When online fundraising is out of reach

In a day when everything is online, here in Vienna we think nothing of it when a friend sends you a fundraising email asking you to donate to their latest 10km run or other ridiculous challenges. In fact, it can be downright annoying when someone actually asks you in person to make a cash donation.

Online fundraising is considered one of the best and most cost effective ways to fundraise and for many of us this technology is not ‘new’. But spare a thought for those who can’t do it online, and by online I mean using your credit card on a reputed fundraising site to make a donation.

Fundraising in developing countries

Yes, in this day and age even fundraising is restricted by the rules designed only for first world countries. The act of giving is made harder if you live outside of a developed country. Sure, it is possible but it is more complex and has higher associated costs.

Over the last 10 years I have been working in the fundraising sector and can attest to the difficulties faced by smaller charities around the world. My latest experience was in Thailand (Phuket specifically) where holiday-makers are only concerned with having a good time on their holiday, naturally. As a charity we would often turn to donors outside Thailand, however we were limited by a lack of facilities for donating online to a Thai charity.

Relying on cash

The technology is there. Thousands of people donate online every day on a variety of different platforms, with a variety of different payment structures. However, in order to be a certified charity on a reputable fundraising platform you need to be a registered charity in a developed country around the world. This list of countries includes the usual suspects; America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and most of Europe as well as few others.

If you are a registered charity outside of these countries, life gets tougher in an industry where every dollar (or shilling, or baht) counts. The cost (usually 4-7 % of the donation) taken by the online platform is often higher and in addition to the processing fee (2-4%) there may be a currency conversion fee and a transfer fee. Once all this is taken into consideration, there isn’t much left for a charity that most likely lives from month to month.

It is because of this that many third world charities continue to conduct ‘old school’ fundraising – collecting cash donations at an event, running a raffle and hosting quiz nights. Not only is this method labour intensive but it becoming increasingly less fruitful in a time when cash is no longer king.

Black Tie Muay Tie

Photo by the author.

The upside to this style of fundraising is that there is an increase in community engagement with the charity, building up goodwill. When I was working in Phuket we would host 3-4 large scale fundraising events each year, including an opera under the stars and a Black Tie Muay Tie event, each with up to 300 people. Being able to personally engage with these donors helps to build the reputation of the charity, but it comes at a cost.

‘Putting on these events not only take my time, but the time of 2 full time volunteers, as well as a large amount of other helpers. It would be wonderful to reduce this workload without reducing our income,’ says the Director of a Thai based education charity.

But these countries are stepping up. As I left Thailand, a few Thai based online fundraising platforms (for example perdmuak) were being developed but not yet fully operationally. Perdmuak will be wonderful for Thai donors, however usability is limited while the site remains only in the Thai language. One can only hope that this development continues, for it seems a shame that those that have the greatest need, are currently the most disadvantaged by these advances in fundraising.

Photo credits: Cover image by Unsplash

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About Hayley Mill

Hayley's background is marketing and charity fundraising. She has been working with charity organisations for the last 10 years and is passionate about donating and people's giving patterns. Her other passion is travel and she spends most of her free time traveling or planning her next trip.

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