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‘Digital personas’ prove a challenge for charities
Blog //19-06-2015

‘Digital personas’ prove a challenge for charities

by Mark Dewell, SVP > Education, Government and Social Housing

Lack of in-house expertise and data integration among the key barriers faced

78% of Specialist organisations (including charities and membership organisations) recognise the opportunity in the power of the emerging ‘digital persona’ - the demographics of a donor or supporter when online - according to a new study published by Advanced.

However, the majority of Specialist organisations admitted they are struggling to leverage the power of online data to drive more personalised engagement, thus failing to capitalise on the opportunities to communicate with their supporters through social media channels.

The latest independent report commissioned by Advanced reveals four major barriers holding these companies back:

  • 77% cited a lack of in-house expertise or digital champions as the most common barrier to analysing data about individuals;
  • 71% stated data integration was a stumbling block, specifically in linking data sets between existing systems to newer sources of data such as social media;
  • 59% stated a lack of access to the right tools to help create and manage ‘digital personas’;
  • Finally, almost half of those surveyed stated that senior decision makers still do not fully understand or appreciate the benefits of understanding the ‘digital persona’ of their existing and potential donors.

Simon Fowler, Managing Director at Advanced (Specialist Solutions), comments: “If Specialist organisations don’t collect and analyse data from the raft of online social channels, they risk failing to understand and hence adapt to how and where members and supporters are operating in the evolving digital world. The research findings will help us to employ learnings and inform our product roadmap to support our customers, helping them embrace the changes on the digital horizon.”

More than half of the report’s respondents say they don’t understand how the ‘digital persona’ of a supporter differs from segmentation, whilst few have read up on the subject (23%) and only 29% have experts they can talk to about online engagement. 

When asked to rank what is most important to understand about an individual, the respondents stated location, preferred method of communication and age. Less than a third of Specialist organisations actively ask about anything else including social media engagement, social media channels and type of device used.  

Despite not actively asking, a third of those Specialist organisations do have the capability to collect more information about their supporters or donors. When building audience profiles, organisations are still predominantly relying on direct interactions, with 47% utilising data collected face to face at charity shops or at fundraising events. 

The report also delves into how data about individual members and donors is being used in decision making within the organisation. Only 43% of respondents were able to give an example of how data about individuals is used in key decisions. Where it is used, data driven decision making is most likely to happen in marketing and finance functions, followed by delivery of services and fundraising. 

Fowler concludes: “Senior decision makers are in danger of missing out on the insight that data driven decisions can offer. This ties into the findings that revealed less than 50% of executives fully appreciate the benefits of understanding the ‘digital persona’ of their existing and potential donors and members. 

“With attraction and retention recognised as priorities for Specialist organisations, this research has highlighted a disconnect within many organisations around effective engagement.”

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Mark Dewell

Mark Dewell


SVP > Education, Government and Social Housing

Mark brings a track record of success in senior leadership positions in the software sector. Mark is renowned for ensuring customers benefit from connected technology solutions.

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