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5 Innovative Ways Charities used Technology over the last 10 years.

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The last decade has seen a surge in innovative technology which has transformed the way we live, work and operate. From the iPad to digital assistants and wearable technology to ApplePay – these impressive inventions allow everyday tasks to be completed quicker and become more accessible for all.

At the same time, adoption of cloud technology both individually and within organisation has soared. Over 90% of organisation use at least one cloud based service and the average person uses 36 cloud-based services every single day, allowing a rapid increase in productivity with “on-demand” real time data.  While the Third Sector has been scrutinised for not adapting as quickly as commercial businesses to this “technology shift,” there are a number of charities who have incorporated emerging technology and cloud services to advance their overall goals.

TAP London

With an estimated 320,000 people homeless in the UK and the majority of this number based in the Capital, Tap London was founded in 2017 to tackle the growing levels of homelessness while incorporating the economic shift to a more “cashless society.”

What they did

Small contactless devices have been installed into 90 window displays and counter tops of participating retailers around London, which allow you to donate £3 with a simple tap of your card. Currently there are 29 charities known as the London Homelessness Collective, who have dedicated funding projects to tackle the homelessness crisis, benefiting from these donations. So far, the organisation has raised £140,646 at the time of writing.

More and more charities are moving towards contactless donations, with the help of apps such as SnapDonate, partnered with JustGiving, which recognizes dozens of charity logos from their marketing material and allows the user to donate instantly without registering. You can even search the 13,000 charities registered on the JustGiving database to find your charity of choice.

ALS & Motor Neurone Association

An estimated 3.2 billion people in the world are using Social Media and in the UK alone, 49% of adults are using it as their source of news. Campaigners are taking advantage of its popularity and using the different platforms to increase awareness and ultimately increase funding for their causes. One of the most memorable campaigns over the last decade was the  Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014.

What they did 

Raising money for the neurodegenerative disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a person was nominated by friends/families and colleagues to film themselves and broadcast over social media dumping a bucket of ice cold water on their head and then nominate a further 3 people to do the same within a 24 hour period, whilst donating to the ALS Association in the US or the MND in the UK. More than 17 million people worldwide took part, including ex-presidents and celebrities. The campaign raised over £115m over the 4-week campaign and funded scientific research, which has since identified 4 new genes associated with the disease.

National Autistic Society

Associated mainly with gaming, Virtual Reality has made tremendous leaps forward over the last decade. Despite the perception that the technology is still within its infancy, due to its potential, early adopters within the Charity Sector are creating totally immersive experiences for people to truly understand their cause. One of these adopters were the National Autistic Society who first started using this technology in 2016 in the launch of their 3-year public understanding campaign.

What they did

The campaign titled, “Too Much Information”, was a series of 360-degree virtual reality videos showing autistic people in everyday situations and increasing understanding about their reality. The first of these videos allowed viewers to walk in the shoes of Alex, a real-life autistic child as he experiences the issues of living with autism.

The Society partnered with INTU shopping centres around the UK, which allowed 8,000 members of the public to try the Virtual Reality film. The video was also downloadable via an app and could be viewed using cardboard googles. Over 56 million people viewed the film and the charity saw a 26% rise in awareness for autism. The campaign had continued success with further videos and other charities have followed in similar fashion. Alzheimer’s Research UK have even incorporated Virtual Reality as part of a training resource.

The Salvation Army

Remember the days of the Ordnance Survey Map? Stuffed in the back of the car, it would be your reliable sidekick when embarking on those long journeys – despite often being read upside down! Nowadays, the paper option has transformed into a digital version and although GPS tracking isn’t a brand-new invention, the development and refining of the technology has certainly improved it for the better.

One charity who have benefited from these enhancements are the Salvation Army. The organisation has a fleet of trucks, which pick up generous donations and transport these to their Family Stores, whose proceeds fund Adult Rehabilitation Centres across the USA.

What they did

In 2012, a fleet management software called SmartTrek was installed into a number of trucks operating across the Midland Division. The online GPS system provides the data needed to make informed decisions on fleet operation, allowing the vehicles to be run efficiently, minimising unnecessary travel, reducing costs and achieving maximum return. The software is managed via mobile applications, making it easier to manage vehicle usage and ensure that the pickups and deliveries were successful. Further progress for the charity since the installation has been the ability to provide more detailed, precise information to the public in times of disaster, to provide relief and supplies for those in need.

British Heart Foundation

AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been studied since the 1950’s, however over the last decade we’ve seen an acceleration in its capabilities. The technology is everywhere – from virtual assistants, traffic predictions and recommended playlists – it certainly appears to be enhancing our daily lives. Many charities are adopting the technology in a similar way to e-commerce, in the form of “chat bots” keeping their audiences engaged and aware of their cause 24/7.

The British Heart Foundation have taken this technology one step further, in the aim to diagnose heart disease before it turns fatal, and to predict the right course of personalised treatment.

What they did

BHF partnered with the Alan Turing Institute, who’s research and development were theorized by the man himself.

Together they have developed a biomarker, or “fingerprint,” called the fat radiomic profile (FRP) which detects underlying issues that could lead to a future heart attack. The fingerprint detects biological red flags in the perivascular space lining blood vessels which supply blood to the heart. It identifies inflammation, scarring and changes to these blood vessels. This scientific discovery can identify those at risk at least 5 years before it strikes, allowing earlier intervention. While relatively new, researchers are testing the technology’s ability to help the estimated 920,000 people in the UK living with heart failure.

As we move into the future, technological development and innovation shows no sign of slowing down. Predictions within the Third Sector include investing into Cryptocurrency and Blockchain which will help build public trust by offering transparency and a secure platform for donations. There certainly isn’t a shortage of digital options available regardless of charity size and if the last decade is anything to go by – the future certainly is exciting.