We love a good crowd fund. Something that goes viral, a story of overwhelming hardship, of incredible difficulty and of selfless commitment. It seems to be the way that fundraising is heading; giving money directly to the recipient who needs it without all the hassle and rigmarole of the charity organisation taking out their cut and slowing down the process. This way, 100% (minus the website fees of course) goes straight to the people who need it. Isn’t that what we all want?
But where does the 100% (minus the website fee of course) actually go to? Who is making sure that there is a real need for this request? Who is working out if there is a better way to meet the need or not? Who is tracking how the money is spent, if it really gets spent on what people were giving to? Who is monitoring the outcomes of this whole process? In the long run, is this process helping or is it causing more damage? Does that matter to people when they donate? Should it?
There is something to be said for a report. It doesn’t sound sexy, but finding out if you are making a difference when you donate money is surely the greatest return on your gift, rather than just assuming that you are making a difference.
Tim Costello, previous Chief Advocate for World Vision Australia, would tell the story of when someone wanted to give a large amount of money to the organisation but only if 100% of it went to the programs in Africa. Tim said ‘Sure. You hand me a cheque and I will post it to Africa for you. What happens to it when it gets there? I don’t know. But at least we will know that 100% of it went there’.
There is nothing wrong with crowd funding to help people, in fact it can be amazing, but let’s not confuse it with sustainable development and long-term growth. It costs money to work out what people’s needs are. It costs money to figure out the best way to meet those needs with respect, dignity and in a sustainable fashion. It costs money to ask the hard questions after a project has taken place to really discover if the desired outcomes have been met. All of this is not able to come from a crowd funding site…yet.