Oxfam Breaks New Ground With New Mobile App For its Supporters

The new app will allow donors to dial up or down the amount they wish to donate and easily manage how Oxfam gets in contact by phone, email or post.

Oxfam is claiming an industry first as it launches an app that will give more control than ever to its supporters, allowing them to dial up or down the amount they want to donate each month and easily manage how they receive communications from the charity.

The app, which launches today (9 January) on iOS and Android, aims to bring supporters closer to the charity. It will feature content such as real-life stories, live updates on emergencies and “selfie-style” video messages from Oxfam staff on the ground with the aim of giving donors a better understanding of why Oxfam needs their money, how the charity spends it and the impact donations have.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Oxfam’s head of public fundraising Paul Vanags explains: “Our task is to bring the UK donor closer to both the need for their donation but also the impact their donation can and does make. That is the role of our marketing and fundraising.

“The app gives us the opportunity to have a one-to-one relationship in a way that was not possible before. The app is really all about giving supporters direct control over their giving and, from a marketing perspective, bringing the donor closer.”

The hope is that people will download the app because its focus is not on content, as with apps from other charities, but on “making donors’ lives easier”.

“Content is so widespread and easy to access these days that it is not a huge advantage. Apps have to be entertaining or do something that makes life easier. For us, content is important but that is not going to be the thing that makes people download the app. The driver is to [determine] their relationship with us. Everything they used to do via phone or email they can do on the app,” he says.

“What is unique is that direct control over donations. That was the hardest thing to do from a technical perspective but is also its most unique feature. And packaging all these things together is something no other charity has done.”

The app has various features including a ‘support now’ dial that donors can move up or down to control how much they give every month. They can also choose to make a one-off donation if, for example, they want to give to a particular appeal or cause.

It also includes access to Oxfam’s online shop and keeps a running tab of how much a supporter has given, whether through sponsorships, fundraising or shop purchases.

This is the first app Oxfam has launched and Vanags admits it has taken “longer than the charity would have liked” to bring it to market but hopes it will see a payoff in terms of how engaged people are with the charity and fundraising levels.

Oxfam will be testing the app’s effectiveness by monitoring the behaviour of those who have the app versus those who do not, as well as those who have download it but may not use it that much versus those that do. The hope is that people who have the app will give more and be more engaged with the charity.

Yet it is not just aimed at current supporters. Oxfam’s band of street fundraisers have all been briefed on the app and will be able to demonstrate to new supporters how it works. Vanags says it will be “interesting to see” if it has an impact on sign-ups.

“We hope it will overcome some common objections that we get to taking out a regular gift or direct debit. People tell us they don’t want to commit every month but this gives them that control,” he adds.

One other key feature is the ability for supporters to easily manage how and when they receive communications from Oxfam. That was introduced after some of the issues raised in 2015 around fundraising and following new rules on how charities contact donors, plus the fact that charities are moving away from old channels and heavily focus on phone marketing and direct mail.

“We are looking for ways to engage supporters in our cause which are more about marketing than fundraising. At Oxfam our mantra is engagement first, we want to get people involved in and inspired by our cause of ending global poverty, then worry about what we do with them. Rather than start by trying to sell a product to them which has been the prevailing model in the charity sector,” he concludes.