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Opinion: We need to be able to track where our charity donation goes. Here's how

Blockchain technology is a gamechanger for transparency in the charity sector – meaning fraud, corruption and misspending are eliminated, writes Danny Curran.

Danny Curran

RESEARCH COMMISSIONED BY the Charities Institute Ireland in 2017 found that almost half of respondents did not trust that their charity donations were being used effectively.

It is clear that this lack of transparency is unsatisfactory; adding pressure to the already struggling levels of public trust in the charity sector.

That is why we developed TraceDonate launched in conjunction with the Irish Red Cross to guarantee transparency and thereby revolutionise the relationship between charities and their donors. 

During my seven years of working in the charity sector, I always wanted to find a way to increase donor trust and inject transparency into the process.
When I first came across blockchain in 2012, I knew it was going to be a game-changer.

But it was just a pipe-dream, until I met Joseph and Niall from AID:Tech at a Dublin Chamber event in 2015.

It was that day that dreams and concrete ideas came together.

Transparency 

Transparency is the holy grail of donating. In fact, it is the way we would love to spend our money in general.

Consumers are demanding better services and greater transparency; we want to know that what we are getting is good value for money and that the money we spend is generating the greatest impact. It has become a fundamental part of conscientious consumption.

TraceDonate, an online donation platform powered by AID:Tech, was developed and brought to life with this goal in mind.

TraceDonate connects donors directly with organisations and beneficiaries, offering people the opportunity to track the journey of their donation from beginning to end.

Partnering with corporates, charities and international NGOs, the TraceDonate platform and app provide real-time notifications when a donation has been used.

Imagine sitting at home on a Friday evening and receiving a text to say that the donation you made has now been used to buy a homeless pack, medication or food.

The same information is also used to build the donor’s personal donation history; a dashboard that is unique to the donor and the beneficiaries they support.

How does it work?

Every TraceDonate account comes with a unique AID:Tech digital ID, which account-holders can use to receive, send and hold donations or other payments. 

This digital ID has uses far beyond an ordinary ID (like your driver’s licence or passport) and it acts as a tool for managing digital payments. 

By leveraging the same digital ID component for charitable donations, not only can we offer donors and beneficiaries more control and transparency but we also grant access for charities and their stakeholders to utilise this data, offering a solid foundation for evidence-based decision making.

This means that every time a donation is made, it is automatically recorded to the unique ID on the blockchain documenting its journey.

It’s a zero-sum game, meaning fraud, corruption and misspending is eliminated.

The same thing takes place when a donation is received by beneficiaries.

With reliable records on the blockchain, we make this information available to donors and organisations at milestone moments, such as when a donation is made and when the donation is used.

What the future holds

Launching TraceDonate in December 2018 with the Irish Red Cross has been a tremendous start.

Internationally, TraceDonate is also working with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the USA to raise funds for victims of the California wildfire amongst other appeals.

We have more charities joining the platform every week which shows that like the donor, the charity also wants transparency. This is something that should be warmly welcomed in the sector.

For AID:Tech, these are invaluable initial projects that are leading the way to generate data and feedback.

2019 sees exponentially more opportunities — whether it is to support more charitable appeals by registered organisations or working with private corporations looking to inject transparency and traceability into their programmes.

To be a part of such a rapidly growing, dedicated team has been the highlight of my career.

I still have the opportunity to work with some fantastic charities and NGOs who are embracing the change in charitable giving and welcoming the opportunity with open arms.

Danny Curran is the director of growth for Europe at AID:Tech, a Dublin-headquartered tech company that uses blockchain technology to provide greater efficiency and transparency in data, for charities and businesses. 

Danny Curran is speaking at the Project Management Institute’s national conference today 28 February, in Fota Island Resort, Cork and tickets are available here.

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Danny Curran

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