Emerging MarketsJamie Belnikoff

Wanting to Make a Difference

This is the first in a series of short blogs from Jamie Belnikoff, Associate Director at 2CV, based on his personal experience of running an international development charity Onechild Ghana.


Jamie set up Onechild Ghana after volunteering at a vocational school in rural Ghana in 2001.  Initially set up to make a difference to one child at a time, the charity now works with vocational schools in rural Ghana and helps some of the world's poorest children get an education.  Onechild Ghana is run by volunteers and works with these schools to help them grow in terms of student numbers and to become self-sustaining - by supporting projects that encourage income-generation.  For example: the charity has built hostels so that girls can attend school and has also set up bread-making courses in schools where no bread is available to buy locally. 

Wanting to Make a Difference

"I volunteered for your charity because I felt you'd give me the best chance of making a difference"

Wanting to make a difference is one of the main reasons why people give time and money to charity but what do people mean when they say this? What are they really saying and what does this mean for charities? 

Whenever I ask volunteers why they chose to volunteer with us, they often say they felt Onechild Ghana would give them the best chance of truly making a difference.  I've heard this same line so many times, it's clearly a key motivator for many people.  And yet, in our increasingly busy, noisy world many of us don't know where to start - the choices can be overwhelming.  In fact, a quick Google search returns over 500 000 000 results for "I want to make a difference"!

What can charities do to tap into this desire from potential supporters?  I've drawn on my experiences of running Onechild Ghana over the last 10+ years and outlined three key learnings below:

1. Clarity of purpose: Every charity needs a clear sense of purpose - and everything needs to be built out from this.  Why do you exist and how are you different?  This will help people to connect with your cause and ultimately, will encourage them to start a conversation with you.

2. Seeing the impact: A couple of years ago we collected unused mobiles and laptops from the UK and delivered them to Ghana.  Recipients in Ghana then made personalised thank you videos for our donors.  We've found that many donors really appreciate seeing how their time / money has furthered the cause.  Being specific and showing impact can help volunteers see how they've made a real difference - their support hasn't gone into a black hole.

3. Personalisation:  Two UK students recently ran 25km to their school to raise money for Onechild Ghana - and we're going to work together with them to choose how they'd like to spend the money they've raised.  We're going to involve, empower and then show them how they've made a very real difference through photos and personalised videos.  It can be hugely motivating to have a say in how that support is going to be used.

In truth, everyone is different and there's nothing more effective than asking what a potential supporter wants / expects and then designing initiatives around this. We'll talk more about this in our next post, as there's a huge opportunity for charities that can get this right.


Jamie Belnikoff

Associate Director

2CV London