Social media platforms act as sophisticated tools for the not-for-profit industry to challenge its highly saturated and competitive landscape. Within Australia alone, there are fifty-four fully accredited, base accredited and Australian NGO Cooperation Program partnered organisations, each campaigning multiple fundraising goals (Australian Government, 2016, para. 1). To highlight their social relevance and maintain visibility as change-makers, The Benevolent Society, Act For Peace, UNICEF and Amnesty International have harnessed the creative potential of Facebook, crowdsourcing and virtual reality. As a result, each charity has recognised improved user-experience, increased sponsorship and a positive attitudinal shift in professional identities and industry approach to outcome.
Source: MacArthur Parents 2017, para.1
To discuss the contemporary media climate for not-for-profit organisations, their sociohistorical context must be understood (Flew 2014, 3). In so doing, the development of the industry’s techno-social hybridity and its financial underpinnings can be identified.
The Benevolent Society is Australia’s oldest charity organisation. For 200 years, it has funded and coordinated such facilities as the Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington, Sydney, providing specialised care for the elderly, and customized learning opportunities for disadvantaged children (Frazer 2013). During this time, the Benevolent Society has relied heavily upon member donation, government funding and event fundraising (The Benevolent Society 2012).
However, in order to remain relevant and visible, the organisation has undergone a shift from traditional fundraising and awareness activities, to a more networked identity and online presence (Cassidy 2017). Funding Centre, of the Our Community information group, explains the historic charity’s contemporary adherence to “The Seven Pillars of Fundraising” (2017, para. 1).
Source: Funding Centre 2017, para. 1
The pillars, as seen in the graphic above, include grants, donations, crowdfunding, memberships, events, sales and sponsorship (2017, para. 1). Particularly, The Benevolent Society has adapted to new methods of social organisation by creating Facebook events for fundraising, e-newsletter subscription memberships and direct hyperlinks to opportunities to sponsor a child with foster care (2017, para. 1).
Thus, Facebook has afforded The Benevolent Society an opportunity to maintain its social image and curate an interactive, digital presence for its diverse community. Facebook has facilitated the transition between traditional and contemporary means of communication and audience connection (Cassidy 2017). It is a techno-social hybrid that domesticates the organisation within the online public sphere and, as a result, informs the behaviours, attitudes and contexts of members in their offline public sphere (Cassidy 2017).
For example, between 2011 and 2012, The Benevolent Society’s Like-rate increased from less than 2000 to over 10,000 (2012, 3). And since 2012, it has increased to its current 21,000 Likes (The Benevolent Society Facebook Page 2017). Financial support has increased at a similar rate to online social awareness. In the 2012 Annual Report published by the organisation, the annual net surplus was $3,105,000, with a 59% expenditure rate on “children and families” (The Benevolent Society 2012, 3). In the 2016 report, the annual net surplus increased to $5,056,000, with a 64% expenditure rate in the same category (2016, 4). The organisation’s Chairman, Lisa Chung, explains that this techno-social correlation resulted from an active decision to heighten user-experience and thus, increase The Benevolent Society’s funding (2016, 6).
Source: Good Company 2017, para.2
In the Week 4 lectorial, content included the internet’s facilitation of crowdsourcing finance. This is the communal financing of a project brought about by an online appeal for fiscal support (Cassidy 2017). The most relevant of the crowdsourcing methods to the not-for-profit industry, is crowdfunding (Ross 2013, 5). This is the process by which many individuals invest ‘small amounts to raise capital for a venture or cause’ (Cassidy 2017).
Crowdfunding has changed the nature of the not-for-profit industry, because the relationship between organisation and audience, and audience and greater social context is intensified. Organisations must work closely with their audience in order to convey a message and goal, which audiences then execute (Gray 2015, 2).
In the case of Act For Peace, a refugee fundraising initiative, crowdfunding is used to combat and challenge the Australian Government’s dwindling foreign aid scheme (2017, para. 1). Rather than asking for direct donations from its audience, the organisation coordinates an annual one-week long Ration Challenge (2017, para. 1). Participants are informed why money is needed, and for whom, and must create a personal ‘profile’ via the Act For Peace website, through which their sponsors can donate any amount (Boyd 2010, 4).
Thus, crowdfunding via the internet has afforded Act For Peace the organisational freedom to shift the responsibility of campaign success to its participants. Upon a participant’s sign-up, the not-for-profit group becomes a support network, rather than the primary fundraiser (Gray 2015, 2).
Redistributing this responsibility also reduces the cost of fundraising tasks for the organisation. In place of utilising funds to pay for all advertising, telecommunications work and online branding, much of this can be done through participants asking for sponsorship. This is also known as crossmedia, the process by which a specialised message is broadcast across a range of media platforms for a unified aim (Cassidy 2017).
In summary, crowdsourcing finance, particularly crowdfunding, has facilitated positive organisational change for Act For Peace. The scheme has enabled the not-for-profit group to achieve their financial and sociocultural aim, in a short amount of time, for less task-to-task cost and with greater attention to participant support and experience.
Source: VR Scout 2015, para. 1
Not-for-profit fundraising and sponsorship relies heavily on the relationship between the organisation’s vendor, and random individuals. For this reason, on-street face-to-face fundraising is recognised as the most effective way for not-for-profit groups to increase their sponsorship, and thus, continue their work (Spurgeon 2017).
In 2005, Kieth MacMillan, Kevin Money, Arthur Money and Steve Downing of the Centre for Organisation Reputation and Relationships, Henley Management College, in Oxfordshire (2002, 2) reported the not-for-profit industry as becoming highly competitive. The journal article explains that an increase in organisations and a decrease in ‘funders’ (p.1, same), means successful charities are the ones that connect most effectively with members of the public.
Dan Lalor, Managing Director at Bonsai VR, explains how virtual reality headsets have become a game changer in face-to-face sponsorship meetings (Spurgeon 2017). The technology allows members of the public to wear a virtual reality headset, and with their own eyes, see a 360 ° image or video of the situation requiring their financial sponsorship. The production and distribution of this virtual reality technology changes the pace of the production and distribution for promotional materials in this industry (Spurgeon 2017). It strengthens the reality and truth underpinning the organisation’s need for sponsorship, and acts as a tangible learning experience between vendor and potential sponsor.
Through Bonsai VR, UNICEF and Amnesty International have both incorporated this participatory culture into their own organisational culture (Cassidy, 2017). UNICEF’s campaign summoned video of Sidra, Syria, in a film entitled ‘Clouds Over Sidra’. Similarly, UNICEF produced the film ‘Karamoja Rising’ as part of a series of virtual reality films entitled UNICEF 360° (2017, para. 1).
As discussed in the Week 2 lectorial about new media and society, these not-for-profit virtual realities are transmedia artifacts. This means that each video acts as a multiplatform storytelling device; the user’s experience, and the experience of those they are watching. Thus, through its networked affordances of empathy creation and sponsorship encouragement, virtual reality technologies have created a mediapolis for the not-for-profit industry as a whole (Cassidy 2017).
Source: Memorial Heath Systems 2017, para. 2
New media enterprises have afforded the not-for-profit industry an insightful opportunity for change. The social media platforms of Facebook, crowdsourcing sites and virtual reality have worked to reshape traditional means of fundraising, publicity and campaigning, as online, on-brand technologies. For Australia’s first charity organisation, The Benevolent Society, social media has highlighted their continuing relevance and activity, while for Act For Peace, online crowdfunding emphasises the importance of its participants. Through the technologies of Bonsai VR’s virtual reality headsets, UNICEF and Amnesty International have deepened their professional and audience connection with the organisation, and those it strives to support. Thus, social media platforms have reengineered traditional fundraising strategies into a bridge toward the future of the not-for-profit industry.
Act For Peace. “Ration Challenge”. Accessed 5 April, 2017.
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Within. 2016. “Clouds Over Sidra”. Youtube video posted January 27. Accessed April 8, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUosdCQsMkM