SoGive

Keep track of how you make the world a better place

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SoGive is a tool that lets you see the impact you’ve made in the world through all your charitable giving. Sign up today to make the world a better place.

SoGive doesn't levy a charge, although we may offer our users the opportunity to make an optional donation to us if they like what they see.


Here's an example:


SoGive JustGiving Virgin Money Giving
Your donation £100 £100 £100
Gift Aid £25 £25 £25
Fee (description) No fee 5% of donation (incl Gift Aid) 2% of donation (excl Gift Aid)
Fee from giving platform £0.00 £6.25 £2.00
Card-processing fee £1.60 £1.30 £1.45
Total to charity £123.40 £117.45 £121.55

At the time of writing, we have not yet built the feature of allowing donors the option to make a contribution to SoGive - this is because our priority is on enabling funds to go to the charities rather than to ourselves.

The steps are as follows: select a “representative project” (more on the representative project), allocate costs to that project, determine the relevant units of charity impact (is it number of malaria nets? Is it people receiving training? Is it hours of cancer research?), divide out the costs between those units of charity impact.


This means that admin costs (including things like the salary of the CEO) are included.


Where a charity’s way of working involves selling things to their beneficiaries, the revenues from those sales aren’t included in the overall cost of delivering those outcomes.


Where a charity does trading activities (such as running a charity shop) and those activities are not part of the cost of delivering the charity’s activities, we exclude those costs as well.

We at SoGive endorse the Theory of Change way of looking at impact.


Cash: Up until now, donors have tended to quantify the charitable giving in terms of the amount of money donated, e.g. “I gave £100 to charity!”


Impact: outputs: The money will be used by the charity to do activities, and the immediate effects of those activities are called outputs. These include things like malaria nets, counselling sessions, or vaccinations. These things are generally not good in and of themselves, rather they good because of their knock-on effects, which we call outcomes.


Impact: outcomes: Outcomes may be things like lives saved, or people lifted out of suicidal despair, or people not getting polio who otherwise would have. Quantifying outcomes is hard, and SoGive’s work gathering impact data shows that high-quality outcomes data is scarce.
Because of the scarcity of outcomes data, we focus on outputs data, although we hope for there to be more outcomes data in the future.

We rely as far as possible on data in the public domain. This typically means data from the charity’s annual report and accounts, although there are sometimes also impact reports and other sources. Sometimes we will supplement those with requests for information from the charity themselves. We are also investigating other sources of data.

That would be impossible. We considered other ways of trying to make this more definite, including using blockchain technologies, and decided that our current approach would be a truer model.

Yes

We don’t think it would be right to let the charity “off the hook” for these sorts of expenses, so allocate costs using what people in the charity sector tend to call a “full cost recovery” model.

When a charity does more than one thing, SoGive selects one of their projects to be what we call the “representative project”, which is the activity we use to represent that charity as a whole. In choosing the representative project, we try to make an estimate of where the next donated pound will go - i.e. what your donation is funding - although this is often a matter of judgement. More on this below “Why deal with representative projects?”

SoGive needs a way to represent charities that do more than one thing - some large charities may have hundreds of different projects, and we don’t think it would be helpful to show you all of them.

No. A charity may do several projects, and SoGive will typically only show one of them; the reason for this is that a charity may potentially have a large number of projects, and showing all of them would practically difficult and would turn into information overload for users of the site. It is not meant to indicate that the donation is restricted to that project

We are trying to estimate what economists call the “marginal impact” of another donation to the charity. We consider the features of the projects and estimate those which will most naturally scale as a result of achieving extra funding. This marginal impact is inevitably hard to know, even with perfect knowledge of the charity’s strategy, so the best we can do is make an estimate based on our knowledge of the charity.

We typically find we wish for more information. Indeed, in a sense, we never have enough information, since the perfect choice of representative project depends on unknowable factors. Furthermore accounts and annual reports don’t have perfectly consistent reporting formats. In the absence of perfect data, we make the best estimate we can given the information available. In some cases the data available is so scant that we can’t represent them on SoGive without getting the charity to provide data beyond what is in the public domain.

Another approach would be analyse this at the level of individual items being bought by the charity. This would make a difference to the way we calculate the cost of each thing. For example, let’s imagine that a charity includes one project to distribute malaria nets. Under SoGive’s methodology, we would allocate all the relevant overheads and admin costs (including the CEO’s salary). An alternative approach would be to ignore those overheads on the grounds that they are fixed costs and the marginal cost of another malaria net doesn’t need those costs. Further analysis of this approach shows it to be problematic, hence our choice of the project by project analysis.

When calculating the total amount spent by the charity, SoGive excludes two things: trading costs and income from beneficiaries.

The reason for deducting income from beneficiaries from the total costs is to account for situations where the donor is subsidising something. Examples include homelessness charities provide accommodation for people in vulnerable circumstances, but charge those people, or arts charities that provide a venue for people to see an opera, or international development charities that believe that charging their beneficiaries to receive goods is the most sustainable way to distribute them. In that scenario the correct cost for SoGive to use is the *gap* between the amount that’s already covered by the beneficiaries and the total cost. This is why we deduct the income from beneficiaries.

Note that if you try to reconcile this figure to a set of accounts for a UK charity, you will often find an item called “income from charitable activities”, which is defined slightly differently, and typically won’t agree to this.

We also exclude the trading costs. This is defined slightly differently; it’s for a situation where the charity is selling something, but not to a beneficiary as part of its charitable activities. For example, if a charity had Christmas cards made and sold them for a profit, we would not consider the cost of manufacturing the Christmas cards to be part of the cost of doing the charitable activity. Similarly, the costs of running charity shops would be treated as trading costs.

A charity’s activities may be split into different projects or areas of work. A charity will often show the costs attributable to those different projects in its accounts, however the sum of the project-level costs generally doesn’t include *all* the charity’s costs -- there are some overheads that are on top of this. We at SoGive believe that these admin costs or overheads should all be taken into account, so we calculate what those extra costs are based on the figures in the accounts and allocate those costs to the projects in proportion to the size of that project.