Digital Strategies for Charities: Trust through the Disclosure and Dissemination of Information

Severine Diaz, Prins Butt

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    The number of charities in the UK has increased steadily over time, with over 168,000 charities currently registered in the UK (Charity Commission for England and Wales, 2019). This growth has gone hand in hand with the growth of the web. Many charities are harnessing web-based platforms to communicate their work and gather donations for their cause (Turner, 2010). However, despite the benefits, it has also created challenges for these organisations. In particular, the vast amount of information that is readily available online has created savvy donators who are more discerning about where they donate their money. Growing scrutiny in social media has also raised scepticism as to the integrity of charities (Sargeant et al., 2006). Digital strategy has, therefore, become a critical factor when considering ways in which to engage donators. Trust has proven to be an influential factor in building the consumer base and increasing engagement (Saleem et al., 2017). For charities, the trust the consumers have in their operation is key to their success if not their survival (Vázquez et al., 2002). It has, therefore, become crucial for charities to understand the impact of the web on consumer trust and to evolve a suitable digital strategy accordingly.

    Existing studies have investigated the relationship of a charity's digital presence on its consumer trust. The studies have analysed how charities can attract and sustain donations through a range of web-based means including a personal website for the organisation, social media and crowd-funding platforms (Raman, 2016). However, these studies have primarily focused on non-UK based organisations. Research on UK based charities, particularly smaller charities, has been limited. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the development of a digital strategy for a small UK based charity.

    We considered digital strategy in terms of digital disclosure, digital dissemination and the synergy between them. We distributed a set of three questionnaires to three groups of seven subject matter experts. We provided each group with a prototype that visualised different levels of digital disclosure and dissemination for the case-study charity. The expectations, perceptions and priorities of each group concerning consumer trust were then collected and analysed.

    Our findings show that there are three main elements of disclosure that influence consumer trust, namely, identity, impact and accountability. The disclosing of information that helps identify a charity such as its legal status and postal address help build the initial trust. Sharing of past and present activity and its impact develops further trust while releasing financial data for public scrutiny adds to a charity's credibility. The elements of dissemination that affect trust include the brand image, security and usability. Consumers place greater trust in charities that have a website that is secure, suitably branded and easy to use. A strong presence on established platforms helps foster consumer confidence as it allows charities to interact transparently. Furthermore, the balance between the level of disclosure and dissemination also influences consumer trust.

    This study has highlighted the importance and influence of disclosure and dissemination on consumer trust and its role in engaging consumers. Additionally, as part of this study, we developed an e-learning package based on our findings which consists of a trust checklist and a compliant prototype. Small charities have limited resources and finance. Therefore the package is adaptable, freely available and requires minimal technical know-how. Charities can utilise these to evaluate their website and assess their level of disclosure and dissemination. Furthermore, these can inform the development of guidelines to help charities evolve their digital strategy.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
    EventINSPIRE 2020 International E-Conference -
    Duration: 16 Jul 202016 Jul 2020
    Conference number: 25


    ConferenceINSPIRE 2020 International E-Conference
    Abbreviated titleINSPIRE 2020


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