Anna Taylor: Why the Big Give is still worthwhile

We should support the initiative in spite of its mixed press, writes our columnist

Anna Taylor
Anna Taylor

I'm participating in the Big Give Christmas Challenge this year on behalf of a small charity, as I have done almost every year since the initiative started. But the challenge has received a mixed press.

On the one hand, it is an exciting, innovative tool that makes multiplying the value of donations through matched funding a reality, even for small charities. On the other hand, its complexity, and a few technical glitches, have caused frustration for many fundraisers.

Despite its shortcomings, I have found that it provides a wonderful opportunity to create the momentum needed to encourage supporters to give generously - as well as holding the potential for attracting first-time givers through the social networks of existing donors.

The Big Give has carried out detailed reviews in order to learn from past failings and misunderstandings, which have included the website shutting down because of overload and charities and donors being frustrated because they did not realise that the matching fund money would run out so quickly each day. Real improvements have been made.

We have recently been in the pledging phase. Charities were required to raise pledges by 11 October. However, there is often a tendency for the deadline for pledges to be extended at the last minute.

Over this period, it is important to try to target pledgers for whom the matching element will be a real draw, or perhaps those who have talked about donating for a long time, for whom the deadline might prove the gentle nudge they need to finally dish out the dosh.

Next will come the run-up to the December online giving phase.

Online fundraising works best when the ask is urgent - and the challenge helps to create that need to give now, because donations have to be given on particular days, as near as possible to 10am, in order to be matched.

For some fundraisers, memories of past frustration will be too great for them to participate again. On their behalf, I think it would be fantastic to see another online giving company - for example, JustGiving or MyDonate - branching out into online matched giving, because the concept actually works and has the potential to bring new money to the sector.

Good luck to all those taking part in this year's challenge. Don't worry if you do not quite hit your pledge target. Maybe this will be a blessing in disguise, because if you have a lower pledge pot it will be easier to reach your correspondingly lower December donation target - and therefore to secure your share of the Big Give sponsor's fund.

This is confusing, I know. However, from the point of view of individual donors who wish to give in the run-up to Christmas, the message is simple: it will help their donations to have double the impact - which is a pretty appealing prospect.

Anna Taylor is a freelance fundraiser, writer and researcher and a former UK director of Child in Need India

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