The Funding Network – spreading philanthropy around the world through live crowd-funding
By Eugenie Harvey, Chief Executive for The Funding Network – TFN
The Funding Network has pioneered live crowdfunding as a means of raising money for and awareness of the vital work done by small, grassroots non-profit organisations.
Founded in London in 2002 as a UK registered charity by Canadian art dealer, Frederick Mulder CBE, TFN began as a voluntary endeavour involving friends coming together to hear from non-profit organisations working towards social and environmental change and then pooling their money so that they could maximise their impact. By 2019, this experience has now instigated nearly 100 such groups in 19 countries worldwide.
How it works
TFN’s live crowdfunding model involves 3-4 small non-profit organisations making six-minute pitches at a live event attended by 70-100 potential donors. The format has been described as part-TED talk, part-live auction, conducted within an atmosphere of high energy and emotion.
TFN International grew out of a series of study visits organised by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in 2011 for a small number of their grantees from Central and Eastern Europe which enabled them to experience a TFN event in London. In 2013, these visits were formalised into a programme for international CSOs run by TFN which now include visits to London, face-to face-training at TFN, access to and use of their materials and resources, and on-going technical support as CSOs prepare for their first event.
TFN also offers a Starter Grants programme (funded by the Frederick Mulder Foundation) through which CSOs can apply for grants of €1,000 for their first three event. This money can be used to cover some of the costs of the event and to establish the principle of matched funding at the event (whereby a donor offers to pledge some money if their pledge is matched by another donor).
Among the first organizations to work with TFN were the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation in Bulgaria and the Association of Community Relations (ARC Romania). Both organisations organised highly successful pilot events in their capital cities in 2012 and the success of these events led them to introduce the community foundation model to their respective countries. Community foundations have proven to be an excellent home for the TFN methodology, where it not only helps to raise funds but also engages local businesses and revilizes civil society participation.
Today, there are 19 active TFN International Affiliates organising multiple live crowdfunding events with more joining the network every year. Old and new groups share ideas, best practice, and innovations via a lively Facebook group.
The first TFN event in North Macedonia
Following a study visit to London in 2017 hosted by INSPIRE, Konekt, the leading organisation for developing philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in the North Macedonia, organised its first event in June 2018. The event was held in the country’s capital, Skopje, as part of it’s 10th anniversary celebrations.
In line with best practice, a board of prominent individual philanthropists was established and was involved in every step of planning the first event. In order to work with effective CSOs, Konekt used its CSO TrustMark (a certification scheme developed with European Center for Not-for-Profit Law, link to: www.ecnl.org ) as a tool to select three CSOs who were then given a fundraising platform through the event.
The three organizations and the initiatives they fundraised for are below:
- Open the Windows promotes the use of assistive technology for the integration of persons with disabilities in education. Funds were raised to cover the individualized educational courses for children with disabilities, which enables them quality education and integration within the regular school system.
- HOPS (Healthy Options Project Skopje) promotes the human rights of marginalized groups such as people with drug addictions, commercial sex workers, and other at-risk populations. Funds raised from the event enabled the children of drug users (which are usually stigmatized and do not get the same opportunities in life) to attend English language courses, enroll in organized sports activities, etc.
- Wilson Macedonia focuses on early diagnosis for the Wilson disease-a rare sickness. Early detectio and identification of the disease is crucial for survival of patients (the organization is established by people who have or their children have the disease). Funds from this event went towards educating doctors for early detection and disease identification (the number one reason for fatal cases is due to improper diagnosis).
More than 80 people attended the event. Fifty donations collectively raised 4,500 euros for the three organisations.
The value of the TFN model in North Macedonia
Analysing the benefits of the live crowdfunding model, Konekt’s Executive Director, Nikica Kusinikova, has identified a series of areas of results that go beyond the funds raised at the event and which exceeded even the initial expectations of the organizers.
- The CSOs built their confidence and skills to present their work and appeal to individual donors. They were greatly empowered by learning that so many individuals who had never met them before wanted to support their mission and appreciated the work they are doing. Many of the people who attended the event weren’t even aware that there are groups of committed people addressing these different societal challenges.
- From the donors’ perspective, people genuinely experienced the joy of giving. Initially some were sceptical about whether people would actually raise their hands and pledge, but actually people really enjoyed it, including the few children that attended. Several participants mentioned that next time they would like to bring their children and teenagers for the experience.
- The careful selection of CSOs and post-event communications of appreciation and later results achieved with the donated money is very important. This is not a usual practice in this country and many of the donors communicated to us their appreciation for the follow-up and how important it is for building trust in the host organisation, the event and the organizations.
- The event increased the visibility and reputation of the host organization – Konekt – as a leader in the field. Overall, it was a hugely valuable experience. It created a community of active individuals, existing contributors, and potential donors who have the means and desire to make positive social change. They intend to hold 1-2 events every year.
So what of the impact of live crowdfunding in CEE?
To better understand the impact and value of the TFN model in Central and Eastern Europe over the last six years since we started working with CSO partners in the region, we commissioned the Johnson Center for Philanthropy in Michigan to conduct an evaluation. Partners in Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, Hungary, Latvia and Serbia took part in the study which involved in-depth surveys of the CSOs that organised the live crowd funding events, the nonprofits that pitched at the events, and donors who attended the events. Some of the most pleasing findings included:
- Almost half of the non profits that pitched at live crowdfunding events in CEE received additional funding after the event from attendees
- Two-thirds of the non-profits received offers of volunteer support and over half received offers of goods and services
- More than half of the donors surveyed said they gave more because of attending the live crowdfunding event, and of those who had a pre-planned amount, two thirds of them gave more than they intended to give
- The main benefit of the model reported by the CSOs (in most cases community foundations) was that is contributed to a culture of philanthropy in the region with the included benefits being:
- a strategy to raise domestic funds and build local agency and leadership
- a way to mix progressive issues with more local causes to draw people in
- proof and belief that positive change is possible
- an established “off the shelf” community organizing mechanism
- a “deliberative space where complex conversations can take place”
- works in any community but the model is scalable across the region
The Funding Network would love to hear from representatives of civil society organizations interested in learning more about live crowdfunding and how we can support you to develop your own group based on our methodology. More information about TFN events, affiliates and services can be found here.
The Funding Network – TFN
The Funding Network – TFN is an open network which links potential donors to charitable cases and social entrepreneurs through live crowdfunding. For more informaiton: https://www.thefundingnetwork.org.uk/