See The Difference and the game changing potential of Charity Choice Consolidation websites

See the Difference

There has been a growing level of discussion here in the UK fundraising sector over the last couple of months about the much awaited launch of video-based charity project crowdfunding site See the Difference – added to just this week by a resounding endorsement in an open letter from UK Institute of Fundraising CEO Lindsay Boswell, which you can read on the Institute website.

As I outlined in my post about this exciting initiative back in May, the See the Difference team includes an impressive line-up of corporate backers contributing time and resources to launch a site that will offer videos of funding opportunities from a wide range of different charities, supported by social media sharing technology and the promise of specific video updates when projects are completed.

At first sight, this might just look like a video-based version of any number of existing fundraising websites already available – like GlobalGiving and PifWorld. However, what I find particularly interesting about See the Difference is just how they describe their vision for the site.

On their introductory video, Stuart Hamilton, one of the founding team, shares the vision for See the Difference by explaining “We might start seeing the See the Difference logo in all sorts of unexpected places, the logo appearing in all of the different places around the world where projects are going on. So See the Difference could ultimately become the standard way in which people choose and express the things they care about and the differences that they want to make to the world”.

This is a very exciting ambition for the See the Difference brand – and also very interesting from the point of view of charity fundraisers.

Put simply, if See the Difference grows the way that it hopes to then it could ultimately replace individual charity brands as the owners of relationships with online donors who fund their projects. Why give a regular donation to an established charity for them to use however they see fit, when you can instead choose specific projects that interest you from a wide range of different charities through See the Difference – and receive your updates and future giving opportunities through them too? In effect, See the Difference becomes my ‘Charity Choice Consolidator’ – and, thanks to them, I am free to switch my giving whenever I feel like it to any other organisation represented on their site.

I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing – as this type of model fits very much with the way I believe fundraising needs to evolve if we are to capitalise on the opportunities Web 2.0 offers us to provide the choice and engagement that younger online-savvy potential donors are demanding. Indeed, I’d go as far as to say that if we don’t evolve to offer such choice and engagement then we are in real danger of losing-touch not only with young donors but increasingly with those currently at the peak of their earning capability, who are typically less than enamoured with the traditional fundraising approaches used by most charities.

But what fundraisers – and the charities they work for – need to get to grips with is that the idea of charities no longer owning the long-term relationship with those people who fund their work is a real game changer. At the ultimate extreme, if donor relationships become the responsibility of a third party then there is no longer a need for the supporter database and direct marketing teams in every charity across the land to continue to be employed. In this new fundraising future, the key in-house fundraisers skill will be in packaging the work of their charity such that it will sell well on a Charity Choice Consolidator site.

There are, of course, alternatives to a single brand Consolidator-driven fundraising future. For example, SocialActions has taken a different route to providing online supporters with a means of choosing financial and non-financial support opportunities from a wide range of different organisations. They maintain an ever growing open source database of what are termed ‘micro-philanthropic opportunities’ – which can either be directly searched at or used to ‘push’ opportunities specific to a particular cause or area out to any other website which wishes to publicise them. And, of course, there is still ample opportunity for charities themselves to engage directly with supporters online.

The truth is that for the foreseeable future I expect to see online fundraising evolve to embrace a mix of charity-specific approaches, open source aggregation, and big brand charity choice consolidators – with supporters choosing how to engage based on whether they have a specific link with an existing charity brand or are more interested in a variety of support opportunities.

What is for sure is that fundraisers need to be preparing right now for this evolution – understanding the new opportunities on offer and what implications each of these might have on the way they work, and developing strategies and staff training programmes that will equip them to maximise their online fundraising income in future.




4 thoughts on “See The Difference and the game changing potential of Charity Choice Consolidation websites

  1. Hi Bryan

    Yes I think See The Difference (I’ve just typed the acronym and it came up as STD so we won’t go any further with that 🙂 ) has a potentially very powerful platform here. I’ve emailed them myself for more information but haven’t received anything in the last couple of months.

    I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying this spells the death of direct marketing. After all, you can buy clothes in shops, but many catalogue businesses still make a profit from DM. And the danger with See The Difference is that it could promote a ‘beauty parade’ version of giving, with only the video-friendly work getting a look-in – and getting funded, if donors are allowed to tag their gift specifically. Charities will need to think carefully about how to promote unrestricted giving opportunities via sites like this.

    That said, what a great opportunity to make our work even more relevant – without having to spend tons on DRTV! And maybe have a donor stumble across one of our projects who’d never heard of our cause. Bring it on – let’s see what happens.

    Adrian Salmon
    Annual Fund Manager
    University of Leeds

  2. Hi,

    This really struck a chord with me and reminded me of something I wrote about a while ago with the increasing fracturing between fundraising/coms work and the actual work on the ground. It seems to me to be a growing trend for the “charity” that people donate to to simply be a conduit for funds that go to support multiple different organisations that acutally do the work. There’s a diversification, if you will, into specialisms.

    The “charity” that raises the money doesn’t have to be backed by excellent, emotionally engaging and pertinent work – they can cherry pick the projects that are going to deliver them the return against a set of criteria. Then you have a whole range of charities on the ground, actually delivering projects and competiting for funding.

    The charities that are big tended to have a combination of good work on the ground and good fundraising. Now that doesn’t need to be the case. Why slave away for 10 years building up rigourous evidence-based approaches and a bank of case studies that need funding when you can set up a brand online overnight and simply give the money to a different charity to do the work?

    The classic example of this in my eyes is charity: water, who don’t actually have their own water projects, but fund a variety of other charities (some of them big in their own right).

    Where I think they differ from See the Difference is that charity: water and others actually have a brand that you can emotionally connect with. It resonates and inspires. Can a portal achieve the same emotional engagement? I doubt it. People may become attached to the projects, but they won’t to the portal that helps them find them.

  3. Hi Adrian and Andrew

    This is Dominic from See The Difference. Firstly apologies if you didn’t receive a reply to your email. If you email me at I’ll make sure you get a reply.

    … and thanks for your thoughtful comments, as you are probably aware we developed See The Difference over the last two years in partnership with around 70 “pioneer” charities to ensure it really added something to the charity landscape and to also harness many of the team’s background here in media and storytelling for the benefit of UK charities. The key ambition is of course to make giving a more rewarding experience and thereby stimulating additional income and an amazing gang of 350+ people have collaborated pro-bono to make that happen. That’s a real labour of love.

    I agree with Andrews point, givers care about the difference they make and specific projects are delivered by the charities, so as we say the star of the show are the charities individual stories, NOT see the difference. What we do as an organisation is help support and mentor charities to tell their stories, put all the info in one place to make it easy for givers to find and concentrate IT, creative and other resources to create a continually improving user experience for givers (investment which is beyond the scope of many individual charities).

    To answer another point on DM. I don’t think this is the death of any other channel and we’ve had great engagement, debate and help in developing See The Difference from several large scale DM agencies. Many of the people we’ve worked with in that area think it encourages charities to think about the strength of connection you get with givers when you can see the difference you can make, something they have been advocating for many years and they have been actively encouraging the clients to experiment (with them making brilliant stories of course!).

    If you be interested, you’d be very welcome to come to one of our charity briefings here at 140 London Wall, or watch over the web (via a webex briefings). If you’d like to come email me or Jill Ross (who runs the briefings) at or the usual emails.

    Look forward to hearing from you – and thanks for taking the time to check out the website and feel free to continue the debate on

    Regards – dom

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