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£10.1 billion income drop for charities due to coronavirus – new smart speaker (Alexa) technology aims to generate donations

Some of the UK’s leading charities are set to benefit from a new partnership that enables donors to pledge money quickly, securely and easily through Alexa-enabled devices.

Award-winning voice technology company, Say It Now, has teamed up with digital advertising exchange DAX to enable people to respond directly to radio advertisements on their smart speaker and use voice commands to donate to their chosen charity.

NSPCC, RNIB, Crisis, Macmillan Cancer Support and Global’s Make Some Noise are the first to engage, with each planning separate advertising campaigns.

The initiative will provide a crucial boost as UK charities look for new ways to generate income in the wake of the coronavirus. (Thirty-one percent of charities surveyed by Pro Bono Economics reported that the way in which Covid-19 had affected their ability to fundraise was their biggest single issue.  An additional study by the independent charity revealed that the sector is facing a £10.1 billion funding gap over the next six months.)

Say It Now secured funding from Innovate UK to create the donation channel for not-for-profit organisations following the call from the UK’s innovation agency for ambitious technologies to build UK resilience after the coronavirus outbreak.

Targeted audio ads will run specifically on devices that support a voice-assistant; listeners can find out more about the individual charity or donate straight away with a simple verbal instruction. (This makes the assumption, based on Say It Now’s direct industry experience, that most voice assistants are directly linked to a payment service, such as Amazon Pay.) Transactions are frictionless while the connected nature of the devices enables the direct effect of ad spend on user engagement to be measured.

Say It Now has developed the technology as evolving consumer habits see people embrace voice commerce to complement mobile and ecommerce. Thirty-four per cent of UK households have a smart speaker, and 72% of people with smart speakers use them as part of daily routines.  The use of smart speakers has increased 12% each month during Covid-19. Listening to audio remains the most popular activity on smart speakers while voice transactions are projected to be worth £3.5 billion in 2022.

 

Charlie Cadbury, CEO and co-founder of Say It Now, commented: “The pandemic has accelerated existing trends, paving the way for voice technology which is versatile, contactless and increasingly part of daily life.  The Innovate UK funding enables us to use our voice experience and work alongside our media partner DAX to develop ‘tech for good’ as charities look for new ways to generate income in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.  The aim is to demonstrate that ‘voice giving’ is a viable donation channel both now and for the future.”

Emma Bradley, Managing Director at Global Charities, said: “We are a national charity that supports small charities looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. At a time when they are most needed, their ability to continue their essential services has been severely disrupted by Covid-19. Combining Say It Now’s voice technology with Global’s own advertising platform, DAX, is a powerful antidote to help aid recovery through challenging times.”

Josephine Swinhoe, Director of Income Generation at NSPCC, said: “The world is increasingly technology-driven and working with Say It Now allows us to be at the forefront of testing new ways to engage with our supporters.  The collaboration with other charities enables us to fast track best practice that will benefit the sector overall as it looks to recover from the effects of the crisis and develop innovative fundraising for the future.”

Alex McDowell, Head of Public Fundraising at the RNIB, said: “The coronavirus has had an impact on all of our lives. For many charities, it has made fundraising more challenging at the same time that demand for services has increased.  RNIB are always looking at new ways we can inspire support and make it easier for people to contribute to our vision and we are delighted to involved in this innovative programme. Not only does it provide a frictionless way for people to support RNIB’s vital work, it also has wider benefits to blind and partially sighted people, who will experience this service in exactly the same way as all Alexa users.”

Richard Lee, Director of Fundraising at Crisis, said: “The coronavirus lockdown has magnified the value of home for all of us.  Through our ‘Home for All’ campaign, we have supported people who are homeless during the pandemic, meeting immediate practical needs and helping to rebuild lives in the longer-term.  But alternative ways to generate income are essential if we are to ultimately end homelessness; partnering with Say It Now and adopting new voice technology donation channels keeps that goal firmly in sight.”

Claire Rowney, Executive Director of Fundraising, Marketing and Communications at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Macmillan is funded almost entirely by public donations and we are facing the hardest year in our 109-year existence as we contend with an estimated income drop of a third, due to the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when people with cancer need us more than ever.  Say It Now’s innovative initiative will play a key role in providing existing and new supporters with another way to donate and every penny raised will help enable Macmillan to continue to provide the vital support that people with cancer rely on, now and in the future.”

Say It Now uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to develop technology that lets computers talk to people in the same way that people have conversations with each other with a specific focus on voice transactions.  In 2019 it won bronze in the inaugural Alexa World Cup, a global challenge devised by Amazon to find the ‘killer voice app’.  Its enterprise expertise and agile attitude has enabled Say It Now to rapidly develop this innovative charity voice giving application.