You get what you pay for

As consumers, we all want to know what we get for our money, and funders are no different. The heart of a funding decision is often the competitive comparisons of ‘what will the money pay for and what difference will that make, to who and how?’ So that the value or return can be measured and considered in a tangible way.

Philanthropists too are attracted to tangibles whether a capital appeal towards a building or to restore an important painting or just to know what benefit individuals will get from a donation. One example, from Spear London, shows how this, now common, fundraising technique is used to communicate how amounts of money are matched to what it will pay for:


  • £20 pays for a thermal sleeping bag
  • £50 pays for an outreach shift to ensure that we don’t miss a rough sleeper
  • £100 pays for food for all our hostel residents
  • £250 pays for a new home starter kit for someone moving to permanent accommodation

The reality is that charities need all their costs covered and not just those listed. All charities find it easier to raise money for projects than they do their core costs. Therefore the admin time, insurances, planning days, staff recruitment and management time gets built into an attractive project with tangible outcomes. However, adding too many core costs may make it look like the project is expensive. Adding too little of the core costs runs the risk that the project is under-resourced and so cannot be maintained.

If philanthropists just fund projects, the risk is that they are weakening the very organisation they want to support. To avoid joining in with this dance, philanthropists can give unrestricted donations for a charity to use on whatever costs they wish. But the desire for a tangible result runs deep, so if you still want to know exactly how your money will be spent, I have a suggestion for you.

In these straightened times, charities are having to cut their cloth. One item increasingly being trimmed is staff and volunteer training and development. With people being the biggest asset of any charity this is a short-term fix. So if you want to specify how your donation is used, how about asking for it to be used to cover the costs of training and development?

There are a number of foundations already doing this:

  • Clore Duffield Foundation – individual training budgets for leaders with a social purpose
  • Wolfson Foundation – covers palliative care course fees for doctors and nurses
  • Paul Hamyln Foundation – has a new Teacher Development Fund coming in September 2016
  • Foundation for PSA – covers the costs of conferences and courses for those delivering acute mental health services to adolescents

Given the size of the charity sector and the number of staff and volunteers involved, there is scope to do more in this area. Your donation will be greatly appreciated by your recipient charity now and represents an investment in their future. And you will still know exactly how your money is spent and the impact that it will have.