[ad] Blackbaud. Buyer's guide. Finding your mission's perfect fundraising CRM just got easier. Get the guide.

12 strangers, £100,000 – report reveals what happened next

Melanie May | 2 February 2024 | News

Two women talking at a table.

A project to see what 12 strangers would do with £100,000 of someone else’s money saw the group split the money between organisations tackling poverty in their local area, it’s been revealed.

Last year, David Clarke, a writer and researcher from Liverpool, set up the Wealth Shared project as a way of giving away £100,000 that he had inherited.

600 letters were sent to households in the L8 postcode of Liverpool, based on a randomised selection from a list of publicly-available addresses, asking if they would like to participate. Anyone aged 16 or over living at the selected address could register their interest via text, email or an online form.


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

38 people responded, and 12 of these were selected to decide where the money should go, with the freedom to give it to any cause, even individuals, locally, nationally, or internationally. Over the course of four consecutive weeks during June and July, the group met for a weekly two-hour session, supported by a facilitator. Participants who attended all four sessions received a gift of £200 in recognition of their contribution.

The only rules were that the participants could make no more than four transfers, they couldn’t give the money to themselves, and they also couldn’t have any continuing involvement with the money beyond the conclusion of the project.

Explaining what led him to set up the Wealth Shared project, Clarke said:

“I think there is too much inequality and I wanted to do something about it. I thought it would be a cool exercise to see how a random group of people approach the question of “what to do with a pot of money”, and it might inspire others to think in a similar direction.”

Clarke has now revealed what happened in a report, which can be downloaded here, and in a LinkedIn post here.

Concerned by the cost of living crisis, the group wanted the money to have an impact as quickly as possible and decided to support organisations tackling poverty in their local area, choosing to donate £25k each to The Florrie community centre; The Dingle, Granby and Toxteth Collaborative, a network of schools; the Team Oasis children’s charity; and the Granby and Toxteth Development Trust. The decision was reached unanimously and the money has been transferred.

Commenting, David Clarke said:

“The 12 participants tackled the question of “how to use funds to make the world better” with depth and sophistication. We can speculate on how the design of the project might have affected the outcome, but it seemed like a rigorous process. I feel the group repaid the trust I placed in them.”

Clarke shares that feedback from the participants was generally positive, and that representatives of the recipient organisations have said they felt proud to be recognised in this way by their peers.

In the report, Clarke also looks at what can be learned from the project, including whether it was sufficiently rigorous, at how democratic the process was, whether it presented value for money, and if it has had a wider impact. Concluding, the report states the organisers see Wealth Shared as being part of ‘a growing move towards introducing greater democracy into philanthropy and grantmaking’ and hope that it might inspire others to undertake similar initiatives. It also offers ideas for initiatives that could build upon the project.