Now we’re in October, it’s time for a new charity site of the month. And this month’s winner is… Bullying UK – www.bullying.co.uk
It’s a great example of a charity making the most of a variety of internet tools and services, including masses of social media content like blogs and widgets. I caught up with John Carnell, founder and CEO of Bullying UK, and asked him to give us some insight into their charity’s online strategy.
What does your charity do? And how does the internet fit in with your goals?
Bullying UK is the new name for Bullying Online, founded in 1999 as the UK’s first 100% web delivered charity. In that time we have seen explosive growth in our service to the point where we are regularly listed in the top 500K websites worldwide (no small feat).
When I founded the charity, the internet was still finding its feet, but I knew the internet was key to creating my dream of a low cost, high impact charity that could out-perform the traditional bricks and mortar charities of the day.
To date, I’m not aware of very many charities that are 100% web delivered as we are.
What’s your view on using the internet as a charity?
It’s our reason for being in many ways – our success as an organisation is directly tied to the explosive success of the internet. As new services are created, we can be there at the cutting edge and once the majority of users discover the service, we are already well placed to serve them in their new surroundings. In most cases, we can link those services into our main website www.bullying.co.uk through APIs
An API? Could you expand on that?
An Application Programming Interface is a way websites can exchange information securely and usually without the user having to leave the website they are on. So if you wanted to allow your users to post images from your website directly from Flickr, you can hook into Flickr’s API to make that happen. The benefit to the user is increased functionality and the benefit to you is they stayed on your site to do it.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg as every service that offers an API has different functionality. It’s something you will need programmers to integrate for you but the benefits are huge.
What are some of the online tools you use and, more importantly, why do you use them?
To list them would take an entire blog post, so ill tell you about the ones I think offer the greatest impact for charities right now:
Widgets – the Justgiving widget is a great example of a way to spread your cause further than just your website. Think about how a widget your supporters can use on their personal site can impact your cause – see widgetbox.com for ideas and our own Uniteagainstbullying.com widget.
Lifecasting – Facebook, myspace, flickr, 12seconds.tv (plug) are all excellent life casters. Using them you can tell your supporters what you’re up to or mash it all together using friendfeed and display it on your site. Supporters love to learn more about your cause, you can make it easy for them.
Can you explain why you created a widget for supporters to use?
The further your brand spreads, the more chance you have of creating engagement. You can spend money, or you can do it organically through a viral mechanism like a widget. In the case of Unite Against Bullying, we created a simple non interactive button and wrapped it in a viral installer that allows a user in less than 30 seconds to take that button and put in onto their own site, be that a blog, social network or website.
This is where the magic happens. Friends of that user then see it and embed it in their website or click the button and read all about the campaign and so on. At this point, the Unite Against Bullying campaign brand is seen by over 100k people a week and up to 100 new sites a week join the fight against bullying from all corners of the world.
And the best bit, all that brand exposure every week for FREE. That’s right, just a day of internal setup and we were ready to roll.
How do you go about fundraising online?
At the moment we are revamping our online fundraising for 2009 but rest assured Justgiving will be at the centre of our efforts. One of our new trustees recently did a walk through the three lochs of Scotland and raised over £500 using the Justgiving widget. We see the potential when married with our unique online work to create a fundraising strategy that will reach a massive audience.
Do you see the internet as a fundraising tool only, or does it fit into a wider online strategy?
Any charity that looks at the internet as a money making tool only needs to think again – not only are you missing the point, but you’re losing out on a valuable source of feedback and user engagement that, for my mind, is worth all the money in the world.
What tools do you use to help the stewardship of your supporters?
We are just now rolling out Salesforce for Non-profits, we learned about it through of network of supporters on the above sites. I would say this: if any charity wants a way to tidy up all those loose processes and create order around how they communicate with supporters, Salesforce for Non-profits is perfect.
At Bullying UK we like to work on the basis of Invent it, Create it. SF appears to work to this philosophy perfectly, giving us the tools to build the services we need to interface with our supporters. Check out FaceForce, the Facebook add-on for Salesforce to get an idea of what I mean. [this is where you can go straight from a supporters record in Salesforce to their Facebook profile]
Oh, and it’s free to non-profits for 10 user licenses and you get 80% discount on extra licences. Plus, check out Vertical Response, who give non-profits 10k free email newsletter credits a month as part of SF-non profit (WAY COOL).
How do you keep up with online trends?
Not sleeping helps, but really I’ve been around the web for so long I’m actually part of the furniture. After a while you get a feeling for the next big thing or social meme (pronounced /miːm/), although RickRolling still baffles me.
I follow a few different sites – Techcrunch is always helpful, but don’t rely on it since they can only post so many stories a day. inquisitr.com is a good one for the off beat, and I like Duncan’s analysis of new services. He is critical, but fair and helps to point out potential problems in new services that have saved me wasting time on a good idea, badly executed (my favourite expression in evaluating new services).
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
If you’re a small charity, look to the internet as a place to reinvent yourself. Bullying UK runs on less than 50K a year yet supports over one million people a year (through our website and email service).
For larger charities I would say take more risks and be inventive. There are way too many carbon copy charity web projects that are either offline ideas brought online (misses the point) or just a pale imitation of a superior web property.
Take a look at Click, Create & Print www.bullying.co.uk/poster to see how we took three very different technologies and united them in a way no one else has thought of. [it's great fun, have a try yourself!]
The wheel is perfectly good as a round object, no need for a reinvention…..!
Great thanks for talking to me John, hopefully there are lots of tips that other charities can learn from – and keep up the great work on the site