The traditional model of charities responding to societal need is a well tried and tested route and one that has a prominent place, especially in UK society.

However, there is an increasing trend for people who are not connected to a charity to want to be involved in social action directly, whether they are an individual, or a part of a group or business who want to express their passion for change through their actions (and money).

It is this growing movement ‘from Slacktivism to Activism’ that is at the heart of how crowdfunding works. At we have seen many projects coming to the fore that are akin to a charity fundraiser. For example, a young lady called Bimini who had a local concern about menstrual health and hygiene for homeless women, created her own Crowdfunder project to deliver much needed services and product to women who couldn’t afford them. Her project received a huge amount of media coverage (locally and nationally), raised lots of money and had a strong social impact with very few (if any) infrastructural costs.

Bimini’s project is a typical example of the type of fundraising for positive change that happens on the Crowdfunder platform. Crowdfunder attracts project owners (Activists) who are highly motivated and enthused by a subject close to their heart. They develop a response to the issue where they see a gap (in society and in charity supply) and they want to fix it themselves. They create a Crowdfunder page and recruit family and friends to get the ball rolling on raising funds. Generally, once the fundraising target is more than half met, donations from those who aren’t connected to the project owner start to come in. If strangers start to support a cause it’s because they too believe there is an issue, that doesn’t yet have a solution, and they believe in the solution being provided and fundraised for. They act on a trust instinct in the project owner because they can see that their immediate crowd trust them enough to know that they will deliver on the outcome and will get updates about the impact made.

We see this trend towards activism as something that charities need to embrace and we are starting to see a shift towards this. We are however also hearing some concern by charity leaders about the rise in the number of people who are raising money to support causes close to them by using crowdfunding and bypassing the traditional charity route. Their fear is that too much money raised in this way, ends up in the private bank accounts of individuals instead of being donated to a relevant charity to distribute.

Recent writings on the subject (by cancer charity leaders) cite cases of individual cancer sufferers raising money for their own treatment and have questioned what happens to the money if they pass away prior to the treatment being accessed. This is a fair point, however, this criticism doesn’t take into account the mechanics of how crowdfunding works – from a trusted inner circle of donors to an outer network. In fact, when you dig into statistics around peer to peer recommendations, the picture around this trust instinct becomes clearer still, with a growing number of consumers trusting online peer recommendations. This criticism also ignores the important cultural shift towards people wanting to not only donate money, but to also be involved directly in the change.

The questions that charities should be asking themselves is how to align themselves with these project owners and activists? How to work with the people who want to make a real tangible difference? In the example of Bimini, how do Shelter, or Crisis reach out to Bimini, and her supporters to help deliver the bit that charities are really good at… the programme work? How do they get on-board and embrace this new way of giving?

Crowdfunding as a fundraising mechanic is showing no signs of slowing down, so it seems prudent for charities to find a way to align with it. In an increasingly competitive fundraising market, how do charities foster innovation? How do they work more closely with advocates who share their same passion but who want to engage in a deeper more meaningful way?

We would love to hear your thoughts, so over the next few months we will be running a series of Think Tank events in London. If you are interested in attending one, please fill out this form and provide your email address, name and job title and we’ll get in touch.