Lisa K. 100! Rosalind A. 250! Fred M. 500!…
… and in just half an hour, an amount of over 50,000GBP was raised for five projects through unique giving circle called The Funding Network. I first heard of The Funding Network (TFN) through colleagues based in London; other colleague wrote more about it in a mail ending the message with In summary, I think TFN is fab! Repeatedly, people who I met and were engaged in TFN were saying – it is such fun!
So what exactly is this fab and fun TFN? Described as ‘a marketplace for donors and charities, as the UK’s 1st public, open giving circle, and as the ‘Dragons’ Den’ for charities’, TFN ‘enables individuals to join together to fund social change projects’. And with remarkable results, too: since 2002, TFN raised over 4 million GBP for variety of different causes and over 450 local, national and international projects.
The idea behind is rather simple and – as all simple ideas – rather brilliant:
TFN is membership organisation, registered as a charity in UK, that exists for the sole purpose to make easier for people to give money for social change. Anyone who is willing to donate money for projects that can make difference can become member simply by paying annual membership fee – individuals, couples, families or companies. Once members, people are invited to participate in all TFN activities; they are the donors.
TFN finds projects for support through its members. In other words, charity can submit its project to TFN only if nominated by a member (sponsor). However, nomination is just a first step: once nominated, projects are screened by Selecting panel (comprised of between any 4 and 6 TFN members). Charities/projects that will get the opportunity to actually raise money from TFN members are selected based on simple criteria (i.e project idea, capacity of the charity, potential impact) but – equally important – by ability of charity representatives to clearly and in compelling way present their cause in front of the live audience. In this way TFN chooses recipients.
The actual meeting of donors and recipients happens on events. Event – 3-4 hours gathering – provides opportunity for representatives of selected charities/projects to present their ideas and for TFN members to donate money to project/s that they feel deserve their support. In one year, around six such events are organized. A year after the event, funded charities will come back to TFN with a report that will describe the impact of the money they received.
The auction from the beginning of the story happened last week. For this occasion, five charities were selected. Each was represented by one person; each had exactly six minutes to tell us what and why they want to do, how they will do it, what change it will bring and how much money they need (target for the evening – usually not more than 5,000GBP). After each presentation, around 150 TFN members and their guests that were present had exactly 6 minutes to ask any question that came to their mind related to the charity/project. And that was it – after those 12 minutes, another charity came along. And I can imagine that you now think that 12 minutes cannot possibly be enough to understand the idea or make a decision about giving money. I thought that as well, but boy, was I surprised – after 12 minutes I was sure that I could make a right decision about each and every project I heard.
The main part of the evening is, however, auction that comes after all presentations are done. Charity representatives are asked to leave the room and bidding starts! And, as everyone said – it is fun!!! It begun slowly, always by sponsor of the project kicking in with first donation. With each new donation, however, the chart on the big screen grew showing how much is donated and how much is still needed to reach the target. The excitement rose as names and numbers were shouted across the room and auctioneer encouraged us. Donations started to increase, people started to shout louder and quicker… At one point someone put a challenge saying: I’ll match next 1,000 GPB donated! and everyone started to add another 100GBP, trying to respond to the challenge. By the end of the evening, sitting on my hands was all I could do to stop myself from donating money that I didn’t have. Everyone wanted TFN to succeed once again: not only to reach the “target”, but to go over. And that is exactly what has happened this time – and, as I was told – every other time!
Well, as they say in TFN: “Giving money is one of the few significant activities that people do alone. We work together, eat together, dance together, yet mostly give alone. It is also an activity that we often feel is both important and confusing: important because we understand the need, confusing because we don’t know where to start, what to support among the plethora of appeals.”
TFN enables people who share similar values to learn about giving together and to feel that they’ve made a contribution regardless of the amount of money they donated. And, honestly, confirms that people want to have fun, even when doing good!
So would it be possible in the Balkans? Maybe with smaller amounts, less people in the beginning – but I believe it could happen! Do you?
Sincere thanks to Eugenie, Clare, Fred, Jenny, Karen and others that shared with me their experience with TFN!