Stories in philanthropy

How big name charities are uniting to catch the wave of change

IT started informally almost four years ago with a tentative discussion between four charities about a new way of fundraising. By the first quarter of next year, Rippling is expected to be up and running, representing what could be a world-first for collaborative fund-raising.

Rippling brings together the Australian committee for UNICEF, CanTeen, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Starlight Children’s Foundation in a unique partnership in a not-for-profit social enterprise. Its goal is to establish a business for sustainable donor acquisition that could usher in a new era not only for the four charities but for the whole sector.

That’s the end game that Starlight Children’s Foundation CEO and Rippling board member Louise Baxter envisages. The next step is to find a dynamic CEO who will pilot the new organisation for the next three years.

‘People in the sector often think we’re all competing for donor dollars, but we need to grow the sector, to grow philanthropy as whole,’ Louise explains. ‘It’s a more progressive view.’

The logic behind the collaboration was obvious: the four charities were a similar size, had strong profiles and didn’t deliver competitive services. But even allowing for that, there were still some issues that needed to be worked through. ‘We cautiously embarked on this conversation with the organisations we knew and trusted, and those who were committed to a sustainable donor base,’ Louise says.

Critical to advancing the idea was the co-operation of the four boards, which not only brought their expertise to the discussion but also their scepticism. ‘They were great black hats because the thing about this is that the devil is in the detail,’ Louise says. Probono legal and business advice from Herbert Smith Freehills and PWC became integral to the final plan. Rippling’s board has representatives of all four charities, plus some independent directors.

The organisation will initially take a charity-by-charity approach but with a focus on centralising and consolidating the resources of each member charity. That way ensures Rippling doesn’t have to re-invent anything while giving it access to each charity’s expertise. It’s the best way of dealing with the challenges of scale.

Central to this is an understanding that there are some specialised funding tasks that are difficult to bring in house.  ‘Success is when we acquire new donors who stay…It’s about acquiring donors who give to your organisation for a long time on a monthly basis,’’ Louise says. If it works, it will mean predictable and ongoing funding for each of the member organisations.

Louise believes the model could be a world first. ‘Society demands collaboration. It’s the reality of how we operate across sectors these days,’ Louise says. ‘It’s timely and a smart move.’ Not only that but there was also a great ‘camaraderie and trust’ between the organisations that offered a template for other charities considering a similar strategy.

And why ‘Rippling’? ‘A conversation starts with a ripple, creates a wave and the momentum starts a movement,’ Louise explains. And the wave may just be about to start.

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