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Text, tap, or Revolut? Digital donating is here to stay

‘We were keenly aware that consumer habits had changed,’ Irish Cancer Society director of fundraising says

How do you donate – text, tap, or Revolut? Digital donations had been growing steadily before an explosion during the Covid-19 pandemic when all in-person fundraising events were cancelled. And while we have seen the return of these fundraisers in recent months, charities say that digital donating is here to stay.

“Digital fundraising underwent a real spurt in growth during the Covid crisis and now we have seen a return to more traditional forms of fundraising,” Ivan Cooper says, director of public policy at The Wheel, the national association of charities.

“Digital is still a very significant and growing form of fundraising for charities that have invested in it and we believe it will stay that way. The difference is that it is now complemented by on street and face to face collections.”

Fionnuala O’Leary is director of engagement and fundraising with the Irish Cancer Society. The society’s major annual fundraiser, Daffodil Day, which takes place in March every year, was one of the first big casualties of the early days of the pandemic but inadvertently became something of a prototype for a wholly digital campaign.


“Our initial reaction was to protect our community through information, support and advocacy, and not proceed with the Daffodil Day ask,” O’Leary says. However, there was an organic swell of support from people who donated through the Irish Cancer Society website and “text to donate”. “Others held solo lockdown fundraisers in their back gardens or within their 2km radius.”

Unfortunately, the “yellow army” of volunteers, who sell pins and shake buckets, were once again stood down in 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic. But O’Leary says this was another successful digital campaign. While the annual event usually brings in about €4 million for the charity, which it puts towards support services for people living with cancer, as well as funding research, the 2021 event raised a staggering €7 million.

“We had to run the campaign completely online with pretty much all donations coming through digital channels such as our website and other fundraising platforms. Revolut and text were also popular ways for people to donate.” The Revolut “Donations” feature sees the fintech company partner with a number of charities, allowing customers to donate their “spare change” and doesn’t take any commission, ensuring the charities receive 100 per cent of the money donated.

And although fundraisers were back on the streets for Daffodil Day 2022, it went ahead as a hybrid event. “Whilst our community could return to the streets to raise funds on the day itself, we were keenly aware that consumer habits had changed,” O’Leary says.

“We trialled ‘tap to donate’ lanyards for Daffodil Sellers, which took the €4 payment for a Daffodil. We also had payment machines for larger amounts, as well as Revolut, fundraising platforms, QR codes, our own website and phone donation line. Our aim was to be accessible to anyone who wanted to support those affected by cancer.” Yet they also found that cash was still a very popular mode of donation “and continues to be”.

According to Focus Ireland’s director of fundraising and marketing, Amy Carr, digital donating accelerated during the pandemic and is now here to stay.

“What we saw during Covid was that everybody had to pivot their fundraising to digital and that was really successful,” she says.

“We really saw that during 2020 with huge levels of support coming through online via digital channels and special media.”

As we emerge from the pandemic, Carr says digital will remain pivotal but is thankful to see events such as their annual “Shine a Light Night” taking place once again.

“There is that desire to connect with people again. We will continue to see high levels of digital support, but this will take more of a hybrid approach and make it possible for people to take part in fundraising campaigns in the way that most resonates with them.”

Digital engagement with donors is also happening in different ways – for example, Focus Ireland recently recruited all the volunteers for an upcoming sea swim fundraiser through Facebook, something that had never happened before, Carr says.

“This was hugely successful; we see that this is where people are looking for ideas and campaigns they want to take part in.”

Danielle Barron

Danielle Barron is a contributor to The Irish Times