Week 28 - JustGiving
A bit of a change for me this week as I've not been with a charity, but with the incredible fundraising platform JustGiving.com.
I really don't think they need much of an introduction; 24million of you use the platform every year and raise a colossal amount of money for great causes across the country on a daily basis. So when they approached me a few months ago about collaborating and coming to them for a week, it was a no brainer.
I'm a huge tech lover. I am what I am today because of social media, so having the opportunity to come and spend a week at JustGiving really was a pretty awesome chance that I couldn't say no to. But also it's a touch of serendipity. My journey all began with a humble JustGiving page; fundraising for Maura 18 months ago on my birthday. Little did I ever anticipate that I would be sat in their offices working with them a year and a half later.
Why am I here? It's two-fold really. Firstly; it's about aligning myself with the leaders in the industry. Secondly; it's about creating meaningful partnerships with companies who can help the charities I work with.
Arriving at the Time Inc. building in central London, you know you're in the right place. With glass fronted offices and an open plan working space they even have a ping-pong table in their kitchen; they have cultivated an incredible culture of social good, from the inside out.
But before I start I want to clear something up. Yes - they are a profitable business. Yes - they take a 5% fee on every donation made and yes - they do an awful lot of good. It could be said and argued by a few that because they take a fee on every donation are they really doing more good?
Well, they need that money to run. Much like the argument of 'high' wages in charities that I regularly seem to defend, money makes money. It's simple. The business manages millions of accounts and that doesn't operate on fresh air. So they need to make money to operate and service the thousands upon thousands of charities that use and benefit every single day from the money they successfully generate for them, all may I hasten to add, are unrestricted funds. So yes, they are perfectly within their right to take 5%.
So, now we have little bit cleared up let me tell you why I know for a fact, that they are amazing.
For profit for good; that's how they describe themselves. I couldn't agree more. Founded by Dame Zarine Kharas and Anne-Marie Huby just over 14 years ago, they saw a real need in the technological landscape for real-time online giving. So with a bright idea and a few good people, JustGiving was launched. It's now growing in strength every day and is one of the main 'go-to' platforms to help generate money for good causes.
I myself have raised a pretty good amount through the platform; remember my bike ride for Help for Heroes? Without JustGiving there is now way I would have been able to promote and raise just over £700. You think how many people did the ride. If everyone matched what I did, that's a pretty substantial sum; all facilitated by the fundraising platform.
My time with them was spent with almost every department, learning and asking about why and how they do what they do. Gaining knowledge and passing on information to benefit you, my readers. I wanted to experience everything they do to pass on that knowledge in a meaningful and trustworthy way to everyone that reads my blog.
But, ultimately, what I really want to do, instead of talking about them constantly and sounding like I am writing from their marketing department is tell you why, as a charity, especially a small one, you should use them.
On my travels I have been asked quite a few times by smaller charities why they should use JustGiving. What real benefits can they bring to an already resources-strapped organisation?
Let's say you rely quite heavily on either government funding or trust funding. The majority of your income is biased to one or two income streams. With the level of austerity and government cuts left right and centre, putting all your eggs in one basket is a pretty risky strategy. Opening yourself up to an alternative income generated by the people that support you, to me anyway, is logical. And that's where they come in. The platform is designed to help facilitate an unrestricted income stream to help you grow your income.
I often hear "well, we don't have the time" or "It's too complicated" or even "Well, they take a £15 fee and we just can't afford that risk every month". Yes, all of the above is true. But, if you are logical, well planned and creative enough, JustGiving.com can open you up to a world you never even knew possible. Look at how well charities such as Help for Heroes and Martin House do with JustGiving. It can definitely be done, they both started somewhere!
So my first day with the company I was asked to write a blog on my thoughts about small charities; I tired to write an informative piece in educating you on getting the most out of community fundraising platform (it goes live next week).
What I also learnt is that JustGiving don't just facilitate charity giving, they are also a crowd funding platform too. So say, you have a cause you want to donate to and it's not a charity. You meet a young man who is blind and needs some specialist equipment or a local community centre in need of a new roof. You can raise money for that through them. I meet so many inspirational people and to be honest I had to hold myself back from setting up countless pages to fund something for them. It's quite interesting because somebody explained this platform as the hidden iceberg of philanthropy. There are so many great charities out there that get successfully donated to every day, but there are even more people who are just as deserving. So just like it says on the tin, you can 'just give' to anybody who is raising money for a good cause.
It's interesting too, being at a company who hold social values at the heart of their organisation. Not driven by profit but change. I can whole-heartedly tell you that it's social change that really is at the core of what drives them. It makes me wonder why more companies are not the same. Yes - money is nice but how much good can you really do from your Ferrari?
Not all success can be put down to financial wealth. Having lots of money can in many cases be seen as a mark of 'success'. But isn't it much more rewarding to help others?
JustGiving see it as their social responsibility to help those people, which is why they re-invest all of their profits to continually develop their platform making it easier to donate to causes that really matter.
(Image courtesy of Harris & Hoole)
I got to see this first hand on Wednesday when I went out to the socially aware coffee chain Harris & Hoole. They have been working with JustGiving to utilise their crowd funding platform for every single store, creating fundraising pages for local good causes. They have tasked each store to find a local cause, create a page and fundraise for them. Sceptical to begin with, they launched a few months ago. It was a true delight to see that almost all of their stores have either reached or exceeded their fundraising goals by promoting their page in store. Generous patrons happily pledged to a cause backed by the company, helping them use their brand for social change. It's partnerships like this, happening every week that restore your faith in the UK economy. Great brands and companies really working together to try and tackle prominent issues in their local community.
If I am honest I was as blown away by the company as I expected, if not more. But what amazed me most were it's people, the ones at the heart of the organisation, driving it forward. A mixture of Dames, MBE holders and other incredibly diverse and wonderfully committed people that have all found a home at JustGiving. There was not a single member of staff that I met that didn't hold the same enthusiasm for what they were doing as the last person I was with.
I can only really relate this working experience to that of a company that I used to be a part of, John Lewis. I still hold them very dear to my heart, not just because they started my career but because they are an organisation that are intrinsically good at their core. Maybe it's where I learnt to care so much from a corporate perspective, but JustGiving is born of the same ilk. Led by their beating heart for social change.
For that, I am truly grateful to have been offered the opportunity to gain an insight into their wonderfully caring world. They are the future of what companies should be; caring first, profit later.
I leave both informed and elated; confident in the knowledge that I am not only able to fully help and assist any charity in online fundraising but content that there are organisations out there that really want to make a real change in the world. So next time you think about how much money something is going to make you, why not think about how many people it will help instead.