After much of Chicago burned to the ground in 1871, rebuilding the city involved various fundraising and restorative strategies. One famous effort took the form of donated books sent from common people (and royalty) in the U.K. to help build a new, free and public library in the capital of the Midwest – a gesture that can still make the city’s locals smile with awe and gratitude.
Now, as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris continues to smolder from the catastrophic blaze on Monday (April 15), there is a good chance future Parisians and French citizens will remember the digital gifts toward restoration now starting to pour in from around the world. Digital payments promise to play a significant role in rebuilding, as will other digital technology – at a time when charities and fundraising efforts around the world are still struggling to make the most of digital marketing and payment methods.
It’s far too early to talk about numbers, but in the hours after images of that fire were sent around the globe, a number of organizations have set up donation pages on their websites in hopes of aiding Notre Dame’s eventual restoration.
Those entities include the The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (which has donation buttons ranging from $25 to $10,000), the Friends of Notre Dame (which was accepting donations by check but also prominently features various digital payment methods) and the Notre Dame Fire Restoration Fund (part of the French Heritage Society, which says it has helped fund some 600 restorations).
As well, several French millionaires and billionaires have already pledged substantial funds for restorations of the iconic cathedral.
The fire is an event that easily captures global attention, and there is good reason to think that a good part of the restoration costs will come from relatively small online donations from non-wealthy people – if anything, the digital channel provides a way for those people (many of whom no doubt have fond memories of visiting Notre Dame) to feel like a part of the overall restorative project, whatever shape that takes. (And a digital 3D scan of the cathedral completed by a recently deceased professor also seems likely to help with rebuilding and renovation.)
Generally, though, various reports and analysis about the intersection of digital payment and charities have found that – in the words of one such report – “digital fundraising remains a tiny portion of total fundraising income.” Even more than that, the report noted, “there are no digital charity equivalents to Amazon and Facebook” or other Big Tech firms. “While our personal lives and the business world have been transformed by digital, charities remain largely untouched. A few enhancements and improvements for sure, but revolution or even transformation certainly not.”
Skills Are Lacking
Part of the problem stems from the inability of charities to attract enough digitally skilled professionals, according to other reports. A survey conducted late last year found that 75 percent of charities had in their employ “very few digitally skilled people,” and that 77 percent of charities rely on boards and other leadership for guidance about how to navigate the expanding world of digital commerce and payments. Still, even with such guidance, 63 percent of charities have no digital strategies.
That’s not to say charitable giving is alien to the digital environments that consume more and more of consumers’ daily lives. We’ve pretty much all seen those calls for donations on Facebook from friends and relatives who are celebrating birthdays, or simply want to raise money for a favorite cause.
Consumers can expect to see more of that on common digital hangouts and destinations. Instagram, for instance, recently announced it would launch a Fundraiser sticker. Sources have reported that new code and imagery found in Instagram’s Android app show how a user can search for nonprofits or browse collections of suggested charities. Once a charity is selected, the user can place a Donate button sticker on their Instagram story so followers can click it to contribute.
As well, links are emerging between digital payments and more charitable giving. Take the example of NMI, a commerce enablement company, from late last year. It implemented and installed contactless donation points in Bristol for a charity event, and raised 309 percent more money than they did a few years ago without them. The company collaborated with Wallace & Gromit’s The Grand Appeal, a U.K. children’s hospital, and installed the machines along a popular sculpture trail in the city. Cashless payments are popular in the U.K., accounting for one in two in-store transactions and two out of five face-to-face Visa transactions.
All indications point to a lengthy and costly restoration of the Notre Dame in Paris, and while much of those expenses will likely be handled by the French state, the Catholic Church and some of France’s wealthiest citizens, you can almost certainly expect funds to arrive digitally from a variety of “common people” from around the world.