Crowdsourcing restricted funding – the future for “true” giving?

Cancer Research UK's 'my projects' beta site

Cancer Research UK is currently trialling a beta version of a project which lets the public decide how their funding is spent. Nice idea, and I am in no doubt that this model would be extremely popular with the public were it to be adopted widely by charities. But at what cost?

As charities know all too well; we need to pay the bills, hire the right staff, cover overheads, and spend money in order to raise money. All of this requires a significant amount of unrestricted funding. It’s clearly not prudent to allocate every supporters’ donation to a specific project or area of work of their choice – if suddenly the lights went out and staff quit as no one wanted to pay for the rather un-sexy ‘administration costs’ of running it.

A few quick taps through MyProjects reveal that funding for a mobile unit is not as popular, for example, as pancreatic cancer which is being heavily supported (in the contexts of their assigned targets).

But, as fundraiser Conor Byrne points out, could this model run happily alongside individual giving and more sustainable funding from corporate, events and statutory funding? I like Conor’s idea of “minor gifts”; major gifts for the smaller donor!

I think Cancer Research UK is being brave and forward-thinking with this new model of fundraising, but I also think that it could only be a well-funded and large charity that could afford to try this out. There could also be an element akin to microvolunteering (and indeed giving one-off to national ‘telethons’ like Comic Relief or Children in Need) whereby donors may choose to ‘do their bit’ for a project close to their heart, but not be sufficiently persuaded to give regularly through direct debit or payroll giving; which supports the sustainability of running a charity bigger than the sum of individual projects.

I would be interested to see the back-end funding streams of the crowdsourced projects too.

However, I do think Cancer Research UK should be applauded for trialling this template of giving. Reminds me of this witty Dan and Dan sketch [Youtube link], whereby erm Dan wants to ensure his tax is spent exactly how he sees fit by the Government…

What do you think ? Brave new model or unsustainable gimmick?

3 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing restricted funding – the future for “true” giving?

  1. Some very welcome challenges highlighted about the risks of the restricted funding model – an important balance to strike between providing supporter choice and the charities needs. This initiative is a response to the needs of our supporters, who ask how they can best target their support, but many are still happy to support the ‘un-restricted’ pot. Interesting to see the emergance of ‘charity supermarkets’, the likes of seethedifference looking to provide similar platforms for the smaller to medium size charities. Delivering tangible feedback to generous supporters is the key

  2. Thanks for your comment. Waiting to see what seethedifference.org will deliver, but I definitely think a greater dialogue with supporters about how their money is spent is necessary for all charities. The recent, rather hackneyed, ‘Dispatches’ documentary on The London Marathon addressed this oft-raised issue too.I guess new models of empowering more donors with choice over *where* / *how* their money is spent (as opposed to being transparent about how you see fit to spend their money through Trustee-endorsed strategy) is still in a ‘suck it and see’ period. Part of me thinks it impractical, albeit brave. But I think if you *can* find a model that works alongside traditional income streams (and still meets the mission of your charity and keeps the trustees content) then more power to you 🙂

  3. Hi Rob: I have worked overseas in projects for years adn now develop online fundraising software for the sector – http://www.donor2deed.com – I firmly believe that if you explain to a donor that the charity needs to hire the right people and pay for the rent that they will give part of their donation to cover the admin costs

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