The consumerisation of giving, which is to say that the giving experience is more like a consumer transaction, is a debated concept. However, it can provide additional ways for charities to use commercial principles and practices to improve the donor experience.
One of the most common critiques is that consumerisation or productisation of giving reduces philanthropy to a simple transaction. However, commercial transactions/buying decisions have emotional depth and are marketed in ways to appeal to our emotions and senses as well as logical facets. Evoking emotion-led purchasing using bundling, boxing, and branding is no new thing – charities can learn something from these practices.
There are 2 key lessons that charities can learn. Meaningfulness and accessibility – whereby charities can attract new donors and increase engagement with existing ones. This isn’t limited to individual donations but can be applied to corporate schemes and major donors.
The most common way of productising philanthropy, is by packaging the act of donating as a product, by which a donor can effectively “buy impact”.
This has several implications.
It can resonate emotionally with donors. By packaging giving alongside compelling stories and visuals that showcase the impact of your work, you can connect with donors on a deeper level.
It’s a memorable experience – the “product” allows giving to be a memorable interaction with your charity with the possible added benefit of being shareable on social channels.
There is a clearer association of their giving with your mission and values by relating the “product” of giving with the impact it aims to achieve.
It increases accountability on your end to provide updates or reports. The “products” provide an expectation as to the delivery of your campaign or project in which they have invested.
Tris Lumley says in Philanthropy Impact that “philanthropists and funders are demanding more ‘off the shelf products’ that show a clear return on investment.”
Many charities like BookTrust or Keech Hospice Care have already applied these approaches simply by giving prospective donors the expectation of what their donation can achieve.
With a more tech-enabled approach, Samaritans Purse’s Annual Christmas ShoeBox campaign allows users to pack online by choosing products that the donor won’t see but that are accompanied by past stories of impact. Making every choice compelling in some way. As a large charity, they have also been able to invest in enabling donors to track to see where their shoebox goes.
World Vision uses bundling to create product-like donation amounts that people can checkout.
Teenage Cancer Trust invites donors to make a difference in their call to action.
Guide Dogs could have just asked people to donate so they could use the funds for all their dogs, but their Sponsor Puppy appeals to potential donors and provides an engaging experience for donors and a definite source of income to support a particular need.
Beam not only allows you to choose a person to fund into work but also has created a special programme for people that give regularly, and you can receive multiple updates from the people you impact.
Charity Water’s famous ‘The Spring’ is an example of creating a community around subscription giving, however much people can give, where they can see the impact of their donations. They also recognise some people can fund an entire project, so they have added that option too.
Just as these principles can apply to individual donors. This transactional way of buying impact can create an engaging way for companies to fulfil their CSR.
Carbon offsetting and tree planting schemes have been successful in getting businesses to participate in “buying impact”, as Ecologi has done with their scheme here. Again, there is an engaging experience by reporting on the “return on investment” – or the impact achieved through giving.
Charities can learn from this to engage their corporate partners in the social impact they are having. Whilst most charities won’t have the resource to create fancy dashboards – they can create an experience, borrowing principles from commercial transactions that start with buying impact and receiving updates about the project they invested in.
As well as creating a meaningful and memorable experience. Consumerisation of the giving experience also allows charities to implement accessible giving. Something that can attract new donors simply through convenience and choice.
Charity + Commerce provides an array of collaboration opportunities to make giving convenient. Being accessible in different places where people are already shopping or going about their everyday lives can increase income and awareness.
Some of these existing partnerships also offer choice through productising the giving experience, allowing consumers to choose a charity through a menu of options so they can find a cause that resonates with them. By allowing people to choose where donations are directed through productisation, you can create a more personalised and engaging experience, which may increase satisfaction and loyalty in the long term.
Whilst some of these programmes and partnerships offer only a small source of income, they are also low effort and can contribute to other fundraising goals.
These allow shoppers to give through their purchases at select retailers. All you need to do is tell your supporters they can do this.
- Easy Fundraising – the UK’s biggest give-as-you-shop scheme.
- Give as you Live – another scheme for shoppers to use.
- Work for Good – slightly different by enabling businesses to fundraise through their sales or through other initiatives.
As well as allowing consumers to give as they shop through roundup features, modern banking apps can act as marketplaces, with charities able to gain brand awareness and convenience for users by donating directly.
- Revolut’s Donation Feature
- Monzo’s in-app charity donations
- The Mind gives people the option of donating with PayPal – as its quick and easy
- Many charities like Maddi’s Butterflies are utilising JustGiving pages which enable users to donate or fundraise themselves
Individual retailer partnerships
Partnerships with retailers provide unique opportunities such as greeting card schemes from Tesco to independent artists, donated goods like Goods for Good are doing, or corporate giving. Local and independent retailers are just as important to partner with as national and multi-national brands.
Loyalty point schemes
Many B2C and B2B brands like Printed.com have invested in customer loyalty schemes, allowing users to build up points and save on their next order. Sometimes these can be donated to a large choice of charities as well.
Corporate perk schemes
Similarly, corporate perk packages and platforms like PerkBox offer the option of donating points to charity causes.
Social media can be particularly effective for engaging with potential donors, especially younger audiences more accustomed to digital interactions. These platforms are making it easier to donate through stickers and buttons you can add to your profile – so that it becomes an end-to-end platform for users to donate to causes they care about.
Other technology like JustGiving integrates well with other social channels and is a platform that people are familiar with and find convenient.
Integrating these with other income sources
Fundraising campaigns can be doubly effective if combined with other methods, for example, you can literally double your donations by applying match funding to productised “buy impact” donations.
Legacy giving is one of the most valuable sources of income across the charity sector – how can charity commercial partnerships or productising the giving experience help with legacy giving?
If applying meaningful giving – legacy giving can be created as a package tied up with the memories and legacies of those giving in their wills and the future impact they can have.
As well as signposting on how to give in your will, like Tenovus Cancer Care, there are ways in which you can integrate legacy giving into existing commerce. For example, by partnering with solicitors and lawyers.
Farewill is an online will writer making it accessible for charities and donors to do legacy giving.
Every charity is different, but think about how your values and mission can inform the way you can promote and elevate donating to inspire and engage donors with what you are doing.