11th November 2015John Spry
Funding networks: it’s not just about the numbers
Funding networks are on the rise with organisations like The Funding Network (TFN) and BeyondMe encouraging people to join together and support charitable causes. The networks can take many forms – from the funding pitches organised by TFN to the 6-person work-based teams organised by BeyondMe.
A report, “More to Give: London Millennials Networking for a Better World”, commission by City Philanthropy has estimated that there is potential for £20m additional philanthropic funding if 1% of London workers became involved in funding networks. The figure sits alongside an estimate that donations in London exceed £5.6bn a year. The engagement of these approximately 50,000 workers will therefore increase London’s giving by 0.36%.
It seems small. That’s not because it is – as £20m is a huge amount – but rather because it is relative to the generous annual contribution of £5.6bn. This is what we should be careful of: focusing the reason for giving in terms of the amount of money that could be raised, especially when it can be easily dismissed in relative terms as small. You can imagine the sigh of apathy when one realises that for all the efforts of 50,000 workers to engage in funding networks, it will add only 0.36% more funding to London’s philanthropy. It is a similar path of cynicism that regular givers might follow when seeing the contributions of major donors.
The prospect of £20m extra shouldn’t be the only message for people looking to increase participation in funding networks. There are broader messages to focus on. The real success of funding network is that they will nurture a culture of active philanthropy in London and beyond. It is not just about the numbers. It’s about the initial engagement that will lead to future engagement. The inclusive and accessible nature of networks is appealing. No matter how much one can give, the networks provide a platform for direct engagement with charitable causes and those working in the sector, a sense of ownership and tangible impact, and conversations around giving. They are educational and inspirational in equal measure. And they encourage people to take steps into philanthropy and help them with their giving choices.
Similar to the mantra of development offices: that people engage in a small way at first, and then build their philanthropy – funding networks can provide a mechanism through which large parts of our population take the first steps in philanthropy, and carry on with that journey. If 1% of workers do engage by 2020 then marvellous – for the £20m – but moreover for their continued participation throughout their lives.