A better deal for donors

I’ve been working for charities for over twenty years, a sobering thought.

I’ve worked for some great charities and done some fantastic fundraising. And some that’s been less fantastic but we’ll skip quickly over that. Overall, it’s been really good.

But what’s been bothering me for much of this time has been that I haven’t been able to really transform the donor experience in any of the charities I’ve worked for.

Now I am not talking about bigger donors here. People or organisations, particularly governments who can afford to write big cheques to charities get a pretty good deal, I think. They get their own projects to fund, sometimes nonprofits will run new projects just for them. They get usually very good feedback on how their money has been spent and what has been achieved with it.

For the small donor, giving $50 or $100, say, or giving a few dollars or pounds each month, not so much. Their donations are solicited under the message that their gift will save or transform lives but how it is spent and on what is often very unclear. These gifts commonly go into a charity’s general or unrestricted fund. It is usually very difficult to work out how much of this has been used to fund direct programme work as opposed to all the other things charities, legitimately, need funds for. Such as overheads. Or marketing.

Many donors are happy to give to such unrestricted funds and that’s fantastic. These are the most valuable donors of all. But surely, every donor ought to have the choice of what they fund? And be told how their money has been used, if they want. This shouldn’t just be confined to big donors like governments.

In a world where donors of all kinds are becoming increasingly (and rightly) demanding, where trust and confidence in institutions of all kinds is diminishing, I think the charity sector is in danger of not responding to smaller donors’ needs for transparency and impact.

And, conversely, if we do respond by providing greater transparency and, even more
importantly, connection to the cause, I think donors will really respond. Increasing donation levels and allowing charities to continue to prosper and thrive.

What we need to do is to bring the cause much closer to the donor. Inspire them with amazing and compelling storytelling. Give them much greater transparency on what has been achieved from their donation. Some charities, of course are already doing this, charity:water perhaps most famously and are doing very well as a result.

But I want this for many, many more progressive causes.

So, enough of me pontificating on this subject. I am going to do something about this. I am with a group of like minded souls, Tim Longfoot, MD of Open Fundraising, Imogen Ward, CEO of Lessons for Life Foundation and AJ and Melissa Leon, founders of Misfit Inc, setting up a new charity.

The Misfit Foundation will be established with a mission of promoting giving to all kinds of world changing causes. It will seek to use the power of technology and storytelling to bring donors together with the work they support. It is being launched today, in the UK and US.

And the first project of the Misfit Foundation will be….well that’s for another post

Tobin Aldrich
Director, Misfit Foundation

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