chairsWith Dragons’ Den back on TV, it’s interesting to reflect on how widely the formula has been adopted since it first arrived almost ten years ago, not just by industry, but also by the charity sector.

I was reminded of this when I recently attended my first crowdfunding event organised by The Funding Network (TFN) Bristol. The concept, which is replicated across the country by TFN groups, more or less follows the Dragons’ Den format:

  • Representatives from a handful of small charities have the opportunity to pitch to an audience of potential donors, and to detail their plans to make best use of a £5,000 donation.
  • The audience is invited to take part in a pledging session where they bid to support a particular cause (or causes), to help them raise the money they need to carry out their work.
  • A year later, the charities which received the funding then supply TFN with a report to let the donors know the impact of the money they received.

The causes that are supported are wide ranging in scope, covering human rights, the environment, health, education, crime reduction and inclusion. What unites the charities which are invited to pitch is that they are small or medium-sized organisations, for whom the maximum £5,000 would represent a significant contribution, often towards a specific project.

On the night, for example, ZA Foundation, an excellent Portishead-based charity, raised £4,510 to buy a minibus to help deliver its educational outreach programme in South Africa. Youth Moves, based in Knowle West, raised £5,228 to help fund its initiative to keep young people off the streets by training them to coach younger kids in sports.

So where does this kind of thing come in for clients who include giving as part of their financial planning?

One of the common themes to emerge from giving strategy meetings is a desire to target specific projects which are close to the heart, and where there are tangible outcomes linked to the donation. This is easily done when, for example, a charitable trust is set up and controlled by the client, but in practice most giving is smaller scale and more ad hoc than this. Traditionally, these smaller one-off donations have defaulted to the large charities. Not to downplay the important work of big charities, but it’s fair to say that, as part of a diverse giving strategy, most clients like to also include donations to smaller local organisations, where the donations can have a greater proportionate impact, and more tangible results.

Initiatives like TFN are a great forum for finding out more details from these organisations, because the pitch process and the Q and A sessions give a good flavour of the work they do, whilst allowing you to meet the individuals involved face-to-face. In other words a good opportunity to “kick the tyres a bit”, and make sure the projects – and the vision of the organisations – fit within your wider giving strategy.

For more information on TFN, TFN Bristol and the charities mentioned above, see the following websites:

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