These are the trends shaping the landscape.
It’s been over 80 years since the first ever ‘sponsor a child’ initiative and almost 30 since the animal version helped launch a raft of like-minded products across the non-profit sector. For a regular amount each month, donors would receive updates, personalised content and the chance ‘purchase’ items or mementos to get closer to their fluffy friend.
It’s been five years since the launch of Mindful Monsters, the subscription product designed for children whilst appealing to parents, which has precipitated a new wave of subscription products – e.g. Red Cross’s Kindfulness initiative, WaterAid’s Fempowered and, who could forget, UNICEF’s Paddington’s Postcards.
Consumer appetite for subscription services, paired with a desire to support good causes, has long been a powerful combination of forces. It’s been successful not just in helping to acquire new donors and raise unrestricted funds but also in helping to build brand awareness, extending a charity’s reach beyond their typical audiences. It can also provide an additional stream of reliable revenue that allows an organization to deliver meaningful solutions.
So, what next? Will it be a trip into the meta-verse for a virtual offering that has much lower production costs or an app that can offer a new utility to help audiences solve a problem they didn’t know they had? We take a look at some of the product areas and trends gaining traction in the sector.
On the rapid rise
Micro-donations represent a way to democratize giving, allowing each and every person to support causes they care about through smaller and more affordable gifts. These grassroots fundraising campaigns provide individuals with the opportunity to be a part of something bigger, which promotes community, participation and ownership.
We can’t talk about this trend and not talk about the product that has seen large-scale global success by building on it – World Food Program’s ShareTheMeal. Earmarked as the world’s first app fighting hunger, participants are invited to donate just $0.80 to share a meal with someone less fortunate – a small ask that has led to over 162m meals donated raising over $130 million.
Not only is the product simple and affordable, it has a personal touch with its global remit allowing users to decide where they want to help and see meals delivered.
Global prize draws
Offering the opportunity to give for good and perhaps receive something in return, prize draws take value exchange to the next level with the prospect of a lucky few receiving something large scale for a one-off small donation.
Omaze have quickly become a leading facilitator in this field, teaming up with leading causes and offering life-changing prizes to help raise large sums of money.
As a third party facilitator, they have been able to build a large-scale donor base that organizations can tap into to raise seven-figure sums. With 10 prolific charity partners, they are perhaps best known for their house draws, which often see $1.5+ million raised in exchange for the chance to win a new home.
This prize draw shows the opportunity to build on the lottery mechanism that many non-profits have seen work well over the last few decades and offers a platform for brands and charities to come together to benefit various causes. It feels like a trend we’ve yet to see more from.
When physical and digital collide
There’s no doubt the last few years accelerated all of our digital behaviors and habits, with people finding themselves shopping for groceries online for the first time, listening to podcasts instead of attending gigs or stadiums and completing physical events virtually be it a coffee morning or a marathon.
Whilst we may be at a point soon where we can see the end of the pandemic, many argue our new behaviors and the mode of flexibility offered by the virtual medium aren’t going away anytime soon (as proven by hybrid working). This presents both a challenge and opportunity for non-profits looking to raise money from events either in-person or with a virtual element.
Teenage Cancer Trust have tied this trend in with our next one – gaming – offering audiences the chance to take part in a Game-A-Thon. A participant is sponsored to play games for 12 hours and raise some money in the process. With prizes on offer for those who raise over a certain amount, the Game-A-Thon is already at almost 70% of its fundraising target 10 days out from launch.
UNICEF USA has launched a Trick-or-Treat QR code across the United States, allowing organizations to hang it in their window to show their support. UNICEF USA has adapted their program over the years: First, they collected loose change in hand-painted orange milk cartons to distribute powdered milk to hungry children in post-World War II Europe, then they introduced iconic little orange coin boxes, and now they have a brand-new, modern and simple-to-use QR code. The Trick-or-Treat campaign has evolved to keep pace with a rapidly changing world.
Bringing together games and giving has slowly grown over the past decade with more and more organizations considering how they can partner with games to build brand and visibility (think the International Red Cross bringing peace to Fortnite). Large-scale events like Jingle Jam have the added component of activity happening in giving season, raising over $2.5 million for causes in just 14 days.
Our client Médecins Sans Frontières (better known in the U.S. as Doctors Without Borders) has partnered with the organization Games Done Quick for an annual weeklong, 24/7 gaming marathon, raising millions of dollars every year and MSF’s profile among gamers. And our client JDRF, which is fighting to end type 1 diabetes (T1D), has taken a more grassroots approach. They’ve partnered with individual streamers on JDRF’s Game2Give campaign, which has raised more than $2 million since late 2019 and helped build a sense of community among gamers affected by T1D.
Some nonprofits have used existing tools like TapJoy and DonorPoints to build on this trend and essentially incentivize monthly giving. TapJoy, in particular, is geared toward gamers giving out points in exchange for gifts.
Ones to watch
A potential product area that fits hand in hand with some issues such as climate is behavior offsetting. For example, CarbonFund calculates your carbon footprint at either an individual or business level, allowing you the opportunity to offset it.
Woodland Trust in the UK and the Rainforest Foundation allow either individuals or companies to donate trees or land directly or on behalf of their employees as a way to reward contribution as well as build a positive impact in the world.
As a growing trend, this offers an interesting opportunity for non-profits who could consider offsetting in place of a match fund or could incorporate this feature and mechanism into an existing giving product as a way of expanding its value and utility.
Supper clubs with a conscience
Dining out in people’s homes has brought a new personalized lens to eating out, and it wasn’t long before this trend made its way into the charity sector. Five years ago #CookforSYRIA was a charity dinner that quickly became a large-scale banquet, selling out in days. It’s now a recipe book and peer2peer initiative that allows people to either host or attend a dinner, even spinning off into #bakeforSYRIA and, more recently, #cookforUKRAINE.
With over $1 million raised and counting, this is no small feat and demonstrates the reward that nonprofits can reap when they creatively tap into trends.
It also offers an opportunity for charities and causes to partner with restaurants to raise money while raising their profile. More than 10,000 specials served in top restaurants have since benefited the cause.
Tangible giving – or describing exactly how funds will be used – can have a significantly positive impact on giving rates, as it helps to build a case for giving when the impact of one’s donation is less obvious.
Some organizations such as Versus Arthritis are going the extra mile. Their social venture Arthr offers products and collections specially adapted for those with arthritis; individuals are either able to buy something directly or for someone else. There’s no doubt that this product requires an upfront investment ( likely shared between the charity and other venture partners), but it offers a unique way for audiences to gain value from the organization and for corporations to show their support too.
These diverse and growing trends are offering new ways for charities to engage with new or existing supporters. Balancing production and investment costs with return can be a challenge when looking to try something new, but the scale here shows that when the right decisions are made, it can pay off in dividends.
Looking to expand or grow the way you’re gaining funds from donors? We’d love to hear from you.