In 2013, Glewwe and Wydick participated in a study done with 540 children from the slums of Jakarta; some were in sponsorship programs, and some were not.* From the study, Glewwe and Wydick determined that child sponsorship was a leading form of direct aid from wealthy country households to children in developing countries. The research used data from six countries and showed that across the board the children who were sponsored showed signs of increased happiness, self-efficacy, and decreased hopelessness. Early evidence from the study suggested that these impacts are due, in part, to the increased aspirations of the children in sponsorship programs.
*https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/670138, Does International Child Sponsorship Work? A Six-Country Study of Impacts on Adult Life Outcomes - Bruce Wydick, Paul Glewwe, and Laine Rutledge.
These findings were not only interesting, but they introduced many questions to the minds of Clarity’s founders. What causes these increased levels of inspiration? Is it because the children feel additional support? Or, perhaps, were the parents of the children more strict about taking school seriously when they have received a gift that many students still don’t... education? Do the relationships between sponsors and their sponsor children matter? While we are not claiming that we have all the answers to each of these questions, we do know that the organizations we have worked with want to improve the relationships between their donors and the people receiving their donations (beneficiaries).
There are common themes that our industry interviews have shown while exploring this topic, and that is that, if organization founders could open the door to allow donors to experience the worlds the charity works in - in the same way that they experienced them upon getting involved in the charities mission in the first place - their donors would be much less likely to churn as the connection would be much more genuine. This was because these organizations felt like if donors could truly see the impact their money has in these direct beneficiary programs, they would not be able to stop providing it.
Supporting mission driven organizations is becoming the norm, and organizations need a better way to connect all three parts of the nonprofit community to allow for true and genuine connections, transparent donations, and relationships to be formed between the donor, beneficiary, and the organization itself.
So, how can organizations leverage the findings of Glewwe and Wydick and implement systems that can foster the types of relationships that may lead to increased aspirations? The solution is almost always using better technology.
Grassroot Organizations Matter
The nonprofit sector is full of ideas - many of which are crafted, fine tuned, and then scaled to various sized organizations across the world. Impact, for the most part, is one of the most important criteria for understanding how effective a program truly is. Over 9 million children are supported through sponsorship programs of all shapes and sizes. While there are a large number of massive organizations that leverage this model to create impact for their communities, direct beneficiary models (like child sponsorship programs) are also very popular amongst grassroot organizations. The programs tend to be smaller and more personal than the major charity organizational programs, but the impact created at an individual level is comparable. In all cases, students are being educated and encouraged to succeed. This has been proven to have a ripple effect throughout the communities in which they live.
The community management involved in the development of a successful sponsorship program is not for the faint of heart. Although sustainability can be achieved through leveraging a direct beneficiary model (which is encouraging to many early stage nonprofits trying to become sustainable), the work that goes into maintaining the activities associated with the program can become a daunting task very quickly. This is especially true for organizations that are already facing resource limitations - like many of the grassroot organizations around the world. Throughout the start-up phase of creating a sustainable nonprofit, organizations are faced with limited funding to support acceptable percentages of administrative expenses. This creates a massive problem with respect to being able to leverage software tools that can increase the capabilities of the organization. Massive organizations can build on-premise solutions that can host the data involved in sponsorship programs, but what about the grassroot organizations? How can they get access to the same type of tools with the budgets they can access?
Passion Projects International, the first user of Clarity, knew this problem well.
Passion Projects, a nonprofit organization that works with various grassroot organizations in eastern Africa to provide scholarship opportunities to students in need, quickly grew its direct beneficiary program from “manageable” to “too much work for the small team of volunteers”. This was largely due to the minimal amount of software tools that existed to manage the community of their nonprofit organizations. In particular, it was not the management of donations that was difficult to maintain, but instead, it was the level of personalization and interest from both students and sponsors that accelerated the amount of manual work necessary to build genuine sponsor/beneficiary relationships. It was quickly recognized that this was not going to be sustainable via emails, Google Drive folders, and Excel spreadsheets. Passion Projects needed a tool that could scale with their organization, and wasn't going to eat up their entire budget.
Faced with the problem of “sink or swim”, Passion Projects decided to partner with Clarity who has built a multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform for the community management of nonprofit organizations; specifically in Passion Projects’ case, Clarity was used to manage the community associated with their child sponsorship program.
This is just the beginning…
Community management is much more than a charity database software that manages child sponsorship. In today's world, many charities aim to truly understand the donors and beneficiaries that are part of their organizations community. There is a massive opportunity for nonprofit organizations to embrace technology and build unique, personalized social networks, for facilitating real connections amongst their global community.
As part of a nonprofit digital strategy, organizations that double down activities with their existing community, to ensure all parties involved in the project are satisfied, tend to reduce donor churn from impacting the sustainability of their program. Clarity provides affordable software tools to facilitate this network. It provides a place where correspondence, updates, and information can be centralized (and secured) to ensure that all communication and correspondence is documented and accessible to members of the nonprofit community when they want it. Taking this a step further, profiles can be created for both the donors and beneficiaries, to provide a safe place for communication and personalized interaction to occur. Donors and beneficiaries can login when they want, update the personal information that is shared between each party, and build genuine relationships from worlds apart. Coordinators and administrators from the organization can moderate the content that is shared through approvals, build in permissions structures, and create internal pages for providing updates or promoting new campaign incentives to all donors that are part of their nonprofit community. The aim of these tools is to improve the transparency and allow for donor tracking of information which will help hold organizations accountable to both donors and beneficiaries.
Additionally, in a world where charities tend to focus their attention on their donors to maintain sustainable operations, it is important to remember that the beneficiaries are also humans with curiosity, interests, goals, and passions. Opening up a safe and secure environment for donors and beneficiaries to connect directly, share information that they want to be shared, and build profiles that truly represent themselves will lead to more understanding, learning, and growth for both the donor and the beneficiary. All of this can be done with the organization still in control of the rules associated with the types of communication amongst their community. Ultimately, Clarity keeps the organization in control, but opens up new avenues for increased transparency into the organization's activities, and more accountability amongst the organizational community.
It’s time to leverage software technology for what it is - a tool that shrunk our world - within the nonprofit sector. The stories that need to be shared amongst people from different places, with different lifestyles, generally are only shared through travel, organizational interpreted media releases, or direct communication/experiences. Opening up nonprofit organizations to internal social networks and more direct communication will lead to more organizational trust amongst both the donor community, and the beneficiary community. If one thing is certain, it's that donors continue to donate when they feel connected to your organizational purpose. Lived experiences, and direct communication amongst your organization's community, may allow for the stories that your nonprofit needs to share, to be shared ethically and direct from the mouths of the people who experience the hardships your mission has been formed to defeat.
To find out more about how Clarity powers child sponsorship programs, or nonprofit communities of any type or size, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at [email protected].