Paul Hanrahan
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Digital channels have revolutionised the way we fundraise. Charities and not-for-profits have a huge number of digital tools at their fingertips to connect with their supporters and facilitate donations through their online marketing channels.

Over the next few years, another revolution is set to play out as the relentless advancement in technology throws up yet more new ways to generate income from donations. For cultural organisations, keeping up with these changes will be crucial.

Contactless payment

You’ve more than likely encountered our first next generation donation technology in your day to day life. But it’s not so common yet in donations.

As physical cash becomes a thing of the past, people are already expecting to see contactless as a payment option in shops. Now charities are realising that this quick and easy solution is perfect for facilitating spur-of-the-moment donations.

Contactless donation boxes aren’t ubiquitous yet, but they have been widely trialled and there are some exciting developments. For example, charity collection box maker Angal recently collaborated with Thyngs to provide boxes and buckets which accept contactless payments as well as cash.

Such technology could easily augment the classic glass-domed donation boxes that live in venue lobbies today. The National Museums of Scotland seem to think so too. They have been experimenting with the technology and have generously shared their research and experience of setting it up.

Blockchain technology

One of the biggest challenges for many charitable organisations right now is building trust. Blockchain technology could provide a boost in this area over the next few years with fully-transparent donations.

Blockchain runs on public ledgers that mean digital currencies like Bitcoin can create units of digital value that cannot be corrupted. For donations, these units of digital value are fully transparent and traceable, meaning they can only get to the destination intended by the original giver – so long as you know who is associated with the end address.

St Mungo’s are using a new blockchain-based donations tool built by tech startup Alice. In this case, the technology is used to create a donation pool which collects until one of the goals set by the charity has been achieved. It works as a digital contract, keeping the money safe and traceable and personal data safe and secure. As a charity proceeds toward it’s goal, the tool lets donors know when their funds have been transferred to the charity to action. If the charity does not achieve it’s goal donors may apply their donation to a general fund or get a refund.


Crowdfunding is another innovation that’s already being put to good use in the arts but the techniques and technology are improving. It’s particularly useful for appeals and for getting people to respond to direct needs.

For cultural organisations, this could mean raising cash for renovations and repairs to venues, or supporting the launch of a new production. For example, Glasgow Women’s Library used a crowdfunding campaign to get their 21 Revolutions book published and Youth Theatre Arts Scotland recently ran a campaign, #playaleadrole, to support their annual National Festival of Youth Theatre.

While crowdfunding is already widespread, non-profits should take note of its potential to engage Generation Z in particular. At the IoF’s technology conference this May, Charles Wells of JustGiving stated that for young donors, “…it’s not because they don’t care… It’s not that they don’t give… It’s just that the way you ask and the way they respond has been completely disrupted”.

…it’s not because they don’t care… It’s not that they don’t give… It’s just that the way you ask and the way they respond has been completely disrupted

The Internet of Things

People are starting to get used to the fact that more and more everyday objects in our homes and places of work are connected to the internet. From smart watches, to connected wheelchairs, the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming part of everyday life.

Donations from home could be part of the IoT in the not too distant future. Save the Children is already trialling a new connected button – a physical object – which people will keep at home. It really will be as simple as pressing to donate.

Looking to the future

Ease of involvement, transparency and creating campaigns that connect with people are the focus for successful fundraising, online or offline.

All of the above examples will help organisations to collect donations in ways that take account of people’s changing attitudes. If this has got you thinking, why not read some more of our articles on developments in technology.


Main image credit: BT ArtBox - Money Box by Dave Catchpole (CC BY 2.0)