Most often, when we give money to charity we are giving it in response to an appeal about a disaster to help a person who’s story we have been told.  Yet after we give our money, we rarely hear where our money went.  Given that we live in the time of the WikiLeaks, Snowden, Panama Papers, the UK expense scandal, and many more examples of limited transparency, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that charities have asked us to trust them with our donations.  Part of this makes sense as giving money to a charitable cause is about giving over the control of how that money is spent to the charity.  Yet, given the times we live in, perhaps it’s time for charities/NGOs to come a bit more clean on how our money is used.  Perhaps charities can do more about sharing where our donations go – I’m talking about going beyond the sanitised, glossy annual reports.

The story usually goes something like this.  A charity runs a marketing campaigns asking you to give to a specific cause/project which the charity is implementing – e.g. birth certificates for street-children or a water well for a village or a household kit for a disaster affected family.  All good things, important things, specific things.  Each of them will have a price point which helps you, the donor, determine how much to give.  So you give your money and you likely received an auto-generated thank-you and get added to an email list, while the charity takes your donation, pools it with other donations, and implements the project they said they would.  Sound familiar?

Now, I’d like to see charities give the option to donors to receive updates on the progress of the implementation of the projects we have given money to.  These could come in the form of SMS or emails and don’t need to be super complex, but short updates at certain stages of the project and certainly at the end of the project showing what your donation accomplished. Obviously a well is easier to take a photo of than a hygiene campaign, but this can be done.  Below is a very simple diagram of how this could work.

FeedbackLoop

None of this requires huge expense, in fact, with existing technology this can be done quite cheaply.  No what it requires is desire; is willingness to engage with donors; willingness to share some of the challenges of implementing projects they fund. This will likely become the norm in the near future, but those charities/NGOs who wish to, can lead on this.  If you are interested in making this a reality in your organisation – get in touch with me and let’s do it!

2 Comments

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  1. Thomas says:

    Hi Amos,

    your point is quite taken and well articulated. I am really impressed with the way you put it. Accountability to funders of charities will bring more transparency and encourage more funding in fact. About the diagram, could you label and explain each step in a bit detail, I can’t seem to figure all the steps and processes clearly. Thanks for the ingenious thought and process design concept.

    1. Amos Doornbos says:

      Thanks pth@live.com; I’ll explain the diagramme better. Donors give money online to a charity/NGO online through their mobile or laptop, which is then consolidated and sent to their partner (or office) in the country where the project is being implemented. Project staff implement the project and using a mobile phone update the project status (through digital surveys, which may or may not include photos). The diagramme only shows one staff member with a phone, which can be used for A/B testing or to signify a random sample approach to reporting. The digital data can be automatically synced with a database of the charity/NGO, which automatically (or manually) sends a SMS or email to the donor updating her/him on the project status.

      Does that help? Shall we talk more offline?
      let me know
      amos

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