Injecting a bit more fun into asking and giving
I used to teach fundraising. I founded the Directory of Social Change in 1975, which became the UK’s largest provider of information and training on running non-profits. And a lot of our effort was on encouraging better practice in grantmaking and fundraising. In fact I’ve written many books about it as well, and a few years ago was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Professional Fundraising magazine.
I noticed two things. First that most fundraisers don’t really enjoy asking. They may be passionate bout their project, but when it comes to asking, they get all embarrassed. They believe that fundraising is about trying to prise money from someone who is reluctant to part from it. But actually, it’s about sharing your ideas and engendering a feeling of enthusiasm in people before you actually ask. And when you do ask, they will WANT to give.
Equally, many givers feel exploited. They feel that the charities that are asking them to give are only interested in taking their money. The charity may say thank you (although some forget even this most basic courtesy); but the charity seems not to be interested at all either in you or your ideas about the issue. This is not quite “smash and grab” or “take the money and run”, but you get the picture. So, what if we could make things different?
For the fundraiser, this might be perhaps not just asking, but being able to offer something in return – whether cash back or things or opportunities of some sort. And seeking to raise money for something very specific which would only be made happen if the money that is needed is raised within a specific timeframe. So that it is not money going into general funds or to pay for something which will happen anyway. And also the fundraiser might see its supporters as a crowd of energy, ideas, talent and even time. All this might make it easier for people to give.
For the supporter, knowing that your support is critical in making something happen, being asked for your opinions and ideas, being invited to get involved by offering your contacts or experience or skills by or by spreading the message through your own networks, could all make it a more exciting relationship. And getting a bit more involved than just giving your money need not involve a huge amount of your time.
Then there are the benefits that a supporter might get back in return. For my “Mousebook” project for example, it is anything from a copy of the book to a tutorial on a tandem to see and learn about social enterprise; and all my supporters will share in the success of the book by having a share of the revenue it generates. Take a look at www.buzzbnk.org/mousebook. It could be made to be a lot more interesting than just giving money!
So my idea was to try to put a bit more fun into fundraising and giving. That was the challenge. Alongside this, I wanted to try to create a mechanism for start up and early stage ventures to find the funds they need to make good things happen. This was the starting point for the idea of Buzzbnk.
Michael Norton OBE, Chairman and Co-founder of Buzzbnk