26 January 2016

Towards Philanthropy 2.0

In the current climate, crowdfunding represents a very welcome financial innovation, both for innovative companies that banks sometimes regard as too risky, and for non-profit-making enterprises and charity organisations which are having to cope with reductions in state subsidies.

Supporting the charity/non-profit sector
The above observation prompted BNP Paribas Fortis Foundation to team up in 2015 with Ulule, a major European crowdfunding player, in order to help the charities and non-profits the foundation supports to obtain funding. The Ulule platform takes what is still a very common approach to crowdfunding – i.e. contributors usually receive a symbolic reward rather than any real financial return.
In fact aiding the search for new sources of financing for the charity/non-profit world has always been one of BNP Paribas Fortis Foundation’s central concerns. Accordingly, the foundation launched a pilot project in conjunction with Ulule to enable a number of charity sector players to try out the crowdfunding approach, aided by coaching from volunteer BNP Paribas Fortis staff.

Training and support
Having received the benefit of a day’s training, ten of the foundation’s partner organisations decided to embark on the crowdfunding adventure last April. In addition to the basic support which Ulule provided to their campaigns, they also received assistance from bank staff who volunteered their services as coaches – perhaps “sponsors” would be a more accurate description of their involvement – not only giving advice but also putting them in touch with members of their bank-internal and external networks.

Of the ten organisations that set out on this adventure in April, five had managed to hit their target figure by 15 May, finally raising a total of €12,634. One organisation which started somewhat later received a non-financial donation in the form of tablets for its school homework assistance project. Three of the charities did not reach their targets, and one gave up along the way.
‟For a first attempt this was a pretty good result,” underlines Anne-France Simon, Head of Corporate Philanthropy at BNP Paribas Fortis, adding: “Now we want to identify what we might change so that we can do even better, because I’m quite certain that the foundation should continue to help charitable and non-profit organisations to make use of this form of fundraising.”

Uniting people around a socially worthwhile project
Luc Descamps, Director of young people’s assistance organisation La Chaloupe, firmly believes that the most important aspect of the campaigns is not the money they raise: “When you consider the time and energy we put into it, raising a grand total of €3,100 isn’t really very much. But using the campaign to attract people to our ‘Renc’Art’ project has had an electrifying effect. Around 70 donors will be coming to the official opening of the new space they’ve helped to finance. For me, that’s where our greatest success lies.”

Pushing beyond the first circle
All participants agree that the network a charitable organisation builds is a key factor. It is however difficult to push beyond the primary circle composed of those who are close to the organisation. Charities and non-profits have for example made very little use of social media networks, as they feel that when it comes to projects of a highly local nature, direct links are the most effective.
They also noticed that there were very few bank staff among the donors. “Launching ten campaigns at the same time is perhaps not the best way of raising awareness and getting staff involved,” points out Anne-France Simon, suggesting: “We should perhaps look closely at this aspect if we want to maximise the chances of success.”


Anne-France Simon 

Head of Corporate Philanthropy, BNP Paribas Fortis Foundation