GlobalGiving UK – giving donors what they want and putting small charities at the forefront of online fundraising

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Following the great success of the original US GlobalGiving site, which has raised over $12 million since launch in 2001 by offering individual donors the opportunity to support specific grassroots development projects run by a range of specialist organisations, a UK version of the site has now launched.

GlobalGiving.co.uk has partnered with an interesting mix of charities to offer UK donors a choice from over 500 projects in 70 countries. There are a few large brands like Help The Aged and VSO, but the majority are fascinating small specialist organisations like The Freeplay Foundation, PhotoVoice, and Riders for Health.

This mix creates a very distinctive feel to the project-specific content on the site – which forms the heart of the whole donor experience. When you read through the detailed project proposals from these organisations you feel not only that you know how your donation is going to be used, but that it will really make an important difference to the work of specialists doing great things out there in the field. Which, of course, is exactly what donors want to feel these days before parting with their cash.

For example there’s Satellife, who need £17,741 to ship 700 donated PDAs loaded with medical software to medical students graduating from Makerere University in Uganda so they can have access to the latest medical information without having to leave their patients and travel back to the city. As I type the project has received £539 from 10 donors – and the site is encouraging me to become number 11. It’s a highly engaging experience that feels somehow different from that achieved by the equivalent project content on the sites of large development charities.

Add to this an attractive and easy to navigate website, automated Gift Aid reclaim, a gift certificate service, and widget-based integration with a host of social media sites to help donors publicise their chosen project and GlobalGiving.co.uk adds-up to a great online supporter environment – and one which bigger charities with the resources to develop their own branded project fundraising portals could learn a lot from.

Thinking ahead, the GlobalGiving.co.uk launch raises a range of strategic questions relating to the impact such fundraising marketplaces might have on the future of online giving. Are they a significant threat to the large charities who used to have the upper-hand in online giving because only they had the resources to provide sophisticated fundraising websites? If so, how will the big brand charities respond – by offering competing sites which aim to provide a better supporter experience or promoting their projects through multi-brand marketplaces? Will they grow the donor market or cannibalise?

Then there is also the question of whether the impact of such sites will be felt by organisations across all causes, or if such marketplaces will only really be effective where the work is easily packaged into smaller projects. So, great for Community Development, but not for causes dependent on large-scale projects like Disaster Relief or Medical Research?

One thing’s for sure. Online and offline, today’s donors are demanding more control over how their donation is used, more evidence of the impact their support achieves, and a more personal supporter experience overall. As a sector we’ve known this for many years now and the opportunities to address these demands online have been discussed in great detail – but perhaps it will take a new element of competition from brands like GlobalGiving to really get things moving on turning the opportunities into significant new income.

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