This article first appeared in our Consumer Revolution issue of My Green Pod Magazine, released on 19 Dec 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
Christmas is on its way and many will be feeling charitable – but letterboxes will also start to get jammed with appeals and pleas for festive giving.
It’s not easy to choose between the many causes that desperately need support, and feelings of benevolence can quickly turn to pangs of guilt that we can’t help everyone. On top of that it’s sometimes unclear where your money is being spent, and what tangible difference your donation will make.
‘We identified a lot of challenges with how giving is done at the moment’, reveals Darshita Gillies, founder and CEO of Maanch, a charitable giving platform. ‘The most common issues that funders experience are feelings of distrust and a lack of transparency from organisations they are interested in or give to.’
Charities and other recipients of philanthropic capital also operate in a challenging context; UK charities face increasing demands on services, cuts in available government and local authority support and difficulties around communicating impact to increasingly discerning and sceptical funders.
‘Finding the right fit and developing the right relationships is the most important thing that charities can do to sustain themselves’, Darshita explains. ‘Our aspiration is that Maanch can facilitate meaningful, transparent funding relationships for charities, and bring the joy of giving back to those who have been disenfranchised by mistrust and well-documented scandals.’
Maanch is an online platform that uses data to match-make charitable givers with receivers; it allows donors to make a tangible difference in areas of specific interest, while also funnelling finance to projects that will help to accelerate sustainable development on a global scale.
It’s the first global platform dedicated to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 by influencing the flow of funds across the philanthropy sector; the ambition is to create a fair future for everyone on the planet.
A huge range of organisations, working in over 25 countries, is listed on Maanch, running projects that cover everything from youth, health and adult education to justice, migration and climate change. The platform also reveals how different topics intersect, providing great insights around how the complex ecosystem all joins up.
‘This context is something that we should all be aware of when choosing which charities to give to’, Darshita tells us. ‘We should take an ecosystem approach: understand where exactly the intervention fits and get a realistic understanding of the project’s scope.’
When it comes to understanding the broader context of individual projects in the sustainable development sector, Darshita has a wealth of experience; she has visited the UN every year since 2015 to present global data on the SDG progress.
The data presentation evolved into the blueprint for Maanch, which has been designed as a tool that aligns giving to the SDGs.
‘We have looked deeply into each constituent datapoint that makes up the 169 targets and over 230 indicators behind the 17 SDGs’, Darshita explains. ‘We then categorised progress by each country to find out what was most needed and where.’
Darshita saw that many countries lack access to basic human necessities that are required if we, as a global society, are to progress collectively to a sustainable future.
She discovered that even nations performing ‘well’ against the indicator frameworks in the developed world were in no way perfect examples of sustainability; each country has intersectional problems that need addressing.
‘This was a really insightful mapping process’, Darshita tells us. ‘It helped us to understand areas for engagement and funding across the entire globe, based on national priorities and needs.’
Darshita believes there’s a risk the SDGs won’t be met. ‘What we need to understand is that the UN is a governance body not an execution body’, she tells us. ‘It excels at framework building, data and monitoring and advocacy for change, but it is up to all stakeholders to change, support and implement solutions.’
Based on the intricacy of the connection between countries, SDGs, and global ecosystems, Darshita believes only ‘a perfect storm’ involving governments, businesses, NGOs and civil society will make the SDGs globally achievable, and that all aspects of capital movement need to be influenced and adapted if we are to achieve the SDGs.
‘What’s important is that we’re not disenfranchised by the scale of the task’, Darshita tells us, ‘but energised to accelerate that progress and make attainment more achievable through action. Where governments and businesses don’t have the interests to tread, philanthropic capital has always been the most important device to deliver positive change.’
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
To make the SDGs less abstract to everyday funders, Darshita has linked the 17 goals to the five UN pillars of people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. Each project listed on Maanch is mapped against both the SDGs and these five pillars.
Maanch currently focuses on charities that are registered in the UK and regulated by the Charity Commission. 250 organisations, representing an amazing breadth and diversity of geography and demographic, have already signed up to Maanch through a pre-launch process. The goal is to increase the number of projects available to funders as Maanch grows.
Currently, any UK registered charity with a clean commission history can sign up and publish projects. ‘Now that the platform is live’, Darshita says, ‘this is an open call for charities to come to us, use the platform and explore the opportunity Maanch gives to find new funders and promote your work to a fresh community of data-driven donors.’
For charities, signing up as an organisation takes two minutes, and the full project creation process takes around half an hour. Projects don’t go live immediately as each is subject to an impact assessment that’s checked against approval criteria before being pushed live and visible online for sharing and fundraising.
For funders, the search, filter and transaction functions are open to anyone and everyone. Impact reporting and transaction history are available to funders who register for an account – a key feature that helps anyone who gives to track their funds and understand the cumulative impact of what they’re giving.
Once projects are funded, Maanch tracks project progress and feeds it back to funders to keep them engaged and interested in the work, while improving their understanding of how charitable work is done.
‘We hope our platform provides all the insight funders need to make intelligent decisions around what to support’, Darshita tells us, ‘while offering charities a 360-degree view of the potential impact of their work.’
For the first time in history, Maanch will be able to aggregate what each of us gives, how it all adds up and where it is having impact. ‘We will then have a better understanding of what’s working and where the gaps are’, Darshita explains. ‘Our call to the giving community is to start with what feels comfortable and then see how you go! We also offer services for funders who would prefer to give offline.’
There are more than 168,000 registered charities in the UK with a total annual income of £77.4bn in 2018. Individual giving in the UK in 2018 was around £10.1bn. The estimated additional investment required to achieve the SDGs is about £1.9tn per year. While a huge number, this is split across government spending, business investment and activity and philanthropy.
Those interactive levers will change and shift over time, and so will the size of the philanthropic portion of that funding allocation. ‘We want to leverage our technology to bridge the gaps’, Darshita explains, ‘and provide the missing transparency that could inspire greater engagement in philanthropy.’
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