The New Giving Normal

26 April 2020

Digital giving has a new ‘normal’.
But are you ready for it?

COVID-19 sent shockwaves across the sector (and the whole economy), with huge and immediate impact, that changed the giving and event fundraising landscape forever. 

For the first time on a mass scale, we began to see our normal lives become united and connected to community and tribe movements (take the example of the entire UK tribe fighting for things that matter like the wellbeing of the NHS). 

The world has become united in our lockdown and travel restrictions. 

Prior to the pandemic, the ‘old giving’ norm was very prescribed and had been conditioned by traditional event fundraising; running a marathon, cycling, or a swim.

The new giving ‘normal’ is anything, anywhere, anytime. Traditional event fundraising will still be a massive and important part of fundraising, it just won’t be the ‘everything’. 

The big question is whether your organisation is really ready for this new normal, without a global pandemic driving it. 

Some of the key areas we want to look at in this piece are:  

1. How virtual behaviours have deepened, how have others dealt with the crisis and what virtual and live events will look like in the future.

2. How individuals and communities will be looking to charities, organisations and brands give new opportunities, purpose and structures to digital and live experiences.

3. What has changed in the consumer landscape around empowerment, and trends for new content and greater freedom and control.

4. How should we be using data differently to build bigger and better online connections.

The Old Normal

The impact of COVID-19 has been emotional for us all. But as we begin to look back and see the future, we will likely question and realise three things:

1. Sector-wide event fundraising was flat in growth and generally fatigued. Mass participation events are expensive and have a difficult set of challenges to overcome. Something needed to change - why? Could it be #3 below?

2. Other forms of online giving have been growing well, and high above event fundraising levels - why? Could it be #3 below?

3. Consumers are all individuals, who form tribes and herds. Other industries have built out digital offerings that appeal to a more connected consumer, however, the charity sector has been slow on the whole in providing these experiences that individuals now demand: Frictionless and fast. Organisations in our sector generally don’t have the internal software capabilities that can empower staff, and drive adoption, to better manage supporters in their fundraising efforts.

Motivations changed and tribes grew

COVID-19 changed the way you worked. Your teams were forced to adapt, to become “more digital” both in terms of your offerings and in terms of your operations. Virtual meetings became commonplace. You didn’t just change, you changed fast.

COVID also changed how consumers consumed and participants participated. In moments, consumers became content creators, and participants created their own events. People didn’t need to be asked by a cause to get involved, they just did it. Nor did people wait for permission to get up and do something positive for the greater good.

Some event organisers and charities responded quickly and flipped their planned events to virtual challenges-  connecting their tribes and community immediately. Getting their audience hooked in quickly to their brand was critical by delivering relevant, cool things to their tribe. 

Event brands responded with success

Like most of us, I faced these challenges both as someone in the industry and as a passionate event participant and fundraiser. I had signed up for the London Landmarks Half Marathon in March and Ironman Lanzarote in May. I had other major events planned in June and July as part of my life’s drive for participation and mental health and wellbeing. All of these were postponed or canceled. Like a lot of us in the same position, I was left feeling empty without an active purpose, structure, or goal to focus on. Not only does this affect the day of the event, but it also affects motivation for training - a big part of any participation journey and connection to the ‘community’ of people involved with each event.

Within a few days, London Landmarks adjusted well with a ‘light’ virtual version, the Local Landmarks. I ran the adjusted ‘Local Landmarks’ along with more than 13,000 other participants in our new world - sharing photos and achievements online with a hashtag and preset overlay. It was our London Landmarks tribe.

Similarly, with over 97 events having been canceled at the time, Ironman took the opportunity to focus on keeping their community connected. Their focus was on their athletes and employees to provide purpose and structure in a crisis and they did it 100% digital. Within 2 weeks they put ‘virtual’ on steroids with a simple proposition for their athlete community and some light tech investment and 3rd party integrations. From a branding perspective, it looked futuristic by simply and cleverly applying a more digital, virtual effect to their login.

The Ironman Virtual Club was created and the tagline ‘anywhere is possible’ became their norm. Each week, Ironman created weekend Virtual challenges of Half Ironman, Olympic and Sprint distances - all were free to sign up. Every week they revealed the challenge via email and a Livestream show. Everyone, including some pro athletes, attempted the same challenge over the same time (over a weekend). Every participant connected their fitness apps to add them to the game, and to allow gamification of badges, results, and achievements. It enabled all of the riders to ride and compete on the same bike course through an app called Rouvy. The participant experience was all connected to a simple online personal profile portal and online community.

As they say, technology should enable small actions to make anything possible.

And Ironman’s participation numbers kept growing:

  • Week 1: 11,050 participants
  • Week 2: 23,007 participants
  • Week 3: 33,261 participants
  • Virtual community: 86,000 people

I just had to sign up for the Ironman Virtual Club and their first events and raise some money for charity. My participation in the first virtual ironman included me live streaming the whole thing on my Pancreatic Cancer UK fundraising page and raising money for charity. It was so much fun setting up the production, live streaming my event, and interacting with viewers/friends. Below are some interesting stats:

  • Launched page 1day before livestream and closed 1day after- fast, compressed accelerated fundraising (not the normal 90-120days)
  • 80% of donations came in during live stream (5% before + 15% after)
  • Live streamed for 4hrs:30mins
  • The average viewer watched for 2hr:00min:35seconds
  • Platform views, 45% Desktop, 42% Mobile
  • 93% direct views to my PCUK fundraising page (outside of Twitch)
  • 63% UK, 37% global views
  • £25 Average donation
  • 24 Donations on funraisin page
  • Higher page value than a Half Marathon

As a virtual event participant, my experience connected me to the community and gave me my purpose, below are some themes on how it made me feel being part of a virtual challenge:

1. Something to do, gamification - Virtual Ironman Badge (be part of the tribe)

2. Planning the idea and staging day before felt like “real” event prep

3. Setting up the staging “production” made it feel real

4. On the day - pushing the live button was like the start line and added pressure to perform like a real event

5. On the day - during the broadcast, very needed to be engaged and focused on chats, donations, commentary, thanking, sharing, etc (LOTS!!)

6. The family were very much part of the experience - adding elements and had lots of fun (throwing water, being fake paparazzi, feed stations, creating the finish line) - “it was fun and worthwhile for a great cause, we could participate and get creative and t was all done in the house and or live streamed - we don't normally participate like this and see him at the real events!!!” 

7. The virtual ride was a “real” ironman bike course I participated in Oct 2019 and recorded on garmin.

• I was in my house, riding a course virtually in a different country that I physically rode last year

Events and organisers are pivoting brilliantly

I spoke to Hank at Active Network in the creation of this piece, and his thoughts really resonated with me.

While the current climate is critical for many organisations, the one positive thing that this pandemic has highlighted is how quickly people and technology can respond when faced with a crisis. The level of innovation and creativity is absolutely outstanding, including how our two clients, mentioned in this post, have responded, adapted and thrived!

 Changing established processes and formats can be hard and take time – however I have been amazed at the speed of development seen in not only the products our clients are offering their clients but also how quickly we as a business are adapting to the new normal. Within 2-3 weeks we have deployed product enhancements to make offering virtual programs a breeze and seeing thousands of events converting, providing them with an opportunity to remain engaged with their participants throughout. Its critically important to maintain a relationship with your customer during this period.

 Adapting your event or program to virtual offers one set of challenges but it opens up further opportunities too – no longer are your potential customers limited to just those who would travel a certain number of miles – now it’s truly global!  Of course finding that new global audience provides its own set of challenges so work with a partner who not only invests heavily in product development but also can help solve other business critical needs (digital marketing, digital sponsorship engagement and of course digital fundraising). 

 It’s certainly a difficult period now but there is light at the end of the tunnel and there will be a mass of participants eager to get engaged with both in person and virtual events!

 Hank Jandrell 

Sales Director – ACTIVE Network

Unity and purpose is back

In most of our lifetimes, this is the very first time that technology has been the sole enabler to empower our resilience, creativity, and adaption. Never has there been such a single moment of unity and purpose for the ‘every person’. Never before have we so quickly been able to help and connect every human and community. Whether in online giving, or ‘zooming’, or new virtual infrastructure to develop new technologies and science to build insights and service.

Consumers have become hungry for personalised content which is coming from an array of media channels. Through technology people are more and more empowered to do their own thing, suited to them and connected to a specific collective purpose and goal. They want the ability and access to create and produce their own content with control of their story and the channels and networks they publish it.

Our self isolation and lockdown has meant out of the ordinary behaviours became normal. Look at the 1.5m volunteers that signed up to helpthe NHS within 24hrs, 2million TikTok downloads between March 16th to 22nd (65million in March alone) and 1B+ in total since launch, Captain Tom having a simple but hard challenge to walk 100 lengths of his garden and raising £21m with over 700,000 people in 50+ countries donating. 

More than ever we are more digital, more community-focused, and more tribal - looking for positive change.

Supercharge your digital community 

When the new normal becomes normal, your supporters and your entire community will look different. They will be supercharged and hungry for digital. They will want to be empowered to create new forms of content towards their fundraising efforts. Your supporters will be expecting your charity or organisation to be able to give them the tools they need. If you don’t, you could be in danger of losing their engagement and their support. People will want to be more empowered and community inspired where anything is possible. The difference will be there will be no *crisis or individual(s) that drive such big giving behaviors across the nation that’s uniting everyone and everything.

In this new normal, every charity will need to make the most of the macro community (the 'herd') that has come together for the better good of others. They'll need to ensure the individuals can thrive by building their own tribe and communities when the herd dissipates. It will be crucial to learn what you would keep and what new things will you create and amplify in the new normal world? And are you truly ready to empower your supporters in this new environment and give your supporters the controls and tools they need to tell their story in the way they want.

We can finally see this new digital giving landscape and mindset change for many more charities and supporters, and this will truly help us all grow giving and do more good in the world. We look forward to making the giving world fresh in digital and are excited about this potential and possibilities for you and your supporters.

What will it look like?

Supporters will continue to participate in a live event; a run, walk, swim for your cause, but they will also expect new digital experiences, empowerment and new content capabilities. Demand will continue to exist for the iconic and community events, and participants will want to pepper in virtual challenges and experiences as part of their journey.  

Consumers eyes have been opened up to the virtual content world at scale and will be equipped more than ever. With this increased awareness and engagement in virtual, it will be complementary to peoples busy and urban lifestyles. The charities and events that combine live and virtual experiences together will win in providing options of either or both experiences.

Lets look at some marketing automation opportunities this now creates in increasing “wallet share” or growing “experience share” which builds engagement and loyalty. Marketing automation could be used by charities to take participants through 'upgrades' - similar to how online retailers work with their promotions and online loyalty. So not only does the new virtual world platform provide new and relevant methods for participants to fundraise the way they want and share their content how they want, but the charities themselves can get real time access to data and use technology to segment participants, reward and recognise their behaviour for multiple fundraising attempts and take them through a well thought out journey to 'upgrade' their ongoing fundraising. Journey's can be put in place for example by looking at what content fundraisers are viewing (you can tag pages in your platform), what types of events people are fundraising for (you can tag events and DIY themes), the source of acquisition (channels people are coming from in the first place) and more. The data collected from all of this can be used to help acquire new participants/supporters and automate relevant promotions for fundraising for the right supporters.

Organisations building their “brands” online with truly connected communities with behaviour gamification, data and rewards will thrive. What an opportunity for charities and how cool will this be for your supporters.

Organisations that provide their supporters full and limitless control over content creation and multi channel integrations both to pull in new data and experiences and also push out rich user generated content easily across their networks will help the a new freedom and empowerment of supporters to socialise their giving story and liberate of you. 

Move away from disconnected analog web, registration, and giving platforms where you and your supporters don’t control the user experience digital capabilities. Ensure your charity gets *the primary spot to capture opt-in so you can communicate and engage with your supporters.

How to get ahead of the game

1. Combine Live and Virtual. Have a tech strong “always-on” virtual do it yourself option.

2. Build an online community that is truly connected and within your domain online and reward them.

3. Give your supporters limitless access and control to create and share content - let them free to be your content marketers.

4. Track and analyse participant behaviors to inform ongoing acquisition and retention tactics.

*there is more global crisis like the environment, unfortunately, every human is not changing behavior because of it (yet!)

About Keith Williams

Keith lost his father far too early from cancer when his dad was 38 years old. He left behind a 9year old boy (keith), an older brother and a mother who had lost her soulmate and had become a widow

Keith soon realised that life was not for wasting and instead, for living every day. It became important to be a change-maker and do his bit to pass forward positive behaviours and meaningful experiences to others. Technology progressed and became the method for Keith to connect to things that matter; events, life experiences, doing good for others.  

In the early 2000’s Keith became inviled with tech. At 38 years old, he completed his first Ironman in Frankfurt to prove to himself he was the healthiest he could be. His mother, wife and son were at the start and finish line - the whole race was intense and the last lap of the marathon towards the finish line was emotional for everyone. 

Ever since then, participating in events with others while doing good for causes that matter has become one of Keith’s most important things in life, like it has for millions of others.

When he’s not bragging about his latest ironman, actually even when he is, Keith is the global COO of Funraisin.

About Funraisin

Funraisin provides unparalleled freedom for charities to create amazing digital supporter experiences, grow their donor base, and drive revenue. Launching 2016, Funraisin has grown to become the fundraising engine behind hundreds of top tier charities worldwide. With a deep focus on the user experience, the all-in-one suite of fundraising tools provides charities with the ability to level-up their fundraising and control their brand online.

Visit to learn more.

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