Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” But the word “giving” is often misused when we hear about the amount of giving that people do responding to fundraising campaigns. These statistics usually relate to responses to requests or “asks” from the many charitable organisations that want your money and, therefore, I would say it is responding, not really something freely given.
Why is this important?
Well, if we are going to transform giving culture, we have to look at it in another way. Just being more creative about asking people to part with their money will not achieve that transformation. Lowering the barriers to giving has got to be a place to start, and what better way than to make it free.
In the last few years, I have been building a social enterprise from a concept into a sustainable reality. TheGivingMachine began as an idea I had about building a company to give money away to schools and charities that I had volunteered with. A conversation with a friend of mine led to an idea for a business model that could work. The two of us teamed up with two other local friends and we had a team.
One simple click to give
Many times you may surf the Internet and find a product by searching or researching. That simple click you make to go to a shop will often create a sales commission for someone else and you don’t even know it happened. We discovered that every year, online shops pay hundreds of millions in sales commissions to other websites to refer customers to them in this way. We could build a website to enable customers to generate these commissions and convert them into free donations for the charities and schools they choose.
So the proposition is very simple. When you are going to buy something online, come to our website, buy what you were going to buy from one of the hundreds of retailers via our website (just one extra click) and presto, you’re giving money away for free. The actual amount of the donation is relatively small – anything from a few pence to a few pounds.
But we found that this simple mechanism has some really interesting outcomes that benefit everyone. The shopper becomes a giver for free and the simple emails letting people know that they made a difference, however large or small, are the most popular ones we send. People love making a difference.
Happiness is transferable
We also found that shoppers transferred the happiness about making a difference onto the brands they are buying. This is really interesting because TheGivingMachine is one of many sales channels working with online shops. By giving away most of the commissions we receive to schools and charities chosen by the shoppers, we are generating greater brand loyalty for those shops. So they get the sales and greater loyalty for the same cost.
Finally, by making giving free, we are giving schools and charities a way to engage their supporter base with a request for a change in behaviour to make a difference, and not a direct ask for money. In the current economic climate and rising “donor fatigue,” our scheme offers an easy way to build an audience of supporters and develop a relationship.
TheGivingMachine has grown over the last six years from a local pilot to a national service with more than 60,000 users having generated over 600,000 free donations for 5,500+ UK schools and charities. More than 400 of the best online shops like Amazon, John Lewis, next, eBay, Sainsbury’s, Asda and many others are participating.
If Winston Churchill was working with us, he might have said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a better life by what we freely give.”
Richard is the co-founder of TheGivingMachine, a not-for-profit social enterprise that enables us all to shop and give for free to the causes of our choice. Richard has also just published his new bookGivenomics (£12.99 Anoma Press), which is available from Amazon. For more information visit: www.givenomics.com