The last few years have been tough for a range of charities. On the one hand the economic crisis has meant that people have had far fewer pounds in their pockets to give, either as spare change in a collecting tin or via a regular direct debit.
In addition to that, a number of new charities have emerged, all clamouring for their share of the pie - not least those like Christians Against Poverty or the numerous food banks that have been formed to help those least able to cope with tough economic times. Other events have led to new charities becoming prominent, such as the rise of Help for Heroes as a result of Britain's military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Time to get in the game
However, the situation is far from doom and gloom - and not just because the economy is on the up.
The fact is that new digital opportunities have emerged for charities to connect with potential sponsors and increase their income as a result.
Games are one innovative way this has been happening. Online gamification can enable people to indulge in pastimes such as betting and gambling, not for the benefit of the bookies but for charities.
A good example of this is the Poppy Lottery. This costs £1 to enter and delivers a weekly jackpot of £2,000, the largest of the 25 winning ticket prizes. There is also a superdraw every quarter with a grand prize of £25,000.
People can enter by filling in a form online, or print off their form and fill it in by hand before posting it - this latter option perhaps helping to ensure comparatively technophobic individuals can take part too.
Recognising the opportunity
Charities seeking new digital opportunities may find they benefit considerably from bringing in talented individuals with strong digital marketing skills alongside a knowledge of traditional methods of raising funds for charities.
For example, those who will perform well in this sector may have a strong understanding of how the mainstream gaming and betting industry has embraced digital and mobile channels. The results of this can be seen in TV and web advertising for companies who can offer real-time and in-play betting through smartphones.
That may not be necessary for charities, although in theory if a charity wished to link with an event and take bets on eventualities such as the next goalscorer in a football match, there is no reason not to.
However, a wider understanding of charity work may steer marketers away from such activities. Effective marketing for charities using gamification will occur when those who might normally have qualms about gambling are willing to part with their cash for a good cause.
By analogy with non-digital means of raising funds, an online lottery might be compared with a raffle or tombola at a fundraising fair, where the prize might be a cake rather than cash. In both cases, the ticket holder is pairing the certainty of making contributions to a worthy cause with a possibility of victory based on random chance, rather than personal skill in predicting outcomes.
Charities looking to maximise all digital channels available in the quest to increase fundraising certainly need to bring on board talented digital marketers. With a clear shortage of skilled professionals in the marketing charities would be wise to remain open to bringing in people with the right skills from different sectors - including the betting industry.