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 SocialActions.com 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.