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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Your charity’s future depends on your investment in digital

This opinion piece is almost 10 years old

Conrad Rossouw, digital manager at Shelter Scotland, on how charities can embrace technology while still keeping within budget

In the hi-tech era, charities have gained a bad reputation when it comes to digital marketing. Media commentary has fed the idea that charities are lagging behind the commercial sector in their approach to digital marketing and, in particular, social media.

What is important is that if you're to be good at digital, you need investment. And here comes the tricky part: at a time when money is tight – and everyone is competing for donations – how do you justify investing more in digital than in other areas of your organisation?

The thing to realise is that investing in digital doesn't always require a big spend to get a big win. In this article I'll try and show you how it could be done with a relatively modest investment.

Conrad Roussouw

The thing to realise is that investing in digital doesn't always require a big spend to get a big win

Conrad Roussouw


Your website is your most important asset. It's the first point of call for many of your users. It's the place where supporters are expecting to donate and service users are expecting to find help. You need to structure your website to tell a story and have a clear call to action on every page. Ask yourself: what's the one thing I'd like a user visiting this page to do and make that call to action stand out. Be blatant.

Free or low-cost: Wordpress is a free content management system that you host on your own server and it’s easily extendable with plugins and themes to tailor it to your needs. You can purchase a pre-made mobile responsive theme from which would set you up with everything you need to get your website going.

Mid Range: If you’d like a drag and drop, plug and play interface then or are great tools to build a site.

Call for pricing: A web developer is still your best choice as they’ll be able to build a site that fits your needs.

Mobile and donations: Mobile and tablet usage have been on the up for some time – in 2014 the number of mobile devices is set to outstrip the number of desktop and laptop computers, while mobile will become the primary way people access the internet.

With more people donating to charity by mobile, it’s important to make sure your charity is tapping into the growing market for mobile donations. Text to donate is now becoming the norm for big fundraising drives. We saw millions being fundraised on mobile during the #icebucketchallenge and #nomakeupselfie campaigns.

If you're still unable to accept donations online, then it's time to change that.

Get started with donations

Low cost: Just Giving,Paypal donations or have starter versions where you only pay for transaction fees, that means you don’t pay anything if you don’t get any donations.

Call for pricing:iRaiser has many more options and customisations and they also have an option for users to start their own fundraising pages.

Social media content

Social media has matured. It’s not enough to just have a presence, you now need to tell stories; content is king on social media, specifically images and videos.

The latest smartphones have more processing power than computers at the top of their game had 5 years ago. The challenge we're facing now is how do we create enough content to feed all these channels we're on?

The answer is that supporters are taking more photos and videos with their camera phones than ever before, so use them. This is a challenge for us at Shelter Scotland as well and our recent #myhappyhome campaign has been a great way to ask our supporters to send us photos of what makes them happy in their home.

A relatively simple idea has given us a bridge from talking about the plight of homelessness and badly housed people in Scotland, to the great things that make a home a home. The question for you is, what content can your supporters provide you?

Free: talk to your supporters and ask them take videos and pictures to tell their story

Now that you have the building blocks you need, all you need is the time. Will you give digital the time and investment it deserves?

Conrad Rossouw is Digital Manager at Shelter Scotland



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Saeed Mohammadi
almost 10 years ago
Hello Conrad, Thank you for your informative article in regard to charity website. There is a website for our charity work but unfortunately we do not receive communication and/or any donation! Could you please let me know, if it is possible to meet you for further charity collaboration as well as website improvement. I look forward to hearing from you. With Thanks, Saeed Mohammadi
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