It’s Christmas time. The shops are full of tinsel and presents, radio stations are broadcasting Christmas songs on a seemingly endless loop, and charity reminders are dropping through our letterbox asking us to contribute to one deserving cause or another.
And because it’s Christmas we may well be more inclined to be generous, to donate to help the good work which is being done on our behalf; supporting animals or ancient buildings, helping people in this country or in far-flung corners of the world. But are charities doing all they can to ensure their message reaches as wide an audience as possible? One report recently would suggest not.
Sitting at the beginning of December the Lord’s select committee on charities was told by representatives from Google and Twitter that more could be done to improve the digital presence of many charities. Interestingly parallels were drawn between the charity sector and business, with smaller charities being seen as being more nimble and ready to accept digital practices, in other words acting more like start-up businesses; whilst large charities were slower to build digital proficiency.
Commenting on this David Skelton, the public policy and government relations manager at Google, said that for many charities digital was “not just a nice to have, but also a fundamental way to help them achieve their core mission.” This is particularly important given the fact that the way in which charities communicate with potential donors is undergoing a forced change. On 1 December the Fundraising Regulator announced its plans for the fundraising regulation service (FRS) which is due to be launched in 2017. This will not only enable members of the public to opt out of receiving communications from selected charities, it will also require charities to seek affirmative consent on a regular basis from supporters and contributors.
Alongside guidance which will help people to best manage their contact with charities, the FRS will offer a mainly IT-based opt out system, with telephone backup support for those who are vulnerable or do not have robust IT connections. All charity communications will be affected although a subsequent clarification has confirmed that charities may continue to get in touch with people in respect of certain specified “legitimate interests” including payment via standing order or direct debit. In addition to the ‘opt out’ process, signposting will also be provided to the telephone and mail preference services.
Irrespective of the changes it is vital that charities still maintain good and open links with potential supporters in order to maximise the chances of carrying out their mission. Building good digital links for supporters, donors and recipients alike is an important element of the communication mix but so too is ensuring that the charity is easily contactable by telephone.
Making use of an 0300 telephone number is one way in which charities can stand out from the general run of businesses. 0300 numbers are reserved solely for non-profit making organisations and charities was charged at the same rate as other numbers, making them free for most ‘minutes’ packages.
But having a memorable telephone number is only the start. Charities need to ensure that once the number is called there is someone available to answer. Naturally a larger charity will have more people available to answer the telephone at any one time but, large or small, every charity needs to work out a telephone response solution which maximises the chance of callers getting through. Virtual switchboards can help to calls to be diverted along predefined pathways and are easily re-programmed according to need. Answer phones are an option for those times when there is no one available to take calls but if they are used it is important that calls are then returned as quickly as possible.
For those charities which are looking to maximise their presence, Callagenix has a range of charity numbers available alongside a special package of phone services which it offers to charities.