July 7, 2020 • Interviews5 min read

Traditional donations vs social change: the transparency of charity

Chris, the co-founder of not-for-profit company Thankful Hearts, tells us why charities must go beyond monetary donations to engage with supporters.

Image credit: Thankful Hearts

City Pantry recently partnered with not-for-profit company Thankful Hearts to show our ongoing support for the NHS.  We caught up with co-founder Chris to find out what he thinks charities need to do in order to keep supporters engaged and help drive their cause.


At Thankful Hearts, our team has a strong background in creative and marketing, but I don’t think any of us would claim to be experts in the charity space...yet. So, we are very much learning on the job. However, these first few months have been eye-opening and super insightful.

It’s dawned on us that the nature of the word ‘charity’ has changed somewhat and quite different from what we expected. We, as with most charitable start-ups, adopted the traditional donation model to raise money for our chosen causes. We’ve had great support from the public and businesses but once the donation was made and despite our best efforts some supporters disconnected. Now, that could be down to our content, but I suspect, more often than not, it’s feeling like they’ve done their job. This opens up more questions:

Is the way we need to connect with our supporters less about money and more about social change?

In my opinion, the traditional charity model in the form of donations and monthly direct debits from the public no longer fits the world we live in. Consumers expect more from brands than just a product and the same now goes for charities. Despite the rise of digital channels and social media making it easier than ever to donate, more often than not the donation model comes with negative connotations and a lack of transparency. 

So, it got me thinking, how do we as a small start-up charity use creativity to better connect with supporters whilst still raising funds and working with our partners to drive positive change to those affected by our cause. 

For the most part, our supporters' engagement is driven by the opportunity to make changes to those in need through conversation and influence. Donations become a by-product of our direct conversations. Should we be looking at other models to drive the work we do for the NHS?

So, we got creative and shifted our mindset. What if Thankful Hearts operated directly with NHS staff, giving them creative solutions to help their day to day lives. If we use our partners to fund say a specific children’s book to help nurses connect with their patients? To fund meals for team meetings? Or to supply posters of support and thanks to wobble rooms to help staff when they are most in need? 

These small gestures can drive immediate change, not a huge change, but effective change to those who we support. It allows us to share the results of donations back with business partners and our supporters who help to fund micro-campaigns rather than trying to distribute donations across a wide array of large initiatives. 

Charities need to use social and creative conversation to help drive their cause and make the results of this work more tangible and accessible. Use hyperlocal stories of small positive changes to encourage businesses and the public that donations will make an immediate change. Sharing this quick, effective content across social channels will then help organic awareness and growth.

It’s super exciting for us all to support the great work the NHS do and to be fortunate enough to work with our partners to support them. If you are able to support our cause or have an idea to drive immediate and effective social change for NHS staff please reach out to us at info@thankfulhearts.co.uk.