If you met Jayne, a homeless woman on the street, and she asked you for some money to buy a meal what would you do?
The UK is a generous country. According to the World Giving Index, we are the 8th most giving nation in the world and 69% of us donate money to charity regularly. We all have different causes that we like to donate to but I imagine that a lot of you would like to help Jayne in some way.
My mother taught me it is better to buy a homeless person food than to give them cash and walk away. My father would suggest it was better to donate directly to a soup kitchen. Both my parents agree that giving cash directly to someone on the streets is the least effective way to guarantee they get something to eat.
I have always been of the belief that, if you really want to help, it is better to give your time and/or money to charities with experience, rather than donating cash directly to people in need. Money is not the solution to all problems if you do not know how best to spend it.
We give because we care
The UK is going through a very challenging time; we have seen awful events in Manchester, Westminster, Notting Hill, and now Finsbury Park. Before we have recovered from one horrific experience, another one catches us by surprise. In times of national sorrow, we are brought together by our capacity to give to those who need our help. In the past, this meant donating money to the Disaster Emergency Committee, or other well-established charities. We would trust that giving money to these organisations meant that the people in need would get the right support.
We care where we give
As I write this blog, over £1.3million has been donated to a crowdfunding page set up to support the whose lives have been devastated by the Grenfell Tower blaze. The page was created by Haley Yearwood, a teacher at a school local to the Grenfell Tower. She is not a professional fundraiser and is not affiliated with a charity. Her page states that she has consulted with charitable organisations but the money will be given directly to the families affected by the fire. This highlights a trend that I have seen growing over the last few years; one that I think could threaten the UK charity sector as we know it.
We give online
We are living in a digital age where people feel empowered to raise their voice and have access to the resources to make sure they are heard. Mass-mobilisation is no longer the privilege of established organisations. Anyone can set up a crowdfunding page and share their story on social media. With the click of a button, we can communicate on a global level. Haley’s fundraising page has received over 35,000 donations in less than a month. While I’m sure she is a lovely lady, I doubt she has that many personal friends or contacts; her page has simply “gone viral”.
Virality of webpages like this is nothing new. When something bad happens, we turn to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Google to tell us how we can help. But what has struck me recently is how I am starting to see large sums of money going straight to those in need rather than the charities we would have previously trusted to help them.
Are online fundraisers starting to perceive charities as an anonymous, unnecessary middleman, rather than as the best placed agencies to deliver the outcome that we all desire? If this trend continues then we may see an increasing number of donations being diverted to individuals rather than charities.
People give to people
It is a well-known fact that people like to give to other people. We do not want to donate money to faceless organisations; we want to know who we are helping and how. This is why storytelling is so important for charities. We need to make sure that we are relevant at the times, and in the places where people feel moved to give.
Giving to charity helps people
Our job as fundraisers is to not only tell the story of those we are helping but to try and convey why our organisations are best placed to provide that support. We need to ensure that the charity sector remains the most trusted way of investing your hard-earned cash to help others who are in need. If we don’t, we face the threat of people seeing our organisations as irrelevant.
That is why I am committed to shouting about the great work that our charity sector does and will be actively seeking out stories the charities supporting our neighbours in Manchester, Westminster, Notting Hill, and Finsbury Park.  I would invite you to do the same.