Closing the feedback loop

There was a wonderful piece of research that came out some years ago, published by CAF of which the main finding was that people want to know where their money goes after they donate. At Makerble we celebrated. We have been speaking to charities and individuals about exactly this for the last two years, have run focus groups with the amazing What If innovation and have built our site around our findings. The reason we encourage charities to post updates about their work is based on this insight in fact.

We’ve been working on closing the feedback loop since 2008 when we co-founded YTFN (Youth: The Funding Network) with some other friends. In 2013 we devolved to become Filanthropy* and both teams still run, and spend their time introducing young people to social entrepreneurs who answer questions on where money will go and return to events to feedback to the crowd. One project having had a budget item given to them for free, on feedback back asked the crowd ‘how shall I spend this’ and offered three options. The crowd at the Filanthropy* event in question voted to fund a rescue mission for a woman in a domestically violent relationship in Pakistan. This sort of dialogue, honest because it talks about what hasn’t been achieved as well as what has, and centered around impact rather than what the costs are, is important. Too much of the dialogue in the media is around how charities could possibly spend money on staff or overheads. But there’s a missing link that leads to confusion. The missing link in that conversation is why is that money needed for staff and overheads. As a team, we’ve found over the years that once people understand why money is needed to fund something that sounds dull, they are happy to fund it. If for example, a member of staff is needed to work directly with young people who are at risk then people are excited to fund that member of staff. Once people understand what their donations will lead to they are keen to be involved.

They are also then keen to hear about what has happened as a result of their investment. Think about it: you donate to a charity that you have heard of that touches a cause you care deeply about. You give spontaneously and you aren’t quite sure what has happened to your donation but you don’t really mind because you trust the organisation. But what if you could find out exactly what it had helped achieve later down the line? You knew what it had been spent on and what had resulted from that spend. Then what would you do? An NPC money for good report suggested that you might give more. In fact as individuals it was found that we would give £665million more if we knew where our money went. that’s over half the income that charities currently raise. Imagine what that could achieve! Take the Mobile Clinic in Malawi as an example. You know that in giving to them via makerble, your donation has been spent on a community nurse. You can visit their page whenever you like, to check in on what the mobile clinic is up to. You can even ask them questions and wait to hear back. Are you or aren’t you more curious?

That feedback loop between the people with the time to do the work and those with the funds to fund it is essential if we want to change the world. What the CAF research affirmed was that individuals want to be involved in the work they fund. The traditional split between funders and charities where both represent different sides of the same coin needs to be dissolved. We are partners in this - use some tech to make it easy to communicate (that’s where we come in) and then do it. Interact, engage and make conversation. Share the trials and tribulations on both sides - ask where your money is going if you don’t know and want to. Share where the money is going to capture the imagination of people who want to be involved, be passionate, be engaged and ultimately work with you to push forward a vision you both share at your side. It might be that it makes no difference. But what would happen if it did?