Published: 17 May 2011

Letting donors decide who and where to help: My Action for Children

my.actionforchildren.org.uk offers a simple way for donors to choose where and how to help children across the UK. Action for Children's Matt Wenham talks about how the charity launched the website 

The recent recession has forced many charities to re-think their fundraising strategy. The "fat" years of the late nineties and early noughties were followed by some very "thin" years indeed, and if the current growth forecasts for the UK economy are to be believed, the "thin" years are set to run for at least the term of this government.

The perfect storm of reducing voluntary income coupled with reductions in statutory and grant income has focused many fundraiser’s minds on meeting the demand for funding vital services.

At the same time, the donor landscape has been changing. The days of undemanding, loyal "Dorothy Donor" are coming to an end. Increasingly, charities are targeting sophisticated, consumer minded baby boomers (and younger segments too) who have embraced the post-modern culture of choice and adopted digital technology as a tool of convenience. Steve Bridger neatly summarised this changing world in his Fundraising 2.0 presentations in 2007, and slowly the sector is embracing this reality.

Learning from the US  

As ever, the US was light-years ahead of the UK in understanding the opportunities that web-based, project-focused fundraising could create. In 2000, Donorschoose.org arrived allowing US schools to fundraise for much needed classroom equipment. In 2005, the US micro-finance site Kiva.org challenged the hegemony of massive global development NGOs by linking donors directly with beneficiaries in the Third World. The idea crossed the Atlantic in 2008 with thebiggive.org.uk and seethedifference.org.

Action for Children is no different from any other UK charity in keeping pace with the changing needs of donors and the uncertain financial environment. Our projects are no less necessary, indeed UK child poverty has been increasing in recent years and unprecedented numbers of children are now in the protective care of social services because of the increased impact of child neglect.

In the summer 2010, a group of Action for Children fundraisers, together with our agency Open Fundraising, came together to meet this challenge head-on and my.actionforchildren.org.uk was born. This new website provides a simple way for people to choose where and how to help children across the UK: donors can type in their post-code to identify and support small individual charity projects within their local area, or search for projects within a specific sector.

The idea was born from a very simple fact: Action for Children runs more than 400 projects delivering over 700 vital services for vulnerable and neglected children, young people and their families and knowing the importance of localism we needed to turn this fact into a unique fundraising proposition.

Raising funds 

The site was launched as a beta development site in February 2011 and since then over £110,000 has been raised for our projects. my.actionforchildren.org.uk is unique in that it supports offline fundraising at community level, through our network of projects, community fundraisers and of course our loyal and engaged supporters.

Coupling this with the reach and convenience of the web, we're excited about the potential for our organisation, and we believe this development to be a transformation, not only for Action for Children, but for the sector as a whole. Already we have received, and are considering, requests from small independent children's charities and community based organisations to be featured on the site and so support their fundraising efforts also. The collaborative approach, and the focus on the local agenda, is set to continue.

Action for Children would like to thank Open Fundraising, 9web, Baigent and Blackbaud who have supported the development of my.actionforchildren.org.uk.

 

Matt Wenham, head of direct marketing and relationship fundraising, Action for Children

Matt works at Action for Children covering donor acquisition, retention and development.