Should we promote the right to ask or the joy of giving?
The Direct Marketer's Checklist (via Denny Hatch)

Promoting the joy of giving: A fundraising revolution?

My article on the joy of giving on Monday seems to have struck a chord with people, judging by the number of re-tweets and high number of visitors to the site in the last few days.
However, I’m very conscious that commenting and pointing out where someone is wrong is very easy, but what is harder is coming up with a counter proposal or solution.

So here is my blue ocean strategy for revolutionising fundraising and promoting the joy of giving.  Feel free to shoot me down, constructively criticise or tell me what a god-like genius I am!

Is fundraising broken?

Fundraising at its best is inspiring and makes the world a better place.  Just look at the massive amount of money that people gave after the recent Haiti earthquake.

However, I believe strongly that a number of traditional fundraising techniques are over used and the market is becoming saturated with appeals/requests aimed at an increasingly disillusioned market.

But, as Jeff Brooks rightly points out, the problem isn’t the medium, it’s the misuse and bad execution of it that so turns people off.

Depending on what you read overall philanthropic giving in the UK is either in decline or at best static.

We need to do something to reverse the trend because the fundraising profession is approaching a crossroads and advances in print and computer technology provide a wonderful opportunity to improve how we go about raising funds.

A powerful force for change

There are two main spheres of influence that I believe combine to make a powerful force for change in fundraising.

Books such as Trust Agents, Wikinomics, Free and the World is Flat combine to make a compelling case of the opportunities that social media and the internet offer.

Secondly, business writers such as Seth Godin and Steve Yastrow and fundraisers of the calibre of Ken Burnett and Kay Sprinkel Grace argue that permission, great customer experience and feedback based on the individual's own needs are required to be competitive today.

The beginnings of a revolution…

The combination of both of these drivers has seen revolutions in the book selling, travel agency and newspaper industries (amongst others) over the last ten years and the time for revolution in the fundraising sector is nearly upon us.

Mark Phillip’s talks about some of the charities that have started to do this and names (amongst others) Kiva, Donors Choose, Charity:Water, but these still represent only a small percentage of philanthropic giving and are predominantly overseas development charities and niche (although extremely worthwhile) causes.

So if I was to start a fundraising revolution what would it look like?

A New Fundraising Model

First of all there are a number of fundamental principles:

• Individuals should be made to feel proud to give and inspired by the difference that their generosity makes.
• Complete transparency on where the gift goes.
• Feedback on the impact of the gift.
• Control of the frequency and type of communications.

In return I would ask two things of donors:

• To commit to give a minimum of 1% of their annual income.
• Increase this giving based on rises in their own income.  Perhaps using a mechanism like ‘Give More Tomorrow’.

I would achieve this in the following way.

First of all I would establish a foundation that would promote the principles of the 1% club.  People could choose to give direct to their own chosen charities or pay the money into the foundation and decide which causes and charities  they want to distribute their money to (much like CAF accounts work).

In return for giving to the foundation or pledging to give a minimum amount to charity every year, I would develop a suite of materials that made people proud of their philanthropy. 

This would include inspiring quotes, posters, stickers, badges etc that made people feel good about giving.  These materials would also encourage people to let others know that they are part of the club (hopefully without being too preachy or sanctimonious), so instead of feeling guilty when someone stops them on the street or they receive an unsolicited piece of direct mail they can respond by saying ‘I’m part of the 1% club and proud to give through them’.

The power of the masses & the importance of impact

For those who decide to give through the club I would try and harness the power of mass collaboration (a la Wikipedia) to channel their giving to those charities who have the biggest impact.  Check out this great article at Tactical Philanthropy on defining impact or this recent New Philanthropy Capital booklet.

Using a team of volunteers/paid staff I would get them to visit projects, report on the work that is being done and produce photos/video/newsletters that shows the donor where their money is going and the difference they are helping to make.

This would shift the fundraiser’s role in organisations who decide to sign up to the club.  They would be responsible (amongst other things) for providing feedback to donors, collating information on the impact of their work, putting on donor recognition events, engaging them in new projects and giving supporters the tools to become true fans/ambassadors of their charity, who will go off and recruit other donors.

If sufficient people sign up, then the fund could be a real driving force for change and good.  It would reduce the money spent on traditional advertising and fundraising and hopefully increase the overall amount of philanthropic giving.
I would not abandon direct mail, the telephone or other more traditional methods, as I still think they have a lot to offer.  However, I would insist that any use of these was permission based, interesting, relevant and inspiring.

So, what are the issues?

Critics might argue that creating such a foundation would be inefficient, as it risks duplicating work and having high administration costs.  However, by harnessing the power of volunteers and their networks (much of the recruitment of new donors would be word of mouth and peer to peer) then you would only need a small, core team to run the foundation and the sector as a whole would save money as it would reduce acquisition and marketing costs.

Another valid questions is ‘Why give to a foundation, when you can give direct?’.  That’s true for some people who are passionate and engaged with a particular cause or charity.  The problem is that many people don’t know the best places to channel their giving and are put off by current approaches to charitable giving.  A recent article by Beth Breeze from Kent University points out that many donors struggle to distinguish between charities and use a number of fall back strategies to decide where to give. The 1% Club would help overcome some of these problems.

Anyone want to join me?

Celina Ribero at Civil Society wrote about a similar idea today and also pointed out the marvellous example of Dr Toby Ord, so there’s three people on board – anyone else care to join us?