DONATE - Can Arts Fundraising go mobile?

DONATE - Can Arts Fundraising go mobile?

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Paul Cutts is the CEO of the National Funding Scheme, the pioneer programme of ‘DONATE’; the multi platform digital fundraising tool. We were lucky to have him come to present to the Arts Fundraising Fellows earlier in January.

Paul started his presentation by painting the bleak but realistic picture of funding for the arts in the UK:

  • One third of local councils have cut arts budgets by 100%;
  • Arts Council England and central Government funds have progressively and subtly depleted over the last four years;
  • More organisations are competing for funds from trusts and foundations;
  • Some of the larger trusts are winding down having spent all of their money.

And finally, every year, there is an oversupply of arts graduates to the growing sector. There is more competition, but there is less money. What a cheerful landscape!

Paul believes that diversifying income streams by targeting individuals could be the solution to the funding crisis. DONATE is the national funding scheme’s multi-platform digital tool that will make giving to the arts and heritage sector easier.  Paul explains that 94% of adults use a mobile phone and 51% use a smart phone. If we can inspire audiences at the point of highest emotional engagement (i.e. whilst observing a production or an exhibition) and if we can successfully persuade them to donate, then mobile technologies can be utilised as a portal for collecting donations. That is, audiences can make a donation then and there using their mobile phone or other mobile device.

Research from the Holburne Museum in Bath, one of the organisations involved in the pilot, showed that the web based app was the most popular, collecting 89% of donations. 11% of donations were collected via SMS.  Across all the organisations in the pilot the largest donation was £3750 and the smallest was £3.

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Like everything else in life donating is now digital. I am currently using the Just Giving tool to raise money from my peers for Bowel Cancer UK. My nan sponsored me £3.50 (in cash) and I must admit as a digital native it took me at least 20 minutes to work out what to do with it, I was quite shocked and appalled when I finally realised I would actually have to go to the bank in person! We now expect a streamlined automated system, a portal straight from the donors’ pocket into the bank. The automated system is one of the benefits of DONATE. Like Just Giving the system automatically collects Gift aid for you and (if permitted) collects data on your donors and thanks them for you.

Paul took some time to describe why DONATE is different from other digital ‘collection tin’ tools. Firstly they are a charity and they do not charge UK charities to register. Secondly they only take 4% commission on donations. Some other commercial enterprises take 5% (although My Donate from BT is free). They do not promote a restricted funding model like Crowd fundraising and they do not promote peer to peer fundraising like Just Giving. Predominantly they lead the way on fostering digital monetary exchanges between cultural institutions and their donors, and unlike My Donate they provide posters to organisations and a QR code which is an alternative way of donating via a mobile device other than texting.

Paul notes that cultural organisations must put in the legwork in terms of learning about their audiences and marketing. Focusing on the cause and not on the technology will drive your fundraising. It doesn’t matter how good your ‘collection tin’ is. Firstly you need to inspire audiences and secondly you need to ask for money in the right way, at the right time.

Some arts organisations use their own automated systems to collect donations, unfortunately this can be problematic where advances in technology mean that arts organisations are constantly having to pay to update their software and systems.

So DONATE sounds like a straight-forward, cheap and easy way to collect money from donors online and in person. You can register to use the tool here.

Thanks to Paul for his insights.