On July 12th e3 hosted Experiencing Charity: The Future of Giving, an event that looked at how charities are reacting to the increased consumer need for experience. Taking place at London’s Fable restaurant, 30 senior charity marketers joined us for an engaging and lively working lunch.

Food for thought

During lunch Joshua Leigh of Amnesty International discussed the organisation’s use of VR/360 technology to bolster their face-to-face fundraising efforts, with specific reference to the story behind the 360Syria campaign that made the news earlier this year. Joining Josh was Kate Fitzpatrick, Senior Strategist at e3. Kate kicked off the day with an overview of some trends, insights and frank conversation based her experience of working with third sector clients.

Beginning with an overview of three current trends Kate stated “The idea of digital should not be contained to a website, app or Facebook page,”. She went on the explain that we need to begin thinking, ‘product, not website’ Charities need to consider themselves as product and service providers who orientate around their multiple audience. An effective example of this in action is Shelter’s Lab, a way of taking one problem to a small disciplined team every three months, with the intention of solving it for good. The latest example of lab activity was the development of a triage service to help those most in need of housing come top of this when contacting the organisation for help.

Shelter Charity

The second theme Kate touched on was  physical and digital connectivity . Today there is an increased focus on digital influencing the physical environment and vice versa. This is all very much driven by the need for an ‘experience’ on and offline, of which the millennial cohort are huge proponents. Bearing this in mind a huge challenge facing the third sector is how to make their case for support experience driven. Digital technologies offer a way to do this. 

By creating an immersive digital experience, charities can foster greater relationships with audiences who otherwise may not have engaged by placing them at the centre of condition, situation or circumstance that their organisation is built around. This is what Amnesty International did so successful with the aforementioned 360 Syria campaign and similarly Alzheimer’s Research UK with their A Walk through Dementia VR experience.

“However what mustn’t be ignored is the physical and ‘real world’ side of what you do,” Kate warned. “It’s important that users are reminded of your cause and it is brought to life. By doing this successfully you can often forge a stronger relationship that allows people to care more and ultimately care more by building an emotive connection, which it is increasingly hard to do when there is so much ‘noise’ out there.

Finally, Kate touched on how charities  be looking to digital as a way to rebuild and develop trust with their audience against a recent back drop of negativity publicity around the third sector. Although in its early stages digital payments systems have been touted by the likes of the CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) as a way to rebuild trust in charitable organisations i.e. making use of Blockchain. Alice.SI, an online philanthropy program which shows customers the impact of their donations, was also cited a successful digital payment platform.

Kate covered three of many trends that will influence how the charitable sector develops over the next year or so, however she was clear that there was one strand that permeated through all and it was to form the backbone of the afternoon’s discussion - ‘user-centricity’.  Of course that isn’t really news, we all know the user should be put at the heart of everything, right? Yes, but there are two things to consider –  firstly, the definition of the user. Kate pointed out it doesn’t just represent a charity’s donors, it extends out to include beneficiaries, opinion leaders, volunteers, influencers and internal staff. And secondly, and most importantly how do you can pace with users when their behaviours may begin to change.

Kate’s talk was used as a catalyst to spark off conversation over lunch.

Discussion – unexpected change and authenticity

The biggest theme that was resonating with the majority of the attendees was that the third sector is in a huge state of flux. With the EU Referendum, a new government and in effect a changing user landscape, how can charities focus on the user but also keep up with their changing requirements?

Kate touched on this later during the lunchtime discussion. “Having a set of personas is a fantastic starting point”, she said, “but it is only a starting point. People change, circumstances change, you have to be ready to make small, iterative changes to reflect your user’s latest need.”

Secondly the topic and need for greater authenticity was echoed around the room. Donation journeys are made up of large amounts of data, segmentation and analysis – but it’s clear that audiences are crying out for transparency and authentic sentiment to make a real connection with charities.

Joshua Leigh from Amnesty International underlined this sentiment almost immediately, when he spoke about Amnesty’s VR/360 Syria experience. Within the first week of the project going live with street fundraisers using the VR viewers, Amnesty says there was a strong and often emotional response from the public and a 16% increase in people signing up to direct debit donations toward Amnesty’s human rights work.

Talking about Amnesty’s aims when they set out on the project, Joshua emphasises the importance of knowing why you’re doing a VR or immersive experience before you go into it. “We didn’t want it to be a gimmick, we want to create an authentic experience that would encourages viewers to act.” Amnesty’s main aims in the project were to

  • Empower, equip and mobilise Syrian activists
  • Increase public awareness of human rights abuses in Syria
  • Increase support for Amnesty’s work in Syria
  • Research and first hand data
  • Campaigning and lobbying

Ultimately the project helped gain awareness of the Syrian crisis in a way that directly engaged the user and literally put them in the shoes of the people their donation with help. However, Joshua states that it has been a learning curve, like any new technology there are bumps in the road but strategising effectively has minimised this.

Below are Kate’s and Joshua’s slides from the day.

Our thought leadership events are not only rich learning experience for brands, big or small, but also help us to understand how client-side marketers are addressing the challenges of digital. We’ll also be inviting senior brand marketers to more events in the upcoming months as follows:






To discuss any of the presentations or to find out more about how e3 can help your brand digitally transform, email miranda@e3.co.uk.