The past twenty years have brought ‘seismic’ changes to the charity sector and the way it is perceived. Where the biggest brands had dominated the charity world, the public now wants to know more about what their money will get. Geneva Global’s Doug Balfour, explores what it takes to measure impact.
As I see it, the charitable world has seen three seismic shifts in the last two decades. A change in the type of donor and their expectations, a change in power and control to the donor and a subsequent, logical need for new impact measures.
Twenty years ago, the big charities were the ones with power, brand and they dominated the charity sectors. Donors supported their favourite causes – children, medical, development, emergency aid, and education charities – whilst overseas aid and corporate giving went to the usual, safe big charities.
During the decade I spent leading Tearfund UK (1994-2004), we saw a generational change – with the small donor proposition moving from “trust us and we’ll do a good thing” towards “I want to pick what my money goes to”.
Among other changes, the “donate” button started appearing on charity websites, and by 2005, organisations like Kiva and later Global Giving, were creating the first online giving platforms. With that shift came donors’ need to seek more information to choose what they wanted to support.
By 2010, major donors were giving away vast fortunes in their lifetimes. Corporations and even Western governments wanted a lot more say over what their money would fund and donors looked for choice, data and responsive reporting. Feedback and control shifted quickly to the donor side. The higher the gift size, the more that business-like impact measures were sought.
Social Impact Measurement hit the charity world with simple metrics at first, and then increasingly sophisticated data driven measures. But, what measures really matter?