The best of times, or the worst of times? | DMA

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The best of times, or the worst of times?


Is this the best of times or the worst of times?
Charities are facing challenges from all sides. Trust, corporate competition, the speed of technological change and changing demographics are all genuine threats. Yet each threat has within it the seed of a potential revolution – a reinvention of the value of charities to people’s lives.

1. Falling trust will lead people to re-evaluate the role of charities.
The connection between the values of charities and their supporters has become eroded by short-termism and technique-led marketing. At the same time, trust in all institutions is falling, and charities can no longer rely on the ‘get out of jail free’ card they’ve always held. Meanwhile, the media and regulatory bodies are waiting to pounce.
Implication: Charities will need to become more authentic, honest and transparent when they engage supporters and prospects.

2. Competition from business and social enterprise will grow.
Business has woken up to ‘good’. People are increasingly able to meet their practical needs and their desire to do good through relationships with commercial brands and social businesses. This is a long-term trend led by a cultural and demographic shift. However audiences are demanding authentic impact not just ‘sadvertising’.
Implication: Charities will have an increasingly important role to play in helping commercial brands deliver both shared value and genuine impact, but it will be through more collaborative partnerships than the traditional ‘charity of the year model’.

3. People increasingly want charities to reflect their needs and desires.
Consumption has peaked. We don’t want or need more ‘stuff’. We’re increasingly seeking quality over quantity, and experiences over possessions. We’re spending more, billions every year, on experiences that help us create and share memories. But increasingly we want all the brands we interact with to enrich our lives and reward us beyond transaction/donation.
Implication: Charities can no longer rely on guilt or duty. They’ll need to enrich the lives of their supporters; educate them, entertain them and give them experiences.

4. People have a growing sense of agency and the tools to go straight to source.
There’s a growing sense that authentic grass-roots initiatives are challenging the charity model. People are creating communities, delivering aid, organising petitions, developing new models of change. This reflects the peer-led disruption that all organisational models, from travel to finance to entertainment, are facing.
Implication: Charities have an opportunity to disrupt their own models and offer the kind of agile, technology-led delivery and engagement methods that people are seeking.

5. People are changing the way they transact with brands, and this will change how they engage with charities.
Whether we’re giving, volunteering or campaigning; working with or receiving services from charities, we’re now engaging through dozens of channels – most of which didn’t exist a few years ago. People and organisations are increasingly looking at mobile, social, wearable and contactless technologies to deliver efficiency – seamless transactions – but these often decrease emotional connection.
Implication: There’s an opportunity for charities to look at how new channels can deliver authentic connection, meaning and emotion – not just efficiency.

We could be at the dawn of a new age for charities. But it won’t be charity as we know it. There’s room for a fresh approach and a commitment to change.

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