See The Difference – a very ambitious initiative looking to change the nature of charitable giving

See the Difference

As you’ll see from the promotional video above, the world of online charity crowdfunding ‘supermarkets’ looks set to grow yet again later this year, with the launch of See The Difference.

Founded by former BBC Executive Dominic Vallely, See The Difference plans to engage supporters with a diverse range of projects from all around the world, through a video-based site that uses ‘digital storytelling’ to promote projects and, very importantly, to show donors just what a difference their support has made.

With a very impressive line-up of corporate backers – and endorsements from a diverse group of people from the Head of Individual Marketing at the RSPB to the editor of Heat Magazine – See The Difference is clearly a very ambitious initiative. Not only are they looking to raise £500m (€563m; $756m) over the next five years but they also believe that “See the Difference could ultimately become the standard way in which people choose and express the things they care about and the differences they want to make in the world”.

It all certainly seems very well planned and from what can be seen of the website on the video, the user interface looks pretty slick and engaging.

I wish the team at See The Difference all the very best, as this is just the type of innovative approach that is needed if we are going to see the real potential of online fundraising start to be released. However, £500m seems an incredibly ambitious target to set for their first five years.

The best performing charity crowdfunding site out there at the moment is probably Kiva – and even with its highly innovative ‘investment’ project funding approach and incredible levels of PR support they have just reached £47m (€53m; $71m) over their first three and a half years of operation. While at the other end of the scale, the recently launched video-based project crowdfunding site PifWorld seems from the statistics on its homepage to only have managed to raise £5,250 (€5,915; $7,922) over its first two months.

Here’s hoping that See The Difference can at least get their online giving going at the Kiva-levels – it’ll certainly be very interesting to see just how quickly the income grows once their site goes live. There are no details of a planned launch date on the See The Difference website, but you can contact them through the holding page and keep-up with the site’s development through their recently launched Facebook Page.

10 thoughts on “See The Difference – a very ambitious initiative looking to change the nature of charitable giving

  1. But have you visited the holding page for See the Difference at

    http://www.stdifference.com/

    On my laptop there’s a big message telling me to “Install Microsoft Silverlight”.

    I realise it’s a cheap pop but given the site’s promo video takes a pop at charities not reporting back to donors and not using the Internet sufficiently or effectively enough, I don’t feel too bad about pointing it out.

    Equally, with “300 people” donating their services pro bono to the initiative (care to put a monetary value on that given some of the professional companies involved), shouldn’t one of them have spotted this rather user-unfriendly approach and sorted it out?

    Or is it just my laptop’s setup?

  2. This sounds like a wonderful concept. The idea of being transparent, telling donors where their money is going and how it will make an impact also inspired us to launch a similar micro-charity site called SmallCanBeBig.org. We were also responding to donors wanting to make an impact with smaller donations. 100% of all donations made to the site go directly to help families in need. In today’s tough economic times, more and more families are finding themselves in situations they never imagined. One rent check or mortgage payment away from living on the streets or in a shelter. Our site http://www.smallcanbebig.org helps connect people with a little extra to families without enough through compelling family stories. We also see the site as an opportunity to engage younger people and getting them to share the idea with their friends. Similar to See The Difference, the market research we did also signals a large opportunity to change the future of charitable giving.

    Since launching in January 2009, we have raised over $60,000 and helped 33 families and 70 children. That’s a family every 3 days. Donations have been made from 46 countries which highlights the true power of the internet.

  3. Hi Howard,

    I had the same “Install Microsoft Silverlight” error when I first tried to view their homepage version of the video – and ended-up viewing it through their Facebook page.

    You make a fair comment I think. I haven’t come across this before and I’ve been to lots of video-rich sites – so it’s really not a great illustration of their understanding of general site useability.

  4. effective crowd sourced giving is, i think, about to become huge. and it’s close enough to a science, if you watch behavior, that taking it to scale is not unrealistic. kiva could have grown much more if they hadn’t needed to certify the lenders, audit them, etc. so you do what they did in a market, country where there is a free flow of capital through the financial system and the numbers might not be out of whack. the guys from kiva are unique. and no one else is kiva or has figured out all they have figured out, and understood the system in which they exist. the number of “we’re kiva but” or “we’re kiva with” entrepreneurs out there is ridiculous. but this sounds like a group that, coming from a web 2.0 background, would be able to understand feedback loops givers respond to, etc. people have figured out how people behave online. that’s a defined skill. just not adopted with high performing entrepreneurs and serious financial backing, so much.

    that said, most online giving marketplaces underperform based on social, incentive and marketing issues; the way they don’t get the medium. so it is unproven. but i think it is plausible that the time is ripe for someone to take it to scale.

  5. One wonders at the ambitious target set by STD. My last perception of the situation was through this recent WSJ article titled “Charity Dries Up in UK”, which quotes that “nearly a thousand charities in the U.K. shut between 2007 and 2008, according to a Charity Commission report published last month” (read it here http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123905199099794385.html). But maybe there is a well thought-out business plan built-in, if one judges by the impressive backing they seem to have. Nevertheless, one would expect a much more engaging and innovative online campaign building-up towards launch, than just a video (I couldn’t download it either). Anyhow, let’s wish all the best to them…

  6. I think this will fail for 2 reasons.

    Like other aggregator sites, it is focusing on projects, but people give to people. Whether it uses video or not, unless it manages to humanise it’s search and functionality (which it looks from its video that it won’t) it will fail. Kiva is successful because it links individuals. Global giving is less successful because it doesn’t.

    Secondly, charities are doing fine with video without it. Why will they pay to put this extra layer in the way.

    There’s more about this on my blog.

  7. Hi there,

    I really like the concept of See the Difference, but I also have to say that Andrew’s got a point. I think
    it is all about people giving to people. And that you need to have and feel a personal connection.
    Although I don’t agree on his last point, about the video. I think video is a great way of creating
    an extra feeling/emotion with a person or project.

    We are trying this right now, with our current / small but personal project, full with video’s : http://www.jimmythemantours.com

  8. Hi
    I’m one of the huge team of people working pro bono to make See the Difference happen and want to respond to Andrew’s points..
    See the Difference is all about stories – people’s stories – and we think that video is one of the most powerful ways to tell these. The content of See the Difference videos is entirely up to the charities, so they can tell the stories that are most important to them. (The website is still being built by the way, so the introductory video about it, which you can see here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrFCh7ldhfA, is about the concept, rather than a demo of the functionality or search tools.)
    ‘Charities are doing fine with video without it’ Sure, some charities use video really creatively – for them it can be another shop window which will help them bring exposure to specific projects they want to fund and give them another route to reach a particular type of donor.
    But many charities, particularly smaller ones, simply haven’t had the resources or time to think about video and See the Difference can really help. We offer them a free training day and the support of an experienced media mentor as they make their first films. From the feedback we’ve had, they certainly see this as huge added value.

  9. @Sylvia,

    That’s exactly my point, what you are telling about the video’s. Iam really looking forward to see what you are all up to with See the Difference, when will you go live ?

    Gr, Jaap

  10. I believe Kiva has facilitated $120M+ of loans in its first 4 years. Given the growth of online spending and time spent online, GBP500 million over 5 years might be possible. After all, annual charitable giving in the UK is approx. GBP 50 billion annually, and might grow. A whole new generation of donors will use services like Kiva, See the Difference et al. A fundamental shift is underway. Good idea, and good luck See the Difference!

    The Goodgate Team (www.goodgate.org)

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