With the speed and ease of the digital world altering consumer behaviour, a fast, easy-to-use digital service is now expected on all platforms. Adapting to this shift is essential for all organisations that want to remain relevant, and for charities, increasing and maintaining engagement, and making the donation process user-friendly and streamlined is essential. Figaro Digital spoke to Matt Jerwood, Head of Digital Fundraising at Oxfam, about the ways Oxfam is using its digital services to increase transparency and provide a flexible and engaging service for the modern philanthropist.
Responding To Changing Expectations: Speed And Convenience
With consumers carrying out so many daily activities on their mobiles, Oxfam was aware that ease of donation via mobile should be the focus of its budget and attention. The ‘My Oxfam App’ has been developed to provide a fast, convenient way for people to donate and bring supporters closer to the cause they are giving to. “Very few charities have truly moved with the change in people’s norms – digital has transformed the expectations of the supporter, and we really have to stay on our toes – people expect things to be fast, bite-sized and effortless”, explains Jerwood. As people are now used to hailing a cab or changing their central heating on their phone, asserting the charity in the mobile space was vital: “We had to make it possible for people to support us easily – why should it be easier to spend £2 on Amazon than it is to donate £2 to Oxfam?”.
Transparency At The Heart – Avoiding The ‘Black Hole’
Transparency was at the heart of the development of the Oxfam app. “We have created a feedback loop – at least once a week, a story is added to a supporter’s timeline on the app that will show what Oxfam is working on, and reassures the supporter that Oxfam is spending their donation well”, says Jerwood. Oxfam uses first-person content in order to share its frontline work, allowing supporters to gain an even greater level of connection. “We’ve got (Oxfam employees) doing selfie videos out in the field with their smartphones, showing where they are and telling people what they are doing”. As well as the app, Oxfam are also innovating their approach on their other channels to achieve this connection and transparency. “As part of a recent giving initiative, we invited people to give ten pounds via SMS. This money went on a cash card in Iraq, and could be spent on Oxfam approved items, at Oxfam approved retailers, for Oxfam approved prices. We then text back the person who had made the donation after the money had been spent in Iraq, to tell them where the money had gone”.
Consumers often fear a lack of control over their money when they give to charity, so reducing this fear was a major consideration in the app’s development. “Some people may feel like they sign up and never hear from a charity again and the money just goes into a black hole” explains Jerwood. Oxfam introduced a dial with which you could adjust the amount you give month on month, so that supporters can give what they want, when they want. “In order to aid our acquisition, we wanted to be straightforward with people – by providing them with a dial that they have control of to adjust their gift”. This makes Oxfam unique, as no other charity has a flexible direct debit like this. “We hope this flexibility will drive greater retention, because people may not stop giving altogether. But rather, may decide to decrease slightly instead – we are hoping that we will see that pattern”, says Jerwood.
Attention To Detail In The User Journey
Continuous testing is essential for Oxfam to ensure it remains receptive to user needs, and it constantly experiments with different ways to engage its donors. “We introduce challenges to the website, or to any project. For example, we put GIF type videos in our emails with the view to explore if that will increase engagement on the email with the video, versus one without. We monitor it to review which one comes out better, which becomes the new control, and then we introduce another new challenger”. When developing specific products, Oxfam focuses on testing on a variety of real users to get a useful blend of perspectives, including both supporters and non-supporters. For the app, for example, a front end developer would make live changes in between user interviews to adjust and make improvements in real-time, based on user feedback. Being alert and receptive to user needs means Oxfam could create a streamlined app that is easy to navigate.
Social Media: Getting The Blend Right
Social media allows Oxfam to break down and segment its complex network of fundraising, emergency updates, and events. Getting the blend right on social media is essential. “We want to avoid reducing the gravity of serious emergencies and issues by getting the blend right when we also talk about all the fun stuff that we’re doing,” explains Jerwood. Different segments of the Oxfam organisation have their own social media accounts – for example, Oxfam music festival Oxjam has its own Twitter and Facebook page, and individual charity shops (of which Oxfam has over 650 around the country) have their own Twitter accounts. Social media is therefore an ideal tool to divide up the operation. “There is the potential for a lot of noise, which is both a help and a hindrance. There is, however, enough space for different people to have slight subsets in a big social media world – we then try to intelligently bring that together through promotion and using hashtags, for example”.
Social channels also allow Oxfam to have a wide reach and further aid its transparency by providing evidence of what is going on in an emergency – “we can very quickly put out a simple ask, which is something that has worked well previously – putting up an image with a text donate call to action in it, for example”. Keeping it simple is also key – “it’s about saying to people, if you’d like to support us, here’s how you do it, and putting out content to keep people informed and aware of what we do” says Jerwood. The way Oxfam organises its social media therefore allows it to get messages out quickly and clearly in emergencies, whilst also having more light-hearted fundraising events happening at the same time in a separate social media space.
Oxfam’s digital innovation is ensuring it is a charity firmly planted in the 21st century. It is providing a convenient and transparent service for the modern user, and allowing increasingly savvy consumers a window into the work of Oxfam and what their money is supporting. This is allowing it to connect with and reassure its supporters in new ways, and provide a type of donation that is flexible and user-friendly – meeting consumer expectations, and then exceeding them.