Charity Digital 2018

It’s time for my look back on the past year of charity and non-profit digital campaigns and activity. There’s so much great work out there from such a wide range of organisations that it’s always hard to narrow it all down to this short but by no-means exhaustive list.

Dan Papworth-Smyth
5 min readDec 10, 2018


Power to the people

This year has been all about the democratisation of your organisation’s social media accounts. Several charities have given service users and influencers the keys to their Twitter or Instagram accounts to post on their behalf.

By handing over control to those you support and putting your trust in them, they can deliver that heartfelt, first hand message that will make all the difference. Whether it’s Scope and their Disability Gamechangers, including the likes of illustrator Sam Schäfer, Bloodwise for #MakeBloodCancerVisible with Sky Sports’ Simon Thomas, and Alastair Campbell, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity on Giving Tuesday with Deborah James (aka BowelBabe), and many more. It’s been great to see the controls handed over to real people with incredible stories to tell and unique ways of telling them.

Talking about taboos

Miscarriage is something rarely spoken about, yet 1 in 4 women will experience it in their lifetime. Tommy’s wanted to highlight the impact that social media can have to make such a horrible situation even tougher with their campaign ‘Together for Change’. The video’s use of instant messaging and social media to drive the narrative really caught my attention and I think even potentially helps viewers to empathise more due to the familiarity of the format.

Alongside this video Tommy’s launched a suite of new digital resources created with parents who’d experienced it themselves, as well as a new baby loss online support group.

Tweet treats

Simply saying ‘Please donate to our charity’ just doesn’t cut it any more on social. Nowhere is this more the case than on Twitter, the fast moving whirlwind of news and memes fighting for your attention.

Channel 4 recognised this for this year’s Stand Up To Cancer campaign with Cancer Research UK and decided it was time to give people something in exchange for parting with their cash. But what could a TV channel with a sense of humour and almost 1 million Twitter followers offer donors? Turns out, quite a lot…

In exchange for proof of your donation, Channel 4 were willing to offer everything from simply following you back on Twitter for a fiver or cheekily asking your boss to give you a raise (£20), right the way through to pitching them a show (£250), mentioning your business in their tweets for an hour (£500), or even a celeb personal training session (£1,000). It wasn’t without controversy though with many angry at Channel 4 for condoning online abuse by offering to tweet insults to Piers Morgan for £50 donations. Apparently he was in on the campaign and agreed to be part of it to help raise money.

Tap tache-stic

This year men’s health charity Movember has been trialling 600 NFC-enabled badges across the UK, as well as in Canada and Australia. Working with design agency Bond & Coyne they were looking to combat declining cash carriers, but also to remove the potential embarrassment or awkwardness of having to ask friends and family for donations.

When tapped with a smartphone or watch, the badge triggers a payment form to open which can be completed using Apple Pay or Google Pay (displayed based on the type of device). Gift Aid can even be collected too. It’s a personal, wearable, contactless reader. Brilliant!

Showcasing services in every dimension

Video isn’t always about asking you to part with cash, or even backing a campaign.

One of NSPCC’s most well-known services is their helpline, Childline. Unfortunately, phone calls aren’t the most visual or easily demonstrable activities especially when they’re on such sensitive subjects. What NSPCC have done is cleverly created an immersive look into this world using 360 filming, and made the impact of Childine crystal clear.

Here’s another example of 360 video being used to talk about services or provide information. Macmillan provide highly regarded information on all sorts of cancers and treatments, but it’s very much one thing reading about something, and quite another experiencing it. To help bridge that gap they created their first 360 film to put viewers right into the treatment to hopefully reduce fear for those undergoing radiotherapy.

Robot wars

What can be said about Warchild’s Escape Robot campaign that hasn’t already been said? It’s been picking up awards and recognition all year, and rightly so. Working with Raw London they created an incredibly powerful and memorable way of demonstrating the mental struggles of children affected by war.

When the video launched back at the start of 2018, it was used to drive traffic to a longform webpage full of information about the charity’s work, impact and the need as demonstrated in their latest report. It was a great way to take what could’ve been just a PDF file and make its content engaging and digital first, rather than print-first and hard to read on a mobile. These coupled together to make a brilliant campaign that really caught my attention.

If you want to read more about this campaign and how it came about, check out this blog on CharityComms’ website.

Telling stories through Stories

Libraries are incredible places but so often forgotten or overlooked, especially in a world of instant information and content.

The New York Public Library wanted to bring its books to the masses to help people to discover stories they’d never read, or had forgotten. They wanted to share them with a generation that is more comfortable thumbing a screen than the pages of a good book.

They did this in the most beautiful way by utilising Instagram’s Story functionality as ‘InstaNovels’. You can currently read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland part 1 and part 2 on their Stories.

Giving change

Money is so impersonal. We Brits don’t like to talk about it, so why put people through that awkwardness on your donation forms? For this year’s Christmas campaign Crisis have gone down a different route asking “How much impact would you like to make?” rather than “How much money do you want to give to us?”

Why have a shopping list and a donation form, when they could be the same thing?

The donor selects their gift not in pounds and pence, but in the number of homeless people they’d like to pay for a place at Crisis at Christmas.

That’s it for my selection of favourites for this year, what were yours? Let me know over on Twitter @dansmythphoto or leave a comment below…

Want to look back over what made my 2017 and 2016 lists?



Dan Papworth-Smyth

Head of Digital Engagement at @BreastCancerNow, formerly of Breast Cancer Care and @TeenageCancer. Sometimes I take photos too. Views are my own.