Innovation In Giving


Innovation in Giving

The Case for Slow Volunteering…

Helen Goulden

One of the assumptions that are lot of us make when thinking about ways of encouraging more people to volunteer is that people don’t have enough time to get involved. That the pressures of a 21st Century life mean that we are time poor; with jam-packed lives that squeeze out certain kinds of activities.

As someone who shuttles daily between work, the school gate, and suffers the 1950’s gravitational pull of family household chores and a background hum of guilt about not doing – or being – more, I can sympathise with this point of view.

The response to this belief about time poverty in a volunteering context has been to think about designing short, sharp volunteering opportunities; micro-volunteering that might only take a few minutes, or one-off opportunities that might just take an hour or so.  There are a number of initiatives which focus on flexible volunteering and micro-volunteering emerging, and of course technology allows us to accelerate this idea of micro-volunteering either through offering more opportunities online, on phones or as a route to identifying slivers of need out there in the real world.

Through this fund, we’re interested in knowing more about the potential impact of micro-volunteering, hence supporting research by the Institute for Volunteering Research to explore just this issue.

But is this assumption right, that people don’t volunteer because they don’t have the time? I wonder. I’ve been thinking that maybe we are colluding with this idea of time poverty and that the only answer is to break things up into bite size chunks, create opportunities that can be squeezed into the nooks and crannies of every day life as a route to getting more, new people into the habit of volunteering.

Let’s get off that trip momentarily and make a case for Slow Volunteering. A nod toward the Slow Movement and what it stands for…

A recent research report from the Association from Psychological Science claims that giving time away, volunteering to help others actually increases the sense of having more time. Research from Volunteering England suggests that volunteering is good for your health and according to the American Psychological Association it could actually lengthen your life – so not just that it feels like you have more time, but you actually have more time.

Being a Games Maker was a fairly hefty commitment of time. Volunteering at Kings College Hospital requires a serious commitment; one year minimum and a minimum number of hours per week – and both (and many other more intensive volunteering opportunities like the Samaritans) have turned large numbers of people away due to over-subscription.  Time poverty, in these examples, doesn’t seem to present a problem.

And at its heart it’s because these experiences foster feelings of quite deep connection with other people, an increased sense of purpose, of being needed and a more expansive view of care; care beyond our pitiful selves and quiet concerns about our own well-being, toward greater compassion toward others. That takes time. Could micro-volunteering take you to that place? I don’t know.

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Posted by Lynette on December 5, 2012

Innovation in Giving

The Sharing Economy Goes Global But UK Consumers Miss a Trick

Benita Matofska

It’s a busy time for the Sharing Economy as this week sees the first Global Sharing Day take place on Nov 14th with 161 partner organizations and a reach of over 60 million people in 147 countries. Created by The People Who Share, the day will see millions around the world come together to share resources, ideas, skills and knowledge from 1-2pm as part of The Greatest Share on Earth.

The People Who Share have united the leadership of the Sharing Economy including Shareable Magazine, Mesh Labs and OuiShare with partner support from to put the Sharing Economy on the global stage.

But despite the fact that the emerging Sharing Economy is now reported to be worth over £310 billion globally, UK consumers seem to be missing a trick. Research commissioned by The People Who Share, carried out by Opinium and released today reveals that Britons make and save £8 billion a year through sharing but the potential is far higher.

Research among 2,000 UK adults over 18 reveals that on average UK adults save £99 and make £335 a year, primarily through sharing services such as selling second-hand goods booking or share or swap childcare services or sharing a ride. But super users of the Sharing Economy report that by using innovative tech sites like  Airbnb Whipcar and Love Home Swap you can save thousands.

I for one, have seized the opportunity to share and am saving £20,000 a year. The advent of sharing sites enables the savvy to live a shareable lifestyle, by using the things that you don’t need, to get the things that you do.

Times are tough, people need to do more with less and for anyone who isn’t maximizing their resources they’re missing out. We have the technological ability to share the world; we just need to make it easier to share than not to.

Benita Matofska is Founder and Chief Sharer of The People Who Share, the company behind the first aggregator of the Sharing Economy.

The full research paper can be found here:

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Innovation in Giving

Award-winning innovations – brief reflections from the inaugural digital fundraising awards

Nicolle Wilkinson

Last week I attended the inaugural Blackbaud’s Digital Fundraising Awards in association with UK Fundraising. The awards are designed to specifically recognise and celebrate the people / organisations that are using digital tools to fundraise in the most effective way with awardees being decided by a combination of expert panel reviews and public voting – with over 8,000 people submitting their votes. From an Innovation in Giving Fund perspective, we were delighted that a number of the innovations that the fund is backing were recognised and short-listed.

Timto, Pennies and Blue Dot were all recognised in the ‘Most Promising Digital Tool’ category and we were delighted that Timto won the overall award, with Blue Dot being highly commended. Although, all three of these innovations are focused upon different areas of giving – gifting, micro-donations and  alternative currencies for positive social action – what they have in common is the ability to embed giving deeper into everyday life through tapping into different motivations.  

In Timto’s case, it seeks to tap into the established motivation of giving and gifting to celebrate special occasions, whilst Pennies enables customers to donate small sums seamlessly as part of everyday transactions and Blue Dot incentivises giving through reward and recognition.  Indeed, embedding giving into everyday activity was a theme, with a number of awards being made for innovations that facilitate this, for example Acorns and Aston Villa Football Club’s Text to Donate campaign.  

The other clear theme to emerge from the awards was a strong reminder of the importance of holistic integration of technology with other aspects of strategic planning, product development, marketing, and communications in maximising the impact of digital giving innovations.

The importance of this was further highlighted in Visceral Business’ Social Charity 100 report which was presented at the awards and provides a comprehensive overview of social charities in the UK. It presents the clear take away that effective performance depends upon picking the right portfolio of platforms, tools, offline support and technologies to suit organisational brand and personality.  

This is an area that we really recognise and are constantly striving to support the innovations that are backed through the Innovation in Giving Fund to cultivate and grow through tailored non-financial support, networking / partnership development and possible follow-on funding for promising innovations.

In addition, through the Open Innovation Programme we have bought together 28 well-known charities with a number of giving innovations (many of which are backed through other strands  of the Innovation in Giving Fund) and it has been fascinating to observe how partnerships come together and witness, first hand, how organisational focus, values and long-term objectives have influenced charities decisions regarding who to partner with and how in order to develop their proposed solutions for their organisational giving challenges. As phase one of the programme has just ended, we look forward to supporting some of these partnerships grow and develop in phase two.

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Posted by Lynette on October 24, 2012

Innovation in Giving, Innovation in Giving

Standing Out From The Crowd

Philip Colligan

One of my favourite things about these amazing Olympics has been the Games Makers.  That’s the 70,000 or so volunteers that can be seen across Central London and at Olympic venues all over the country.

Whether you like the colour or not, there is something inarguably cool about a bunch of ordinary people standing out from the crowd in their Games Maker kits (kudos to Adidas).  You know there’s no pretensions, no cynicism – just great people giving up their time for someone or something else.

Are they motivated by the chance to be part of something bigger; to be a part of the greatest show on earth?  Of course they are and there’s nothing wrong with that.

These people are literally making the games possible by giving up their time to do everything from directing the flows of people at tube stations to mopping up the sweat on the badminton courts.  It’s social action on a massive scale.

What’s even more striking is how the rest of us respond.  We smile at them in the street and say hello, I’ve seen people stand on crowded trains to offer their seats to weary looking Games Makers on their way home and they’ve even got battle-hardened commuters like me having conversations early in the morning as we eagerly ask them what venue they’re at and what it’s like.

A few months ago I was in Cambridge town centre on what happened to be the day of Race for Life.  That’s another huge display of collective social action, as hundreds of thousands of women run 5k to raise much needed funds for research into cancer.  It is though, much more than a fun run.  The runners dress in a uniform of pink and wear on their backs the names of the mums, aunties, sisters and friends who have suffered that disease.  It is a collective act of solidarity with intensely personal motivations on display.  Too easily taken for granted, it is a remarkable thing.

That morning we went for brunch and again I was struck by the way that the “rest of us” reacted to the runners as they started to arrive for some well-earned food.  As each woman in pink arrived, the owner of the restaurant welcomed them with a glass of fizz on the house and a little cheer went up across the dining room.

So what do the Games Makers and Race for Life have to tell us about social action and what are the lessons for the many innovators that are trying to find ways to get more of us to give our time and money to causes we care about?

First, we need to look at the potential for collective action to engage new people in giving their time for causes they care about.  It’s a reasonable guess that many of the Games Makers and Race for Life runners were first time volunteers (if anyone’s got the data, let me know) and now that they’ve taken some social action, it’s more likely that they’ll go on to do something else.

The catalyst that got them giving might have been the excitement of being part of the Olympics or the pain of losing a loved one, but the effect is the same: they have taken social action and that will have changed their perceptions of themselves (see Timothy Wilson’s excellent book on how this happens).

And you don’t need an event as big as the Olympic Games to harness the power of collective civic acts.  New York didn’t win the Olympics and it didn’t stop them mobilising an army of volunteers through Mayor Bloomberg’s City of Service initiative.  They famously called on citizens to paint over 1 million square feet of the cities roofs white to help reduce carbon emissions from air conditioning.  Now hundreds of cities across the US regularly mobilise an army of ordinary people to take social action together.

Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t happen here.  Team London has been around for a few years now and is building a British version of the US Cities of Service in our capital.  Perhaps it is time we created Team Swindon, Team Leeds, or Team Calderdale?

Alongside mobilising people to do some good together, we need to think more creatively about how we make giving visible and celebrated.  Games Makers and the Race for Life deploy the very simple technology of clothing – a uniform that signals to the world that you are giving your time for others.  It’s an incredibly powerful mechanism, but it’s not the only one.

Increasingly we all define ourselves to the world through social media.  Innovations like Givey and Blue Dot are exploring the potential for these new social identities to capture information about our giving habits and make it part of the story we tell to the world.

Is there a possible future where alongside telling the world about our education, jobs and favourite films, social media platforms like facebook prompt us to say what social action we’ve taken?


Innovation in Giving

Who wants to own a start-up?

Edward Whiting

The following is an extract from a blog by Edward Whiting. You can read the full blog here:

If crowdfunding was the next big thing in 2010-11 (with Nesta estimating that €1.5bn was raised for crowdfunding projects in 2011 alone), then equity crowdfunding is making a strong case to follow suit for 2012-13.

The concept is pretty simple – take the concept of getting lots of people to give a little bit of money to help make your project happen, and instead of offering them kooky rewards (like your name weaved into the side of a bus) you offer them a stake in your company. If your business idea takes off, your backers- from £10 upwards – get a share of the return. The vast majority of equity offered in this space so far has been non-voting, so if you’re a crowd-investor you’d have to sit tight and cross your fingers to hope your company does well.


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Posted by Lynette on July 20, 2012

Innovation in Giving

What’s Mine That Could Be Yours?

Helen Goulden 20.07.2012

Last week I met with the brilliant Streetbank , who have developed a platform for people to give or lend stuff to people who live nearby. Sites like Streetbank, that focus on giving stuff away at a hyper local level are blossoming and there’s a strong trajectory of growth in active Street-Bankers.

Ecomodo, another Innovation in Giving Fund recipient, has developed a great model focussed on the lending of things; either for free or for a fee. And across the globe, there is a flurry of innovation around platforms which focus on renting out assets, goods and products.

We’ve seen it done to great effect through the rise of the ‘anti-hotel’ (e.g. Wimdu, Airbnb), car sharing (e.g. Zip Car, WhipCar, BlaBlaCar) and through making different use of our time through Task Rabbit. Now, there seems to be a big rise in the model which focusses on renting anything and everything to people who live close by – epitomised in sites like Ecomodo in the UK, NeighborGoods in the US and Anyhire in Australia.

Some of these rental platforms focus on peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, and some involve existing businesses renting their products in new or different ways (B2C). Some, such as Anyhire and Rentoid , incorporate both business and peer lending on their platforms.  But the common trend when you look at look at P2P lending sites is that they accommodate – and seek to service – the P2P lending of pretty much anything; from tent poles to tiaras. And what they don’t have in many cases (just yet) is critical mass in any given geographical area. Bid and borrow and ThingLoop closed down precisely because of this issue.

This presents a very steep challenge. Platforms like these rely on us shifting the nature of our attachment to the things we own and collectively building a deep pool of things to lend to others. This is a tough enough hill to climb. But they also need to build demand; to grow a pool of people who want to borrow what you have to lend – who also happen to live close by. This is a tough gig and hats off to all those making it work even in small geographic areas.  It feels like those platforms which focus on publicising the demand rather than the supply (Help, I live on Cheshire Street and need a ladder!) might cultivate more supply, more quickly.

Of course, the platforms which focus on business to consumer lending can crack the supply side of things pretty quickly; they generally have lots of stock. Californian platform Getable is a great example of this, which offers a portal for existing independent rental stores to offer their products on line. Which works well for some things…On my wandering through  Getable, I saw some great, quite high value stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily want to own but might want to make use of. But a lot of what was on offer was cheaper to buy if I was going to use the item more than once.

Which raised a big question about motivation for me. What makes me want to rent rather than own something if  – if – I can afford to buy the thing? How far can we be motivated to remodel and re-pattern our lives towards sharing more and buying less? Where are the incentives? What motivates us toward collaborative consumption of everyday items when ownership can often be (cost per use) cheaper and let’s face it, a lot easier?

Talking to some of those innovators who are focussing on free peer-to-peer giving away lending and exchange in local communities, they’re often quite clear – the motivation is the feeling of doing something good; offering something that’s needed, to someone who doesn’t have it. It’s driven by a motivation to be kind. To feel like you’ve helped someone out.   And intuitively, it feels like platforms that focus primarily on the free lending and giving away of anything and everything in local communities might get more traction more quickly than local rental sites…

In any event, it feels like there are some gaps, just waiting to be filled. It’s probably reasonable to suppose that business-to-consumer lending markets will trend toward higher value or infrequent lends (because the value of the product is higher or because ownership just makes less sense) and I suspect these innovative platforms will rub along in parallel with the peer-to-peer  services that focus on lending and giving away of a whole mish-mash of stuff at a community level.

But I guess my call-out is, what’s the next wave of innovation in this area? What kinds of things can be shared, loaned or rented regularly and easily that could have a real impact on our everyday lives?


Posted by Lynette on

Innovation in Giving

Giving against the grain?

Nick Webb 12.6.12

A striking characteristic of many round 1 innovations is the effort put into getting the mechanics of giving right – that’s to say how to successfully tap into giving motivations, ‘onboard’ users in large numbers and make the process of giving simple and efficient. As a supportive funder, Nesta certainly wants to see the projects it backs succeed in a tough and well-trodden marketplace.

The challenge of getting this right makes me think about a deeper test: how to create innovations that go with, not against, the grain of contemporary culture. A cynic might say that the act of giving suffers from connotations of ‘worthiness’. A deeper criticism, I think, would be that it is somehow ‘on the margins’, an ‘add-on’, an ‘afterthought’ in the hierarchy of everyday concerns. The ‘chugger’ invading your personal space, disrupting the familiar flow of your journey from A to B, the work colleague asking politely for sponsorship to run yet another marathon (or even triathlon!), the act-of-God disaster that tugs us only momentarily towards a bigger drama.

This test is just as much about engaging givers on their home turf (go to where they already are online at Facebook!) as it is about fitting in with people’s core activities and concerns. A good example is payroll giving. I think this is powerful because it embeds the act of giving firmly within one of the building blocks of life – work – rather than leaving it sitting uneasily on the margins. It makes giving habitual and structural, not occasional or incidental.

My reflection is really that a great deal depends on the cultural and social place of giving, both now and in the future. Giving has always been part of the public imagination and social fabric of this country. Think of the vast sums raised by charities every year (estimated at £11BN, yet dwarfed by the estimated monetized value of volunteering time), or the incredible acts of individual giving that have helped to shape our public realm and preserve our rich heritage (National Trust). How far are we able to insightfully describe the place of giving in modern culture?

Perhaps much current innovation in giving is coming from ideas that tap more effectively into age-old human motivations; specifically, the evolutionary urge towards cooperation and reciprocity. There is now a burgeoning of successful innovations that support sharing rather than one-way direct giving, or that involve clear return for the giver, for example in social recognition and stronger social networks. If this is true, then we might have cause to be optimistic that giving will flourish as an ingrained element of our personal, social and civic identities, going with the grain of how we want to live and work.

But, of course, I’d be interested in your views!

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Posted by carrina on June 12, 2012