Let’s talk about… 2017

Jo Barnett looks back on an incredible year and asks what we can learn for 2018.

2017 has been a year of change, both for us at Virgin Money Giving and across the charity sector, so I thought I would use my last column of the year to look both back and forward to the year ahead.

A year of challenge and opportunity

2017 has been an incredible year for charities. We have seen some spectacular new events that have once again demonstrated how vibrant and innovative the third sector is. Ending the year on a high, Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park saw thousands sleeping out in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens and raising over £3.6m in the process. 2018 already looks just as exciting, with Tommy’s London Landmarks Half Marathon and The Big Half taking runners through the capital’s most iconic locations in March before what we hope will be another record-breaking Virgin Money London Marathon in April.

2017 was the year that crowdfunding really gained momentum – creating a challenge for charities which have had to ask themselves about the impact this new way of giving might have and driving ministerial concerns around the need for oversight and governance. We’re yet to see if the rise in people giving to individuals means a decrease in donations to registered charities, but it is important that all of us learn why some crowdfunding campaigns really resonate with people, a subject I tackled in more detail in a previous column you can read here. Clearly some companies are seeing the opportunity. Blackbaud purchased JustGiving for £95m in October and as is the case with any acquisition this will have implications going forward.

Giving more

It’s been a year of transformation at Virgin Money Giving too. In April 2017 we saw extraordinary traffic on the site which impacted our service. Determined for this to never happen again, we have rebuilt our system – working with IBM to ensure that we have our technology as resilient as possible. As a result our platform is faster than ever, more resilient, has better monitoring and has significantly enhanced capacity.

We have also invested heavily in the customer experience, reflecting the need for a more mobile-friendly experience across all journeys. The results have been fantastic – with mobile traffic up and, most importantly, donations per page up by 8%. This is just the beginning. We have also recently launched our new fundraiser journey with greater personalisation, a quicker and easier page set up and an improved ability to manage fundraiser pages, add content and share them across people’s networks.

Up next…

So we enter 2018 full of optimism and enthusiasm. It will certainly bring its fair share of challenges for charities and fundraising sites – not least the new General Data Protection Regulations coming in May – but we will be here to support you in any way we can whether it’s with new systems or fundraising advice. While some things change, one pillar remains constant. We are still committed to being a not-for-profit organisation and to never making money on the back of your donors’ generosity. Since 2009 we have saved charities over £18m due to our low fees on donations and no fee on collecting Gift Aid and I hope we can do even more to support the 13,000+ charities and more than 110,000 new fundraisers we work with every year.

So all that’s left is for me to wish you a Happy Christmas and all the best for the year ahead. Let’s make it count.


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