18 Mar 2016

A short history of giving

Future of giving

There’s nothing new about giving. In fact, people have been helping or donating to other people, or causes, for a very long time.

The word ‘philanthropy’ (which literally means ‘the love of humanity’) can be traced back more than 2,500 years to when it was first used in the Greek myth Prometheus Bound.

The first example of modern, professional fundraising is often attributed to two men, Charles Sumner Ward and Frank L. Pierce. In 1905 Ward and Pierce sought to raise funds for a YMCA building in Washington D.C. in the United States.

They came up with innovative ideas such as having a time-limited campaign, hiring a publicist, and receiving paid advertisements from corporate sponsors.

Encouraging people to give

Since then innovations in fundraising to give have come thick and fast.

For example, the first telethon was broadcast in the US in 1949. TV viewers donated more than a million dollars to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation over the course of 16 hours.

Pioneering newspaper ads placed by Oxfam in the 1950s very effectively alerted the post-war British public to considerable humanitarian needs abroad.

While UK charity ActionAid (then called Action in Distress) began door to door campaigning in the 1970s.

Another game-changing event took place on the streets of Vienna in the 1990s. Here, face-to-face fundraising was born when Greenpeace Austria sent its ‘dialoguers’ out to ask people to sign up as monthly direct debit donors.

Continuing evolution

Fast-forward to today and it’s clear that charitable giving is continuing to evolve at a rapid pace.

One significant development is the growing appetite among people to do more than just donate cash.

An indicator of this is the soaring popularity of campaigns such as Giving Tuesday or Random Acts of Kindness Day.

Random Acts of Kindness Day began in New Zealand in 2005 but the day (February 17th) is now observed around the world.

Feel-good factor

It’s celebrated by individuals, groups and organisations to encourage acts of kindness. People who help others as part of the campaign are known ‘RAKtavists’.

Giving Tuesday began in 2012 and has grown quickly since – especially in the UK.

The beauty of this kind of giving is that not only is it special for the receiver, the doer also gets to feel good.

And it’s this feel-good factor which may also explain why volunteering as a way of giving is on the rise.

The value of volunteers

And a number of charities have come to rely on the contribution made by volunteers - just as much as they do on financial support.

Look Good...Feel Better (LGFB) supports women cancer patients by holding free skincare and make-up workshops to help combat the visible side-effects of their treatment.

Trained beauty advisors volunteer their time and expertise at LGFB workshops to help the women with simple skincare and make-up skills.

Look Good Feel Better’s head of fundraising Ian Daniels, says: “We are a charity that relies totally on volunteers for the delivery of our services. Fortunately, many of our supporters recognise this and choose to volunteer. They can they can witness first hand the benefits and support the charity provides thanks to their giving.”

Social becomes essential

Another area of significant change affecting the whole sector is, of course, the rise of digital communications, including social media, across fundraising. Charities and donation services now have social platforms as a matter of course - a good example being the BT MyDonate Facebook page.

As charities, fundraisers and donors have become very comfortable with digital giving, a new breed of donors and fundraisers is beginning to step up the pace of change once again - the millennials.

Alice Hunt, head of BT MyDonate, says: “Millennials have started to make a huge impact on the charity scene. They demand greater involvement and understanding of where their money is going. They want their chosen charities to keep providing them with a better giving experience. They’ve certainly laid down a big challenge for the sector.”

Rise of the millennials

Philip Holmes is CEO of Chora Chori, a registered charity which supports the most vulnerable Nepali children agrees. He says:

“As a charity we need to be prepared to tap into the mindset, spirit and activities of the millennials and be open to their different styles. They are better fundraisers than we are and their friends will give to the causes that they champion and to the challenges they undertake.”

Millennials may well have a significant role to play as the future of charitable giving unfolds but other trends are emerging too.

Services such as Bright Funds, which describes itself as an all-in-one giving, matching and volunteering program, are emerging - ready to offer companies and their employees a new style of giving experience.

Rate that donate

Power to those who give will be underscored by the rise of services such as consumer feedback platforms that allow donors to rate their giving experiences - and share those ratings and experiences with others.

And one final but important emerging giving trend is the idea of ‘smaller but more regular.’

More and more donors will make smaller transactions but will give several times over the course of the year using platforms such as MyDonate for example. Therefore, charities that can provide more impulsive gifting opportunities using digital services will see a strengthening of their relationships with donors.





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