To try and sum up the two most recent posts…
…the new donor accountability charities are now urgently searching for needs to take the sophistication, authenticity and beneficiary focus of the investment model, but then combine it with the creativity, granularity and donor-focus of the customer model – with themselves in the middle, as intelligent interpreters, influencers and co-ordinators.
It needs to be a substantive, and continual dialogue about impact. And better still a creative partnership to deliver that impact.
Most crucially, this three-way value exchange – between managers, donors and beneficiaries (or their proxies) – must also revitalise the historic intentions of benefaction. It must recognize the uniqueness of charities; not try and shoehorn them into an ill-fitting corporate carcass. It should strive to restore true and resilient alignment to the cause, as well as building the intimacy, goodwill and trust of a genuine purposeful community.
Charities are reaching their inverse CSR moment. The search for more sustainable Donor Impact is on.
Let’s call it:
There is no single recipe or silver bullet to deliver the participatory, multi-layered impact that matters to donors and hence to beneficiaries. There can’t be. The new dynamic accountability is itself a complex system. But what is visibly occurring is a diverse set of experiments that all reflect and contribute to this emergent accountability – based on dialogue, interaction and collaboration.
Charity accountability is going social. The future is Impact 2.0 and it’s already here.
The signs of this shift to a social accountability are already clear to see:
- Careful listening: Many charities are paying much more attention to gathering and integrating both donor and beneficiary voice into their thinking in more direct ways, holding themselves to account to deliver what’s truly needed. Some are experimenting with capturing that insight in more dynamic, instantaneous and subtle ways through mobile technologies or new narrative tools that allow many-to-many communication. This is surely the way ahead.
- Market-led Strategy: Many are articulating and modelling their theory of change. Some are following that logic through to specify their intended impact and hold themselves accountable to it above and beyond typical outcome measures. Some are then using that insight to streamline their current impact strategies and innovate with more distributed, targeted delivery models.
- Donor Response: Many are driving up donor responsiveness. Some are triggering those responses based on the specifics of donors’ requests and specific behaviours, and are starting to think harder about reflecting donors’ preferences in the way they communicate, despite the apparent loss of control.
- Direct Contact: Many are linking donors directly with their impact – enabling them to both see and feel the difference their money is making on an individual level. Some are linking donors and beneficiaries or ‘impact proxies’ into joined up communities where they can now sense each other’s concerns and start to create new ideas – especially through social media.
- Faster Delivery: Many are speeding up their operational decisions – using approaches like agile development to drive more experimentation and sharing. Some are empowering their beneficiaries to self-manage their own solutions.
- Open Doors: Many are collaborating with their institutional peers – sharing systems, knowledge and resources to build capacity and collaborate around solving complex social problems; building around beneficiaries lives. Some, controversially, have even taking the bold decision to scale down or refocus when their solutions are no longer ‘fit for purpose’ for the problem they target: recognising that charities, as well as corporations, have a natural lifecycle
- Holistic thinking: Many are using peer-to-peer fundraising technologies that allow individuals to quantify their commitment to their cause, increasing motivation and completion – they use activity tracking tools, that give value to their complete fundraising efforts – including campaigning and training. Some are using campaigning tools like petition sites to recruit donors with long-term interest in the cause, not just heading for the quick cash conversion.
- Meaningful Rewards: Many are thinking innovatively about rewards and incentives for donors – becoming more creative in their thankyous, substantive in their volunteer-support, and using social rewards and incentives to deepen participation. Some are offering supporters new ways to engage and participate in problem-solving.
Everywhere, in pockets, the charitable sector is starting to work differently with its donors – no longer treating them as arms-length benefactors, nor subjecting them to the corporate reductionism as mere customers or investors. Increasingly donors of all forms – cash contributors, fundraisers, campaigners, and volunteers are becoming partners in impact. This trend needs to accelerate.
There is, as yet, no consensus on terminology to capture this new reality, but fundamentally the direction of travel is clear. It is about establishing a new collaborative social contract with donors; then linking them in and rewarding them for their impact contributions. It’s about valuing and connecting up their efforts – creating a three way alliance for impact.
We will return in future posts to flesh out the examples above and showing how this complexity plays out in practice…
Tim Kitchin is client service director and director of consulting at Copper, the digital marketing agency.