Lifestyle Giving is not a new concept; however it is a subdivision of online fundraising that seems to have grown in prominence of late and, as such, deserves to be taken seriously as a contender in the future of preferred donation practices.
Despite its growing popularity as a legitimate third sector donation channel, there remains confusion about what Lifestyle Giving actually is and how it can best be incorporated into a charity’s fundraising strategy to return sustainable value and complement other forms of fundraising.
Let’s find out more about the concept as a whole and its potential new role in the fundraising mix.
An introduction to Lifestyle Giving
We define Lifestyle Giving as the act of donating or giving back in a way that does not require one to deviate from an everyday activity. In most instances, this means that the ‘giver’ doesn’t actually donate any of their own money because it is either reclaimed from tax or is instead donated by the company or platform that the donor is using or making a purchase from.
For example, when you buy a ticket for The National Lottery, a percentage of the amount you pay for the ticket goes to charity without you having to do anything. And similarly when you search or shop online with discount codes at savoo.co.uk, you’re donating to charity for free at the same time.
It also means that individuals aren’t actually giving any of their own money away to charity; they’re simply making smarter purchasing decisions by choosing socially responsible online companies that donate per purchase, and are subsequently helping raise money for worthwhile causes without having to alter their existing lifestyle choices, behaviors and decisions.
The challenge with Lifestyle Giving and the online fundraising platforms that embody this concept is that they’ve in the past rarely been considered a competitive or impactful form of fundraising.
Typically returning low value donations (or micro donations) and asking for time investment that charities simply can’t afford, it has rightly or wrongly earned a reputation as a low level fundraising channel not worth its weight.
However, things are changing and online fundraising platforms, retailers and consumers are putting Lifestyle Giving on the map as a legitimate donation channel. In fact, the Lifestyle Giving concept has recently been integrated into a social responsibility programme for multinational ecommerce brand Amazon in the form of AmazonSmile – #YouShopAmazonGives – so you can be sure that many more forward thinking retailers and online businesses will soon follow suit.
The key question we are asking is this; will the third sector ever take this channel seriously and will an abundance of Lifestyle Giving programmes and online fundraising platforms serve to change this negative or indifferent perception for better or for worse?
In our experience, Lifestyle Giving has most definitely begun to be perceived as a creditable revenue stream for the charities we work with. Perhaps this is partly to do with charities becoming more aware of the importance of having an online presence, particularly when it comes to finding ways to tap into the next generation of donors. But perhaps it is also because we are all – regardless of industry or background – aware that consumer behaviours are changing (particularly with regards to millennials) and we all have to adapt in order to survive.
Retailers are aware that consumers now actively seek to shop with companies that agree to give something back to worthwhile causes, whilst charities are becoming increasingly aware that in today’s busy world, convenience is key for potential donators. Consumers and donators are dictating the future of fundraising and all we can do is listen and do our best to match those needs with our own need to survive as an organisation.
Let me stress the fact that we’re not claiming that online fundraising platforms or Lifestyle Giving programmes are here to replace traditional fundraising methods. Instead, it’s a case of incorporating this channel into the larger fundraising mix and ensuring that delivery expectations are clear from the offset when it comes to managing these channels in house.
Lifestyle Giving isn’t going to change the world overnight; both in terms of the proportion/share of funds it brings charities as a percentage of the larger whole, as well as the level of effort demanded of a charity to manage the channel and propagate donations.
This is probably why the channel is both misunderstood and still largely underused by many UK not-for-profits.
One of the greatest benefits of online fundraising platforms is that the vast majority don’t demand any time or cost investment – contrary to what many UK charities currently believe. 100% of every donation that comes in via this channel goes to the charity to support their end cause.
And seeing as scarcity of internal resources is one of the greatest challenges charities face, why wouldn’t these free channels be more keenly used?
According to US non-profit innovator Beth Kanter, it all comes down to the scarcity mindset, with charities feeling as though they don’t have enough time or resource to manage all the opportunities available to them:
“We always hear about time-starved nonprofits, and it comes from a scarcity mindset, instead of abundance. The scarcity mindset actually leads to bad decision-making, because it causes stress. Think about it as abundance, and be really focused about where you focus your limited resources. We have to drop the scarcity mindsets of ‘not having enough” – Institute of Fundraising – The Age of Connected Networks.
Charities can be as involved or as removed from their part in the maintenance and nurturing of these online fundraising channels as they wish. For example, many platforms offer free content marketing opportunities which is great for promotion, but will naturally require a degree of involvement from the charity. Other charities choose to sit back, have limited involvement in the channel and let the donations trickle in organically – albeit a little more slowly.
Put simply, the more you put in the more you should expect to get out of LifeStyle Giving.
Looking ahead at Lifestyle Giving with third sector experts
In October 2016 a roundtable was held in collaboration with the Institute of Fundraising to discuss the future potential of Lifestyle Giving and whether it truly deserves a place in the fundraising mix of tomorrow.
A group of digital fundraisers and representatives from online fundraising platforms first discussed what ‘Lifestyle Giving’ meant to them as a concept, and Howard Lake – UK Fundraising – summarises the outcome of that discussion as follows:
“Lifestyle giving would probably incorporate most digital fundraising platforms that added a donation to a purchase, passed on a share of advertising generated from a search or web page view, rounded up a payment to the nearest pound to make a micro donation, and that made giving small amounts frictionless and almost second nature.”
So it’s clear that industry experts do understand what Lifestyle Giving is and how it works, but from attending this roundtable first hand, it does still seem as though there is a general feeling of wariness surrounding the concept. Representatives from a number of small to medium sized charities confirmed that they are waiting and watching to see if the larger charities can leverage the fruits of this channel to raise more significant funds before they seriously consider incorporating it as part of their fundraising mix.
However in our opinion, it is precisely these smaller charities with less time and financial resources that would enjoy greater benefits from an online platform that requires next to no investment, and grants their nimble teams access to the younger, next generation of donors.
There’s no denying that the sector should be making full use of digital by now – which includes accepting that Lifestyle Giving will play its part. But whether charities are really grasping the opportunities available and using this channel to its true potential is yet to be seen.
A key challenge for online fundraising platforms appears to be providing the ‘proof in the pudding’ and creating a convincing case to help digital teams in the charity space sell the channel across their organisation. There’s a clear need for better communication and expectation management, as well as a need for better understanding on the parts of both online fundraising platforms and charities alike, that digital fundraising is a growing and developing area, and actually, we’re all learning on this journey together.