Virtual Promise 2006 reveals charity sector’s use of new media


first_img2006 Campaigning and online activism17%29% (Up) Have email enquiry service69%82% (Up) About Howard Lake Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world’s first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp and co-founder of Researching massive growth in giving. Have email newsletter43%53% (Up) Virtual Promise 2006 reveals charity sector’s use of new media 2005 Fundraising via credit/debit card50% 49% (Down) AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to EmailEmailShare to WhatsAppWhatsAppShare to MessengerMessengerShare to MoreAddThis Have email marketing/fundraising32%27% (Down) With such a wealth of data, there are grounds for lots of different types of analysis. For today, however, we’ll take a bird’s eye view of the pickings.A number of important areas (see the table below) are up on last year and on the face of it that has to be good news. No-one would argue with wanting growth year on year in the new media capabilities of UK charities. As with previous years, there are also indications of organisations branching out into relatively new terrain such as blogs (12%), podcasts (5%) and RSS feeds (12%), not that these are features to suit everybody.But it’s when we take a more analytical, and therefore by necessity, critical view of the more mainstream online activities that the real disappointment begins.The table below shows a selection of key results from the broadest grouping of charities, those with £1-10m turnover, an average of 126 employees, average turnover of £4,175,000 and an average of three people working on their website:center_img The news overall isn’t nearly good enough. Having deliberately picked a selection of communication and relationship-building metrics I would have expected most of the above (and particularly anything to do with email) to be in the upper quartile, moving closer to 100%. And that’s bearing in mind that the majority of people answering the Virtual Promise survey – judging by their areas of expertise – must surely know how to deliver up a return on investment from the Internet: communications (34%), marketing (23%), fundraising (22%), management (29%), IT/internet (29%). [Are those the respondents’ job titles or areas of responsibility?]Fundraising doesn’t seem to be as big a priority as we pundits make it to be. In fact, it’s in a little decline. From the professional backgrounds already cited, it would be hard to believe many of the organisations who participated aren’t fundraising charities, so it’s with dismay that we find only half (49%) have credit/debit card fundraising and only 6% plan to have it in the next 6 months. Forty percent have direct debit regular donations with only a further 12% planning it. And in the list of most popular new developments for the future, fundraising, e-commerce and e-marketing are at the bottom with the newer gadgetry at the top. Yet Ofcom’s July 2005 analysis shows 91% of the UK’s 13.1 million web users used email, and 72% made purchases online – making charities priorities look off the mark.Digging further down:23% of organisations don’t measure their website. 11% gave no answer so let’s gauge that as over a third.56% don’t have a profile of their online user or carry out user surveys59% allow their users to leave their email address for follow-up contact but only 45% make use of this opportunity. Not a surprise when we read that 22% can’t integrate their web data with their donor database and 67% gave no answer – we may take that as a general no as well I think. Regular donations eg. direct debit42% 41% (Down) Tagged with: Digital Research / statistics News and regular updates70% 89% (Up)  14 total views,  1 views today AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to EmailEmailShare to WhatsAppWhatsAppShare to MessengerMessengerShare to MoreAddThis Email for each member of staff85%90% (Up) Twenty one per cent do plan an email newsletter in the next six months which is a little redeeming. And 56% have people on their database who only receive email contact. That’s also great assuming it’s what those supporters wanted. The message is getting home for some.Admittedly, budgets are declining year on year since nfpSynergy launched this invaluable study in 2000. But for the 43% who have a dedicated budget, its value has actually doubled. The average 2006 budget is £22,680 compared with £12, 025 the year before. Sadly, though, the lion’s share of money appears to be going to technology and development rather than to marketing. I’ve one last area to look at. Despite the downbeat picture I’ve presented, I remain a genuine advocate of new media in the charity sector, in which I have great faith, and a supporter of the very valiant charity staff who work with it. So I love to read Virtual Promise’s perception and attitude questions, to see if I can get a glimpse of how people may really be feeling.To the question My charity is making the most of the Internet, 66% of 2006 respondents disagreed (slightly or strongly). When asked if senior staff were driving their strategy for the Internet only a little over a half (53%) thought so. To whether trustees were involved with their Internet strategy the figure plummeted – only 7% strongly agreed in 2006 compared with 33% in 2005. (Was it a passing interest?) And to All parts of the organisation feel responsible for making sure they make the best use of the Internet answers plummeted again – with a pitiful 8% strongly agreeing compared with last year’s 55%.My feeling is that Virtual Promise continues to confirm that it’s easier to accessorise your website than to tackle some of the major internal challenges facing charities today. It’s that lack of joined-up thinking chestnut. Whether that means for you people working in silos, or the lack of a cohesive multi-channel strategy, or top-down ownership and leadership, it’s bound to be holding everything back. And so although we can see the skills and confidence within charities steadily increasing, the Internet seems to me to be in a rut and marginalised. And until we have research which demonstrates the return on investment of all this hybrid activity, we won’t really be any the wiser as to what pays off.So it would be great to see the next version of Virtual Promise sacrifice a few of the ‘what is your charity doing’ questions for ones that deal with results. And hopefully the participation will be as enthusiastic as it ever was and just as honest. Sarah join Sarah’s blog to comment on this article and Virtual Promise 2006.nfpSynergy, who carry out the Virtual Promise research, report that they are “delighted with the response to 2006’s instalment of our annual survey of charities’ use of the internet, Virtual Promise.”nfpSynergy’s Ariel Spigelman added: “Because this is the only ongoing study of its kind in the UK it is vital that we get as many responses as possible from as broad a range of charities as possible, something we feel is being achieved and improved upon year on year as the tracking study progresses.“Indeed it seems that the changing nature of responses seems to correspond with the evolution of the web itself and more specifically charities’ use of and interaction with it: in 2000, when the survey first took place, the questionnaire was sent out on paper and the majority of responses came from the largest organisations in the sector; by 2006, the survey was being conducted entirely online with the lion’s share of responses coming from organisations with an annual turnover of less than £1 million, while still being well represented by medium and large organisations.“The data can be used in a variety of ways: as a benchmark when it comes to setting IT/web budgets in your organisation; as an internal advocacy tool for web teams to show where they could be allocated more funding set against organisations of a comparable size in the sector; as an insight into the shifting cultural attitudes when it comes to the importance of the web for charities along with many other uses.“We encourage people from all organisations large and small to participate (or continue participating) in this important, exciting and open and free study to help ensure its growing success to benefit the sector as a whole.” NfpSynergy’s Virtual Promise is the only new media benchmarking research in the charity sector, and after six consecutive years without competition, it’s virtually vintage. Sarah Hughes of strategy, fundraising and communications consultancy Charity21 analyses the report’s 252 Powerpoint slides of data.For those unfamiliar with Virtual Promise, it is a broad piece of research surveying charities’ use not only of the Internet or email, but of the broadest spectrum of electronic media. It provides a fairly comprehensive look at what charities are up to and what they have plans to get in to. Virtual Promise is exciting to have in your hands, but with 252 slides of raw data it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. Results are split into four groups; all respondents, charities with a turnover of under £1m, those with £1-10m in turnover and finally, over £10m. This makes the results far more indicative. The 2006 survey attracted 295 organisations, up by 72 on last year’s 223. Happily, each group was well represented with the under £1m’s being the largest. This seems only fair as, much with small businesses, this is what the charity sector is mostly made up of. Advertisement Howard Lake | 13 May 2007 | Newslast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *