I loved this story from the US about strangers randomly paying off the Christmas lay-away bills of struggling families. The whole story just oozes feel good quotes and restores your faith in humanity.
Closer to home, my mother-in-law did something similar (with work colleagues) for families in her community. She decided to go direct to families (via social services) after having a couple of bad experiences of donating directly to charities. Overall, she found the whole experience much more rewarding than giving via a charity and it was something her whole company got involved in.
Elsewhere, the Oxfam blog reported on Give Directly, who are enabling donors to directly transfer cash via mobile phones to families in need in Africa. It's a fascinating concept and completely cuts out charities by getting people to give straight to the individual family in need.
I still think they need to think how they are going to report back to donors (it lacks some of the feelgood factor of the above examples), but it will be interesting to see if it proves popular.
It's a bit early to declare this a fundamental shift, but I do think there are some lessons we can learn from this as professional fundraisers. Here are some of my takeaways...
- One of your main jobs as a fundraiser is to connect the donor to the beneficiary through your communications.
- You can do this by always trying to humanise what you do. Put stories and emotion at the heart of what you do as a fundraiser.
- Make your donors feel part of something important and that their giving is making a tangible difference. Being made to feel that your donation is disappearing into a large, anonymous pot can be deeply unsatisfying.
- Don't forget to report back to your donors on the difference their gift has made.