The next step for Third Sector services

My old firm Justgiving has been pushing its way into the nation’s charitable subconscious since 2001.

Every breakthrough company like Justgiving fills a previously empty niche, or cuts open an entirely new market. The hole Justgiving filled with its hero product, sponsorship pages, was previously occupied by paper-based sponsorship forms… something that was dragging down the process of fundraising rather than lifting it up. Justgiving’s sponsorship product smashed the previous contender on speed, ease, tax efficiency, fun, and sheer style.

Nicely done.

They can’t sit on that model forever though. Any product can be copied, and Justgiving’s product has been, many times. Over time it will probably become a commodity service, and companies will compete on features, ease of use, fees, and event tie-ins. Big players muscle in. Margins shrink.

Looking at it from the perspective of the charitable sector, this new type of service has drastically improved that aspect of their fundraising work. Fundraisers are happier, charities get more data, more money is raised.

Again, nicely done. What now?

Thinking in cold, hard, cynical currency, Justgiving sells warm fuzzy feelings. I know that may sound bizarre but a company in the charitable sector is a bizarre thing. I think the only way to rationalise it is to treat the fuzzies people get from charitable transactions as being something of value. Those feelings come from two sources; the fuzzies from giving money to a ‘good cause’, and the fuzzies from supporting a friend. Then there’s the less fuzzy commodity that Justgiving sells, which is the avoidance of the guilt you might feel when not sponsoring yet another friend who’s running a 10k (be honest, we’ve all been there).

Justgiving currently supports the second and third aspects very well already, as does the rest of the industry, but what about where the money is going? Surely we should be able to see more of what’s happening with our money.

Charities already understand this to an extent. Donors get mass-produced bulk mailings with pictures of happy children, but this is the YouTube generation. We live in the information age. I don’t want the exact same glossy brochureware that every other donor in the country received. I don’t want a giving experience that’s throttled at birth by the carefully designed words of a PR company.

People give Christmas presents because they can see the happy faces of the people they give them to. When I can see the face of the person that’s benefiting from my donation, hear them talk, read the charity worker’s personal blog, I will give ten times what I currently do, and I doubt I’m alone.

If you can open a connection between donors and the actual recipients of the funds, then you’ve accomplished two things. Firstly, by letting people see what’s happening they’ll be more inclined to give more. Secondly, by broadening information about causes you create choice; the mechanism through which donors decide which causes are important and which charities are acting effectively.

All the technology exists already; blogs, video hosting, and the ability to get funds from A to B. All it takes is for someone to plug it together.


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