next five years and the opportunities and challenges for Concern in responding to them.
- Ciarnan Moore
- Hoho Lam
- Lucy Bloxham
- Mark Nambale Mukasa
- Elise West (SystemSeed)
- Cliodhna Donnelly
- Lionel Riviere
- Lucy Noakes
- Vicky Ingram
Trends in the future
Marketing strategies, technologies tools and tactics
Nick discussed the known unknowns of digital engagement in the future, with a focus was on how emerging technologies could transform the supporter experience and how charities could use trends to drive fundraising campaigns.
- AI robots were identified as a trend which could influence all other trends in digital engagement. The main question was how mainstream the usage of AI would become, both in producing content and analysing data, and how it would impact audience interaction.
- Real-time marketing means quick deployment of content in response to news or events is increasingly important, especially in fundraising and comms.
- The third trend discussed focused on how channels have become messier than ever (TikTok rising, Twitter fracturing) and how this is likely to continue with the influx of new channels.
- Social fundraising has risen in importance, as has the use of influencers. People like to give to or through other people rather than directly through organisations.
- The Internet of Things has also become significant, with people connecting to the Internet through everyday objects and in various contexts.
- The intersection between the digital world and the real world is getting blurrier. People are get more comfortable with online being central to more areas of their life, expect seamless experiences between digital and physical channels and younger generations don’t see the same difference between physical and virtual worlds as older ones.
- Finally, the need for a conversational relationship between charities and supporters is growing, where supporters are active participants in the conversation rather than passive recipients of information.
People, politics, society and business
Societal changes will also have an impact on how Concern operates its digital engagement. These will be changes that may be aggravated by the speed of technological change:
- Technology is increasing societal inequality and marginalisation. People increasingly face limitations as they are not able to use the latest technologies.
- Authenticity in communications is increasingly valued, leading other non-profit organisations to use channels like Twitter to develop brand activism and adopt political stances on issues closely linked to their mission (refugees for example).
- Supporter trust is an ever-more expensive digital asset for a brand to get and maintain – data privacy is a complicated arena and generative AI will increase misinformation and disinformation attacks.
- The prevalence of data is leading to ever-higher expectations that you should always be able to see the impact of investment – whether for supporters looking for impact or for marketing teams looking to attribute the effect spending in a very precise way.
- The globalisation of systems and it being accompanied by an increase in localization and cultural sensitivity around content.
- The growing subscription economy, which makes people comfortable with this form of payment but raises their expectations around the service and ease of changing levels or cancelling subscriptions.
- The challenge of hiring digital staff and the expanding number of skills necessary for digital marketing teams.
To help participants better understand these concepts, the workshop considered two different scenarios, one with low societal adoption of emerging technologies and the other with high adoption, and asked participants to identify opportunities and threats associated with each.
The trends for the future could allow Concern to:
- Use AI-assisted tools to do more with the same resources: build more meaningful, personalised engagement with supporters; to respond to supporters on more platforms or channels; automate common tasks or processes in digital engagement.
- Build a stand-out reputation for trust in a world where trust is harder to gain and maintain. It could do this by making respect for data and privacy a calling card, and going above and beyond compliance measures.
- Connect to supporters in ever more places and ways as the Internet is more accessible, more widely adopted and the Internet of Things increases the devices and places in which digital engagement can occur.
- Create powerful connections between the specific moments of a supporters life and the life of beneficiaries using new context data (device, location etc.). delivering relevant messages to them and fostering direct connections between supporters and beneficiaries that steer away from neocolonial discourses.
- Gain notoriety and brand awareness through communications that take a stand on an issues (or issues) closely linked to Concern’s mission and goals.
- Differentiate itself by maintaining a focus and reputation for a personal and human-to-human approach with supporters.
- Develop campaigns that engage supporters more directly, allowing them fundraise in their own way.
- Create tighter integration between online and offline channels (inc. F2F and telemarketing), creating more seamless supporter journeys and increasing data about supporters.
- Develop a digital portfolio with more focus and at a somewhat slower pace than competitors as the mid-market segment of supporters (e.g. the “Mid-life multipliers”) may not be innovators and first adopters of new technologies.
- Be first movers on agile and innovative use of data to support marketing, leveraging the small team and new CRM to outmanouver peers as privacy and other legislation changes rapidly. The Dublin Data Warehouse could help by improving understanding of fundraising attribution.
- Increase engagement by showing supporters the direct impact of their support, perhaps through better predictive data or blockchain.
- Speed up production of content from the field using tools like real-time translation.
- Develop new subscription products as a route to acquire new donors.
- Work with more external agencies to complement the team with additional skills and expertise.
The trends for the future could mean Concern faces:
- A less direct relationship with supporters as they increasingly use intermediary AI agents as their core form of interaction with organisations.
- A need to re-work content and systems like the website to be “read by a robot” that acts as an AI agent for a supporter but also addresses human supporters' needs and interests.
- An increasingly complicated balancing act to satisfy different segments / generations of supporters with different digital expectations in terms of levels of digital or AI skills, brand activism. Some supporters will bring much higher expectations in terms of personalised content that are much harder to meet.
- Having too many different digital channels to successfully monitor, plan around and engage supporters in.
- A loss of trust in Concern and its content because of the generalised use of generative AI to create online content; being unable to understand motivations as donors more to virtual worlds; or Concern being the target or caught up in a misinforrmation / disinformation attack or privacy breach.
- Misinformation / disinformation attacks or a privacy breach where Concern is the target or caught up in a crisis, undermining trust in the organisational brand and its content or data management.
- A challenge to its systemic and organisational approach to fundraising if social fundraising becomes even larger and more ubiquitous.
- Difficulties in understanding the context of where a supporter is and which device they are on to be able to create content that responds to that personal context.
- Divergence between the UK and the Dublin office in terms of targets and approaches to digital making it harder to get the right content, systems, etc.
- A constant sprint to keep up with the speed of technological change in marketing.
- An increasing focus on value exchange in terms of any payments undervaluing donations.
Reviewing the threats and opportunities, the team identified the following core strengths Concern brings to potential future scenarios:
- An appetite and budget for testing, digital innovation and strategic use of data and technology. Senior leaders are interested in hearing about these areas, and the organisation was investing in digital innovation.
- Openness to creating networks and working closesly with Dublin, other Concern offices, country officers, external people and organisations. This helps in accessing resources and sharing skills.
- Clear target segment with loyal supporters: mid-life multipliers. The loyal supporter base and personal approach to supporters were felt to bevery important as well as the fact that the organisation has identified a key audience in "midlife multipliers", for whom they can tailor their messaging and interaction.
- Strong content and stories: can connect to real lives of beneficiaries and tell stories of supporter impact. Participants noted that messaging that displays empathy and humanity as well as authentic stories about beneficiaries were very important.
- A small and agile group of digital engagement staff. The size and structure of the organisation allows people to communicate with each other and share ideas or collaborate more directly, without needing to go through middle management.
Nick also shared some additional strengths he had identified in his earlier analysis:
- A strong performance marketing offer around high intent products (gifts)
- Agility and coordination in emergencies.
Reviewing the threats and opportunities, the team identified structural weaknesses Concern may struggle to overcome in the potential future scenarios. Most weaknesses linked to resources and budgets, capturing different ways this impacts the organisation:
- The organisation is not as large as its competitors and has less new people coming in and out to bring in fresh perspectives and knowledge. Skills and knowledge are sometimes lacking as a result – and the training budget cannot fill all the gaps.
- The organisational culture does not embrace transformation processes. Long-term change is hard due to a risk-averse culture and lack of budget for longer-term programmes. All investment decisions (for people and budgets) are tough – there’s little scope for money to be invested in failures. Short-term wins are therefore incentivised over changes that require long-term work.
- A lack of shared purpose and alignment in digital staff: staff do not work together towards the same goals, they are not clear on roles, responsibilities and objectives and do not have processes to prioritise channels, tools and audiences. The same lack of alignment also affects donor journeys.
- Fragmented data and a lack of supporter insights. For data to be used more strategically it needs to be better connected. In addition there is data that has not been researched to develop insights: for example around audience motivations for responding to Concern’s digital propositions.
- A lack of diversity in digital offerings and propositions.
- Limited brand awareness among the public, particulary in Great Britain.