At Work: Fundraising - Hot issue - Are philanthropic networks an effective method of giving?

Philanthropic networks are on the rise. Their aim is to put smaller charities in touch with donors, but some argue they are duplicating existing infrastructure.


There's growth in philanthropic networks, so people must like them. In The Funding Network, about 80 people meet to hear six-minute 'pitches' from nine mostly small charities, followed by six minutes for questions.

At the end of the day, there is an auction-type session, where attendees pledge money to the charities that attracted them. They write out cheques there and then; the network works out the Gift Aid and sends the totals to the charities.

It's swift and efficient, and it allows donors to hear directly from charities. I get a better feel about a charity's work from its chief executive than from a glossy leaflet. It's intelligent giving - it allows me to compare projects and target my budget accordingly.

Another attraction for donors is that all giving is through the network and is anonymous, so there is no follow-up unless requested. Charities cannot approach us - members put forward charities. Projects are screened by a selection committee.

Networks spread philanthropy by offering a non-threatening, fun, social way to give and by making giving more effective.


A form of philanthropic network already exists across most of England.

It's made up of community foundations, which work closely with Navca members, building endowment funds and distributing grants to thousands of local organisations and groups. They enable donors - individual, corporate or statutory - to give tax-efficiently, to support their preferred causes or to pool their funds with others.

Donors can help to build up an endowment fund that will give grants in the local area in perpetuity, or they can use the community foundation to distribute a fund on their behalf immediately. The community foundation can use its knowledge and influence to bring donors together to greater effect. Working with local infrastructure organisations, it can reach communities and groups that would never get a hearing at a stand-alone philanthropic network.

Any initiative to bring new money into the local third sector is welcome - but building the endowments of community foundations and complementing existing infrastructure offer the greatest potential for meeting people's needs and giving donors the guarantees and satisfaction they seek.

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