The digitisation of the donation box - Museums Association

The digitisation of the donation box

Following a six-month trial, the National Funding Scheme's Donate platform has been launched nationally. Patrick Steel assesses whether the public will embrace the technology
Patrick Steel
Donate, the digital fundraising platform run by the National Funding Scheme (NFS) charity, raised £14,500 from 524 donations for the 11 organisations involved in its six-month pilot phase, £9,000 of which was raised at a fundraising dinner in November.

Building the Donate platform and the NFS’s first-year running costs came to more than £400,000. This was met by funding from bodies including £200,000 from Nesta, £98,000 from Arts Council England and £18,000 from Creative Scotland.

Following the end of the pilot phase in December, the NFS rolled the scheme out nationally at the end of January. The charity is seeking to raise a further £200,000 in addition to the 4% it takes from donations towards its running costs.

William Makower, founder and trustee of the NFS, predicted before the six-month trial that Donate would make £8m in its first year, based on 1.5% of 200 million cultural visits making an average gift of £5.

“The issue, as always, is take-up by the organisations and how the scheme is made visible to visitors,” he says. “When we are nationally visible, we expect to be self-sustainable.”

Makower is also director of private companies Panlogic, responsible for hosting and servers for the NFS, and Digital Information & Giving, which received £100,000 from the NFS to provide technology and data intelligence for Donate over three years.

He declined to reveal how much Panlogic had received for its services, but says it provided more than £100,000 in pro bono support and gave its charged services at a 40% discount.

Boosting sustainability

At Donate’s launch last July, former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said it had “the potential to encourage much wider giving as one of the ways of making the sector more sustainable”.

NFS director Paul Cutts, who is the only full-time member of staff, believes recent changes to the technology allowing organisations to launch campaigns themselves could result in the number of live campaigns on the site rising from 26 as Museums Journal went to press to 2,000 by the end of the year.

Organisations can sign up for free and access data on how donations are being made, and more campaigns, says Cutts, will mean more data is available to organisations and the wider sector.

A third of gifts to Donate are currently made via text message and two-thirds online.

The benefits to the sector if Donate’s approach to fundraising pays off are undisputed. But as more than half the funds in the pilot phase were raised during a conventional charity fundraiser, the jury remains out on whether the wider public, or the sector, is ready to embrace the technology behind “digitising the donation box”.

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