The Funding Network was established in Melbourne just over a year ago, based on a model from the United Kingdom. It’s a new model of live crowdfunding where donors come together to hear about charitable projects and then make pledges to support them.
In late October the Reichstein Foundation teamed up with the Funding Network to provide matched funds of up to $15,000 each to three organisations – the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre, the Alliance for Gambling Reform, and the Human Rights Law Centre.
Initially I had thought that the idea of charitable organisations gladiatorially challenging for funding through a fast pitching process was pressure that those organisations don’t really need, but the Funding Network provides coaching and training so that mission, message, values and the project to be supported are conveyed in six or seven minutes, with the same amount of time for questions. Organisations which are invited to pitch are usually small – with turnover of less than $1,000,000 and the vetting process is quite intense.
John Spierings and Jill Reichstein describe the Funding Network as a more democratic way of giving, and their work at the Reichstein Foundation as being about “emancipation rather than amelioration” and supporting challenging projects which take us out of our comfort zone by empowering those advocating for reasoned sensible change.
Daniel Haile-Michael and Tamar Hopkins from the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre presented their case for a program supporting workshops for young people to engage in civil society as a response to racial profiling in policing. Daniel was one of the lead applicants in a Federal Court Race discrimination case that resulted in commitments by Victoria Police to change its practices in how it polices within diverse communities.
Tom Mohr and Allison Keogh spoke about how they plan to take the documentary Ka-Ching: Pokie Nation to communities around the country to mobilise and lobby support for changes to legislation about pokie machines. Allison spoke poignantly about her experience with a family member addicted to the machines and of the 395,000 people who go home every night with empty wallets after playing the pokies. While much discussion about problem gambling focuses on treatment, the Alliance for Gambling Reform will be looking at prevention and addressing both government’s need for the tax revenue from the machines, and the $11 billion industry which profits from them.
Ben Schokman from the Human Rights Law Centre discussed the proposed closure of indigenous communities in the Kimberley by the West Australian government, noting that the Human Rights Law Centre has been invited to work with some of those communities to develop engagement and empowerment, demonstrate accountability and work together for collective action. They are proposing to employ a staff member for 2 days per week to work with a coalition of organisations to address the proposed closures.
All of the presentations were moving, articulate and persuasive, and I thought that the best of the evening was over.
However, when the presenters were asked to leave the auditorium, the atmosphere changed dramatically. The MC for the evening, Patrick Lindsay AM, certainly knew how to handle a crowd.
Each organisation had a champion who said why they had nominated them for support – and made their own pledge to get the ball rolling. A screen on the whiteboard in the centre of the room then tallied up the pledges in real time – noting the matching contribution from the Reichstein Foundation. Usually each Funding Network event seeks to raise $10,000 for each group presenting, but the bar had been raised on this occasion to $15,000 (which was to be matched by Reichstein). It was kind of like being at an auction where people can bid any figure (not needing to increase each bid). A few bids from off-site – official proxies, if you will, came in whenever there seemed to be a slight lag – noting that another $500 would be contributed if the audience would match it (very good strategy from the Australian Communities Foundation here from their donors).
Each project was presented in turn – and the enthusiasm did not lag at all – in fact the final project in the end raised the most funds, seeing a total of $124,000 raised. The Funding Network retains 10% towards their administration costs, which might sound steep, but considering the technology utilised – live streaming of the event, live scribing, real-time monitoring of the pledges, and a galvanising and enthusiastic (volunteer) MC, it was a very professional and enjoyable fundraising event. Actually, it was really good fun.
What do you think about live crowdfunding of this sort? and what is your experience of giving in public?