What is the sector's next biggest media channel and opportunity for growth?

What is the sector's next biggest media channel and opportunity for growth?

Guest Bloggers | 14 January 2020

Investing in better technology to build greater and better connected volunteering communities could be transformational for many charities and the people that care for your cause, says Keith Williams.

First challenge

Many charities are struggling with new audience acquisition, retention and income generation. It is becoming harder and harder to acquire new audiences and getting people to give in a challenging consumer landscape. We need to remember we are competing not just against other charities, but everything that is grabbing the debit/credit cards and individuals attention.

How consumers are living their lives and consuming digital and media has never been so fast moving. When most organisations finally address the challenge, it's often too slow and too late, creating what I would call legacy consumer debt. Never has there been a bigger risk for those organisations who do not invest to adapt fast and transformation themselves in a constant state of being relevant.

Something that has not changed though is that humans are tribal and like to be part of a herd. As humans we have a purpose and the human desire to communicate and connect with something bigger. What has changed is the variety of ways to connect tribes together, the speed of amplifying a purpose, which is fundamentally a result of communication, innovation and evolution.

You may have heard of the phrase ‘digital transformation’, but for the non-profit sector I would call it 'the next giving transformation and revolution’. It does not just include financial, the gift of time is crucial also, especially in a world full of time poor people. We are at the end of one consumer chapter and beginning the next big transformation. In this blog, we can look at a couple of ways to leverage an existing asset and build a social movement to enable growth and success.

Second challenge

With nearly 38% of the UK population volunteering to a cause they care about this is likely one of the biggest “for good” movements. And to put it simply, without volunteers help, 80% of charities would not survive. The danger is up to 35% of UK volunteers who think their experience could be better-organised and 9% of potential volunteers don't end up volunteering because the group/organisation took too long to respond.

A recent example is the bushfires in Australia where 90% of firefighters were all volunteers. Just imagine where the regions and communities would be without their help. And it doesn't just stop there. The roll down impact is huge with other planned and unplanned volunteer support needed to look after rescue animals, people who have lost their homes, or are in need of food and water. Surely volunteers are at the core and the purest form of human generosity and goodness.

Similar to consumer and giving behaviours across various demographics, changing volunteer patterns mean that, more than ever before, charities are also having to grapple with new ways of reaching them.

The potential solution? Thank goodness!

So imagine…

To me, volunteers are the very example of tribes and herds and are connected to the purpose and macro and micro community movements. This is what people love to be part of. This is also good news as being part of a tribe is a human behaviour that's stayed consistent for millions of years. We just need to embrace it.

Every volunteer that has supported a charity is, or was highly connected in your cause. This means a meaningful purpose exists, and there is no better meaning than feeling the impact you have made to a cause or person that needed your help – "GIVE - GET”.

Every volunteer has access to 300+ of their friends, and their friends secondary networks, this must be one of the biggest assets, engaged audiences and media channels that a charity could amplify content on, right?

So let's get this right on the formula: volunteers x tribes x herds x purpose x connected audiences = biggest media channel

I believe we need to rethink the next generation volunteering proposition by making it more instant, flexible and digital. Maybe we can learn from emerging consumer giving trends such as how Crowdfunding changed the landscape of instant personal giving and impact.  Therefore a change in top of funnel acquisition and tools that get into the data and engagement programs that can unlock the volunteers true value.

Potential of a volunteer


We have 20 million people in the UK volunteering and wanting to help – imagine the potential if we really got to know them.

Until very recently, I was Head of JustGiving, their mission is to grow the world giving and help raise more money. After leaving JustGiving I undertook a very busy one month volunteering schedule with some small charities, and it was one of the best experiences I have had. With this experience, and existing energy and passion about other forms of giving, I wanted to try and bring some attention to volunteering as I don’t believe it gets the airtime it deserves. There is merit in looking at how we look to transform and disrupt the wider volunteer giving space. Volunteering may not necessarily give hard cash, but it should be valued the same, so we should be investing more in better technology to build greater and better connected volunteering communities. It could be transformational for many charities and the people that care for your cause.

If you would like to get under the skin of some more data, insights and recommendations, this white paper is a great place to start. 

Keith Williams, Strategic Advisor to Rosterfy. 


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