Three questions charities wish funders would ask them
When you set out to give to a charity or cause, it’s not long before you find yourself knee-deep in impact stories, case studies and annual reports. While these play an important part, often the best way to understand what impact your gift could make is to simply start a conversation.
APS spoke with 44 Australian charity representatives across causes to ask them the best questions funders should ask about impact and what resources to engage with before and after funding.
Before you fund: starting the conversation
Charities frequently said one of the best ways to understand the impact of a potential gift is to either visit the charity or have a direct conversation about their work.
"Have a personal conversation with our team, so [you] can ask questions. When you meet the people doing the work, who have developed the plan of what's needed, you can share their enthusiasm, expertise and hope."
Talking with the people doing the work can break down the complexity and help you connect with the vision, says one environmental charity.
‘Achieving change is complex. When written down, it can feel dry and overwhelming. Have a personal conversation with our team so [you] can ask questions. When you meet the people doing the work, who have developed the plan of what’s needed, you can share their enthusiasm, expertise and hope.’
If that’s not something you are willing or able to do, charity websites contain a wealth of information and have publicly available annual and impact reports.
Top questions to ask (according to charities)
‘What do you need?’
When charities answered the question ‘what do you wish funders would ask?’ the most common response by far was a variant on the simple ‘What do you need?’
Rather than coming with a preconceived idea of what you think is the most important funding need, engaging the charity in a conversation can create opportunities for all parties.
- ‘What is your area of greatest need?’ – Aged care charity
- ‘Where is the greatest need right now, and how would our support enable you to address it?’ – Education charity
- ‘How will our funding help strengthen your organisation?’ – Social enterprise
‘Let’s talk more than money’
Taking that one step further, many charities recognise the ability of funders to offer more than money and would love to have a discussion about how your time, expertise and networks might create opportunities to increase impact.
- ‘How can we help you amplify your impact?’ – Sustainability charity
- How can I engage my networks and personal connections to spread the word and inspire others to get involved as well?’ – Medical research charity
‘What are the future possibilities?’
Finally, several charities reported they would relish the opportunity to have a conversation about future possibilities. A discussion around the big picture, and what might be achieved through innovation and creative funding is welcome.
- ‘What are the areas of opportunity for your organisation that may not currently exist in the sector?’ – Youth charity
- ‘What could you do if funding was not limited? – Mental health charity
After you fund: how to understand your impact
The most efficient way to understand the change your funding is creating is to review a charity’s impact reports, including the outputs of their regularly conducted monitoring and evaluation. In our survey results, several charities referenced external evaluation experts who review and report on their work. A couple highlighted the need for funders to contribute to costs for impact reporting, particularly on larger gifts.
"I saw firsthand the impact of the school on the girls’ lives. It was hugely exciting to see what you can do with a small amount of money"
Helen Hoskins, APS client
If you have the time, visiting the charity in person to see the work gives you the opportunity to experience the impact first-hand and hear from those directly supported. APS client Helen Hoskins from the Grace and Mercy Foundation talks of visiting a school in Bunda, Tanzania, that the foundation funds. ‘I saw firsthand the impact of the school on the girls’ lives,’ Helen reflects. ‘It was hugely exciting to see what you can do with a small amount of money’.’
However you decide to engage with charities and understand the impact of your funding, the APS team is here to help support you.