Use technology to enhance, not lead your charity’s brand

Heed caution and adopt the mindset of “everyone has an app, so we need an app” at your peril.

It’s all too easy to let technology drive your brand. Charities can feel they’re falling behind and this is often compounded by pressure from stakeholders, to chase the latest tech.

These trends can be expensive mistakes if they don’t perform. First understand what you are trying to achieve, before pairing your goals with the appropriate technology. Cost is typically the biggest factor – spend wisely and prioritise developing your message. Using the latest technology may give you something that looks great, but that’s worthless unless it communicates your message and delivers a seamless journey.

Digital tools like apps shouldn’t just do something new; they need to provide enhanced basic features to improve the user journey as a whole. For instance, in-app donation should not require visitors to revert back to your website to complete other tasks.

Audience insight

Supporting digital development with audience insight is key. Ask yourself what audiences expect from technology? A previous Bond & Coyne article touched on Gen Z’s need for authentic experiences. The latest research from the Legatum Institute shows that young people are also eager to engage with charities: “Since 2010, young people have moved from being the least likely age group to volunteer for a good cause, to the most likely group.” Perhaps technology can help fulfil both the demands of this audience and tackle major challenges in the charity sector.

The presumption that older audiences dislike technology is inherently wrong. Again, it boils down to the right messaging and ensuring the human element isn’t lost. Consider how micro interactions like form-fills can be designed to be friendlier and less generic.

New tech has the potential to play an important role in your brand and fundraise in different ways. We should all be leveraging it to enhance the message we want to tell – not the other way around.

When is technology the answer?

If the aim is to generate a buzz around a piece of research and then use that buzz to drive future initiatives, start by asking what you want your audience to take away from a piece of research and then look at how the research can form part of what’s happening elsewhere in your brand.

The design process should never begin with tech. Instead, think about what problem you’re trying to solve and put your audience at the heart of it. Do you have a story you’re trying to tell? Do you have insight to base your decisions on? Once this basic criteria is met you can start to use technology to enhance your communication.

Whether your touchpoints are on or off-screen, they must be joined up and tell the same story. If you see a poster advertising a promotion, the website shown must follow with a similar visual language and approach to messaging.

This may seem obvious but when larger organisations have different teams for their print, online, events and fundraising work, it’s easy for the brand experience to become diluted. Messaging matrices like the one below, provide a way to justify how language should flex for different audiences and channels, whilst staying true to one story.

Cost and creativity

Technology can also be incredibly cost-effective. Social platforms have a variety of features, such as 360º video that take little cost or expertise to use. These platforms should always be harnessed to tell transparent stories and build trust.

Real creativity often involves rethinking how current tech can be used to do something new. When Bond & Coyne worked with BT to start bringing contactless charity donations to the streets, it inspired us to later develop a more interactive donation experience for Breast Cancer Now. The set-up allowed 1000s of LEDs to light up Topshop’s Oxford Street window upon donation.

Another original and super-low-cost example was Ikea rethinking how people experience Instagram. By using the tagging feature in an unconventional way, they were able to repurpose the platform to operate more like a website. “The news about our little project instantly spread in tech and design media, all over the world – all of this at no cost.”

The importance of strategy

Young generations are incredibly tech-savvy, therefore its important to consider trends. There are high-budget ways and there are also low-budget ways of achieving your goals. Often you must test and fail fast – do your user research, ask your audience questions and don’t stand still.

If you’re halfway through building something and it’s not working out, don’t be afraid to argue stopping development. Alternatively when a tech asset is launched, everyone must stand by it and ensure audiences become aware of what you’ve built. The most incredibly creative use of tech will only become a white elephant, if it’s not championed on all levels and integrated into a broader marketing strategy.