Before we talk about giving, let’s talk about getting.
‘Getting’ has become increasingly easier.
These days, we can get lots of free stuff. Free e-books, free trials, free gifts and free features… Getting more connections, more variety, more information and more entertainment is easy these days.
Yet, minimalism has become one of the biggest trends in many industries recently. Paradoxically, having less is actually harder to achieve now as we might be so frequently ‘seduced’ by the abundance of free and cheap items surrounding us.
At the same time, genuine and impactful giving has become harder. Giving, such as giving full attention to the person in front of you; giving a gift that really matters to the recipient; giving real trust to someone; and even donating money with full confidence, has become harder…
We know that giving is the piece that makes us feel really fulfilled (when it’s done correctly), however it’s not always easy to give with ease, confidence and a sense of connection.
So… should giving be FREE?
The Cost (and Real Value) of Giving
Plenty of research exists that shows how giving and generosity benefits our lives – whether to make our lives healthier, happier, or more productive. Some even propose that giving tends to make you more successful. With so many potential benefits, investing in giving seems to be a good thing to do.
Interestingly though, many people think giving should be free (or cheap), particularly in the charity world. It could be disheartening for donors to find out that a high percentage of what they donated ended up going towards admin and fundraising costs.
When people first discover B1G1, one of the things they react positively to is the fact that 100% of what they give goes to the Worthy Causes they want to support.
The most common question we get is ‘How is that possible?’
The reality is that expecting ‘giving’ to be low cost or free might not be the best approach.
In order for any organisation to deliver great results, keep growing, and develop sustainable systems and activities, they need to invest in capacity building and administration. Hence, spending less on administrative costs might not always equate to being a ‘better charity‘.
Spending with Consent and Clarity
When we started B1G1 in 2007, we had that exact dilemma: “Should giving be free?”
We didn’t know whether anyone would want to pay to give.
People could go to any charity fundraising websites to donate money. No one would ask them to pay first so that you could donate money.
But our goal was to find a way for business owners to get great value from belonging to something great — something that would significantly enhance their giving experience. Somewhere they’d actually enjoy and value the connections, impacts, transparency, and multitude of choices.
We believed that if we were able to provide real value to businesses that are willing to pay for it, this simple yet compelling idea could change the world. And consequently, we would also be able to guarantee that 100% of their giving would be passed on to the causes they choose to support via our initiative.
Of course, we could have chosen to take a percentage of funds raised as our own revenue, just like most other fundraising organisations.
Instead, we created a business membership model where businesses pay for a membership, and B1G1 would build systems and other benefits to help these members give with more impact.
It was probably the most important decision we’ve ever made as a giving initiative.
In the last ten years since, we realized that people actually didn’t mind organisations spending more on overall management as long as it led to better outcomes.
They understood that investing in organizational capacity and quality of customer experience (donors and beneficiaries of charity organisations) made total sense.
The key was really to communicate the approach with total transparency and clarity.
Giving Case Studies
Aside from the B1G1’s unique membership model, there are other organisations that came up with their own unique solutions to the issue of transparency. Here are two other examples.
charity:water’s overheads and developments are funded separately by generous donors. These individuals and corporations see the benefits of supporting charity:water’s operational activities rather than simply donating towards the water projects. As a result, 100% of what individual donors give can be utilized just for project activities.
Toms, the most well-known example of one-for-one giving, are true pioneers of socially minded business practices. While their mission is to solve many of the world’s problems, they do not ask for donations. They ask for purchases. As they produce and deliver fantastic products that are fashionable and desirable by their customers, their giving ability becomes naturally sustainable as their business succeeds.
Communicating Your Value
Every organisation eventually finds their own unique model to sustainably fund their administrative and developmental requirements. But the critical piece is discovering the right way to communicate their real value.
What’s common amongst organisations that find long-term sustainability is the desire to create transparency. With that level of commitment and care, they attract and serve the right stakeholders who are willing to become part of their missions.
At B1G1, we find our ideal partners in small-to-medium size businesses that see value in having a strong giving spirit and a real sense of purpose. We’ve started to understand that what our members valued was beyond just having access to an ‘effective giving platform’. They actually valued being part of a giving community of like-minded businesses, and being part of something bigger.
They now describe B1G1 as ‘a movement’.
Whether we run a business or a charity, the aim is the same: How do we GIVE the best solutions, opportunities and value that our stakeholders want, need and love.
We’re seeing the emergence of new ‘attitudes’ and methods of giving. Whether free or payable, giving can be (and actually is) valued so much more with that extra sense of commitment and openness.