The Big Give (not to be confused with Oprah’s Big Give television show) is an interesting UK based website that allows donors to search for projects to fund. Much like a stock screening tool (which lets you look for stocks to buy that fit your criteria), The Big Give lets donors “screen” projects based on size of gift, charitable “sector”, geographic location and beneficiaries. The site is a good example of the type of tool that I think will become the leading way that donors of all size will find the nonprofits they support. See the column I wrote for the Financial Times that looked at philanthropy in the year 2033 for more details.
Tactical Philanthropy reader Jon Brooks is Managing Director of The Big Give. Rather than explain the site myself, I thought I’d let Jon take the floor. (FYI: Jon sent me a note about The Big Give after I suggested that most foundations should stop accepting most grant requests and instead proactively seek out grantees. At the time, I said that being deluged by grant requested “sounds like spam to me.” So one way to think of The Big Give is as anti-spam software for your foundation!)
In 2007 the UK-based Reed Foundation was struggling to find quality funding proposals for its £1m/year grants. Unsolicited requests were never appropriate and seemed a waste of valuable charity resources.
With no paid members of staff, processing requests also used valuable foundation resources. Promoting the foundation’s need for quality proposals (e.g. through a website/marketing) would have only led to more administration work for both charities and the foundation.
We felt the most suitable solution was an online database of charity projects, and so developed The Big Give. UK charities upload and categorize their own projects – remaining responsible for all content – which allows the Reed Foundation to filter by various factors. Once we have a short-list of projects, we can contact the charity to discuss their proposal in more detail.
The beauty of the web is that we can share The Big Give with other donors looking for new projects. The site is free, and users remain anonymous until they decide to contact the charity. With over 4,500 charities registered, we do not carry out in-depth due diligence. Instead, we provide links to third party websites – such as the Charity Commission – to make it easy for donors to research potential charities to a level that suits their needs.
In 2007, the Reed Foundation trustees wanted to consider a £100k donation to rainforests. Other websites provided limited information on the work each rainforest charity did, and the charities’ own websites concentrated on the £5/month donors. The only way to find out if a charity could provide us with an interesting project was to ask – and that led to face-to-face meetings, offers to tailor projects to our needs, and so on.
With The Big Give, we are able to search for rainforest projects at £100k and have a short-list of concrete proposals within seconds. Only when we have selected the best ideas and checked the accounts of the charity behind the project do we meet with the charity.
My personal story:
As happens at many small foundations, I worked on the Reed Foundation alongside a full-time job within the Reed recruitment company. As the idea for The Big Give developed, I spent more time on the project and went full-time with The Big Give in August 2007. The website launched to charities in October 2008, and we are now looking at how to make The Big Give relevant to all charity donors.