‘It just never occurred to me…’

Wow. Yesterday I had a meeting with someone thinking of setting up a new charity. For the past few years Oliver had been travelling to India and bringing fresh water to rural communities by helping them dig new sustainable wells. Not only had he encouraged a small, non-well building Indian charity to partner with him and build wells, but he’d funded the operation out of his own pocket. Truly inspiring.

On his last trip he took a small film crew with him, working on reduced fees, so that he could show us lot in the UK the difference a decent well can make in India. The film is at the end of the editing process now. Its a simple, compelling story. And this film, because Oliver’s a well connected and convincing guy, is going to get a decent airing on telly. His challenge now is securing ongoing funding for the operation, and he’s hoping the film will help.

My first question? ‘Erm, why didn’t you give your money to a charity that already does this?’

His answer flawed me. ‘It just never occurred to me.’ (followed by a look of puzzlement)

Through the conversation that followed I could see that my question missed the point, and understood why.

1. He wanted to be involved and in control. Getting someone else to do the helping is million miles away from what he wanted to do. It would be like paying for a stand-in at your wedding, while you sit at home hoping for news.

2. He didn’t have trust. Although he supports many, he wasn’t convinced traditional charities would do what they say, or are efficient in seeing the money goes to where it needs to. This was part of the reason he went over and filmed a project, he knew that to convince others about it he needed to show them evidence.

3. He had the opportunity. Unlike most of us, he was at stage in his life where a better option was not only available, but obvious to him. He had the money, the passion and the time to just get on with it. In a different life he would have continued to give his ‘guilt cheques’ and continued to feel generally ‘meh’ about the whole donor experience.

(I was reminded of a film called 4 Generations, from a few years ago. Illustrates all this perfectly, click here if you haven’t seen it, its worth it.)

There’s stories like this behind lots of today’s most exciting nfps. But for every one, there’s a million other charity supporters that, given the opportunity, would absolutely choose a different and more rewarding option. Its why the Kivas of this world have gained ground so rapidly.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Oliver gets on, and I’ll post again on his progress. I’d wish him luck too, but somehow i don’t think he’ll need it!

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