The shift towards digital philanthropy

rebello_300By Evans Rebello

The shift towards digital philanthropy is apparent with the rise of social media, crowdsourcing platforms and mobile-giving applications — making online engagement a critical tool for nonprofits.

At Dasra we are constantly evolving our communication strategy and thinking of innovative ways to effectively use ‘digital’ to mainstream issues, reach out to new supporters and engage with them. Social media platforms have the ‘viral’ effect — meaning each communication piece has the potential to garner further interest as it is reposted again and again on news feeds across these platforms. Dasra has used digital platforms to drive engagement and we have big plans for the future.

Announcing the Dasra Girl Alliance

With the insight that people coalesce around hashtags, Dasra used Twitter to drive discourse and engage with a mainstream audience around dispelling gender inequality norms. The viral campaign, ‘Give Girls a Chance’, spread satirical myths about girls and then dispelled these myths — with findings from Dasra’s research — when engagement was at its highest and ended with a video informing our new supporters on the benefits and possibilities of investing in girls. The video garnered over 70,000 views and the hashtag #MythsAboutAGirl trended in Mumbai.

Dasra Philanthropy Forum NYC

Inviting some of the top American philanthropists for the Dasra Philanthropy Forum NYC left us with one question – How can we engage with them before the event? ‘Augment her reality’ was a campaign designed to create a sense of familiarity and credibility for Dasra with international philanthropists. With every confirmed RSVP, short prologue stories were emailed to the attendee list. The prologues lead to a website augmentherreality.com that was updated with a diary entry of a girl plagued by gender norms, beginning with the onset of her menstrual cycle and ending with her possible future as a child bride.

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Diary Entry: Day 1

At the event we placed a wall filled with pages from the diary, where attendees could wave an iPad over the entries and see the story change to a possible future where the girl was celebrated.

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Interactive wall: Pages and story changed when read through an iPad

Online audiences expect the information they want and need to be available 24/7 in any format. This trend will increase as the number and variety of online communities where people consume information grow, and we want to be where our audience is. One challenge is that transaction costs for funding decisions are high — multiple personal interactions are required with funders because they either find research reports lengthy, are unaware of the activities of other corporates, or are interested in specific issues that only certain social organizations can address.

With this objective in mind, in 2015 and 2016 Dasra will focus on creating opportunity for better-informed giving by providing open and easy access to our 30 existing knowledge products (research) through an online database (scheduled to be launched mid-September 2015 on the Dasra website) that will enable funders to easily learn about critical issues as well as search for organizations to support. In addition to report PDFs, we will use a variety of formats including videos to help a new set of funders become educated and engaged.

Additionally, we aim to raise our brand value as a thought leader in the Indian market through a web based periodical (currently estimated to launch mid-2016) that will aim to inspire and inform funders and social entrepreneurs. The periodical will cover articles and opinions on cross-sector solutions to India’s development problems, Indian philanthropy trends, strategic giving, CSR, impact investing, and how to build the collective impact ecosystem in India.

The availability of up-to-date information through our new and improved online platforms will reduce barriers for donors to engage with impactful social organizations, either directly or through an advisor like Dasra.

Digital marketing is part of doing business in the new millennium, and like most things in the digital world it’s evolving quickly. Our learnings: start small, experiment, and find out what works online for your non-profit.

Evans Rebello is the digital communications strategist of Dasra.

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