Funding story: The Funding Network

The network is helping the comfortably well-off to donate with confidence after listening to charity presentations.

There has been a lot of coverage about philanthropists recently, with much of it focusing on those with vast amounts of money. There is much less emphasis on people who are reasonably well-off and want to give to charity effectively but affordably. One organisation that can help such people is the Funding Network, set up six years ago by leading art dealer Frederick Mulder.

"Giving is hard work," says Mulder. "It's not the first thing that springs to mind when you've made money. I also think that a lot of givers suffer from not knowing whether they're being overly generous or overly mean. Having a peer group in which other people are doing the same gives you a sense of what's appropriate and enables you to give at a level that you really can afford."

The network has about 175 members, who each pay a £60 membership fee. They nominate charities working in human rights, environmental sustainability, health, education or conflict prevention and resolution to give presentations at regular meetings.

The network's committee then decides which charities go forward to a 'pledging session', in which donors decide which organisations to give to. Pledges range from the £100 minimum to more than 10 times that amount. Money is donated through the network, which then collects Gift Aid and makes out cheques to the recipients.

The average grant is about £5,000, and recipients range from an inner-city agricultural project to a women's sustainability project in the Amazon basin.

Each member commits to donating £250 to charities they nominate and to giving £1,000 through the network during the year. Meetings are also open to non-members, provided they each commit to giving a minimum of £100 to one of the charities presenting.

"I really thought there was a need for an informal network of donors that had no wealth requirement and a very low entry point, and was completely transparent in terms of how it worked," says Mulder. "The total amount raised, who we support and how we work are all disclosed. What has surprised me is how many people say that it's really made a difference to their lives. They've come and found it an interesting place to be. And I've enjoyed it, too."

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