The Funding Network
Peter Yeo reveals how Resurgence helped shape his role as a philanthropist.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of The Funding Network (TFN), the UK’s first public giving circle. Inspired by the reality that we do so much together, yet often give alone, it has been likened to a charitable Dragons’ Den, though markedly friendlier than the TV version! Social-change initiatives are selected and asked to pitch their projects to an audience of prospective donors, live at one of TFN’s events. Their work features poverty reduction, social justice, climate change mitigation: the range of issues is wide and interconnected and every project centres on holistic and sustainable solutions.
Since TFN’s launch in 2002 the failings of our economic system have been exposed, and the questionable remedy of austerity measures has not spared the voluntary sector. Yet TFN giving continues to grow year on year, with £750,000 pledged last year alone. To date, over £4 million has empowered more than 575 projects – and tens of thousands of people – around the world. Perhaps those drawn to TFN understand, counter-intuitively, the need to give more at a time like this, and that the “optimism of action trumps the pessimism of thought”.
This ‘crowdfunding’ model has spawned new local hubs in Wales, Kent and Devon, and more are on the horizon. The wider crowdfunding phenomenon is clearly also on the rise (for social ventures, businesses, films, and even new ‘positive money’ initiatives), a reflection of the zeitgeist perhaps: of people power and so-called human warming. But it is the intimacy of TFN that appeals to me – of being able to give in relationship, with all the attendant benefits: knowing the full impact of one’s gift, being able to add value in other ways like networking or volunteering, new friendships, and so on.
And then there’s the strategic element: small contributions – the average pledge is between £100 and £200 (which may be split between co-sponsors) – soon add up to serious social change.
In 1994, 10 years before joining TFN, I began reading Resurgence. It has been a significant influence on me as I have grown my philanthropic interests. Having first helped to give me the awareness of the need to act, Resurgence continues to give me the conceptual framework for how best to support moves towards a smaller, more beautiful world. Indeed, it has not escaped me that many of the wonderful projects featured in the regular Frontline section are TFN-style projects.
The Resurgence Trust has agreed to sponsor one project at The Funding Network, selected from Frontline over the coming year. Readers will be invited to vote for (and, if they wish, co-sponsor) their favourite project out of a shortlist, and the most popular one will be put before TFN in 2013. More details will follow in due course.
Believe me, crowdfunding can be quite an adventure. I have received so much more than I have ever given. I now fully appreciate a John Bunyan quote, discovered many years ago: “A man there was, and they called him mad; the more he gave, the more he had.”