Connecting private donors and initiators, with transparency and control


SUSTINOVA Connect is a pilot project we started in December 2014, together with private donors who donate more regularly and in higher amounts but were dissatisfied with the current fundraising system.
During our initial discussions, we heard how the effort in making the donations and managing the subsequent contacts by NGOs (mailings, phone calls and so on) often became a burden and a source of dissatisfaction for the donors. In addition, there were questions about how personal data is handled and secured.


Our goals with SUSTINOVA Connect are twofold:

  • First, to assist the donors while building a channel that helps the NGOs to answer the concerns and expectations of their supporters in a transparent and predictable way. These issues were raised during our initial discussions and pointed as a source of dissatisfaction when donating to NGOs, as presented first-hand in this testimonial by a donor. Our process provides several solutions, adjustable to the donors’ preferences and the NGOs' capacities.
  • Second, we want to provide a solution that creates a better understanding of the needs, interests and constraints of either side, while increasing transparency in the connection and promoting good practices on these issues.  Our vetting process and engagement with stakeholders on both sides help to highlight the relevant issues and guide future actions.


For SUSTINOVA, this project matches our overall goal of supporting the community with concrete solutions that promote good practices and good organisations. In addition, we can integrate these issues into the approach used to assess organisations that might receive direct financial support from SUSTINOVA.

Funding rounds and results

During the pilot phase, three funding rounds were conducted: in 2015, 2016 and 2017. After transferring the designated funds, we invited each NGO to undergo our vetting process. The data and feedback collected were then used to discuss with the donors and improve the overall process.


Previous funding rounds

Each funding round contained a mix of pre-selected organisations and others that resulted from additional research and discussion with the donors. In each turn, SUSTINOVA channeled financial support as unrestricted funds to 40 organisations based in Switzerland and active in various topics, both locally and abroad. The charts below show the distribution of the funds across the different topics. Please note that, according to SUSTINOVA’s classification procedure, the same NGO might be marked in more than one topic if more than 25% of their budgeted project expenses is allotted to it.

Sustinova Connect - Funding rounds 2015 to 2017

Vetting Process

15 out of the 40 organisations went through the vetting process: 14 were approved with an adequate or good level of practices; one was rejected due to its excessive reliance on external providers (due to budget constraints).


The vetting process provided the following picture:

  • In general, there was a mix of internal and external solutions for different tasks, covering aspects like storage and sharing of data, publication of newsletters and managing the databases for contacts/donors. Printing jobs, including “thank you” letters/donations, were consistently outsourced.
  • Bigger organisations tended to have professional internal solutions for most tasks while smaller organisations relied more strongly on free (e.g. open-source) solutions due to budget constraints. The adoption of clearly defined procedures was stronger in either the smallest or the biggest organisations, not in the middle-sized or those with more changes in staff.
  • All 15 organisations were willing to accept a scheme where the donor informs in advance how s/he wants to be contacted. Although the options offered varied due to the systems used, the basic cases were covered: choice between electronic or postal correspondence; no information, reports only, all letters, etc. We see this as a positive sign for implementing such an “advanced communication” system on a broader scale.


General guidelines concerning the use of data:

  • The information collected on users and organisations is handled primarily by the SUSTINOVA team and is stored only in Swiss-based IT systems, in encrypted and/or anonymised form. It can be verified, corrected or deleted at any time upon request.
  • For the fulfillment of specific obligations, some information might need to be disclosed to external parties, such as an auditor or official authorities. The principle followed is that only the minimal necessary amount of information is to be disclosed, ensuring that non-disclosure agreements or other formal arrangements are in place when needed.
  • Information on the donors is not stored on our website and is only relayed to the NGOs with express request and consent from the donors.
  • Information on the NGOs is partly stored on our website and in our databases. Part of this information will be used to build a profile of each organisation, made available to donors directly or via our website. It will also be used for research and development of the platform.  Some of the information remains for internal use and is only disclosed in an anonymised form.

(Version date: December 2016)

Contact us

We look forward to hearing from you

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