Skip navigation

Category Archives: Volunteering

blog - express headlineAnother day, another headline.*
Being a fundraiser at a charity supporting asylum seekers and migrants to the UK has to be one of the tougher marketing challenges – especially with weekly headlines like this one from The Express and a continuous debate raging.
The Migrants Resource Centre asked if we could help. They are passionate about the work they do and the positive contribution the people they work with make to the UK.

They wanted to know who would support one of the least popular causes in Britain and how to engage them on a tiny budget. They were also planning to improve their website and wanted to make the most of the opportunity.

This is where research to understand audiences is key. We discussed what they wanted to do with the work (so if we identified an audience, how would they find and market to them again) and what assumptions they made already about where support might come from.

The team had hunches that people who were migrants themselves would be potential supporters, people who were children of migrants and people with sympathetic views who read The Guardian for example might be better than average areas of support. These people were considered to be empathetic, which made us also consider other people who had migrated within the UK to London.

We conducted research groups with all 4 and some of the findings were surprising.

blog - migrants

Not surprisingly people arriving in the UK who had shared similar experiences were the most empathetic and most likely to give. Children of migrants were more conditional but also understood the need for support.

Whilst exploring attitudes to asylum seekers, migration, intra-EU migration two findings caught our eye, the ambivalence of all 4 groups to people’s legal status contrasted strongly with the fierce desire to know whether migrants or asylum seekers were paying tax and making a contribution. It seems all are welcome in London, so long as it’s clear you’re making a financial contribution. In other words my charitable donation is conditional. When we tested a variety of stories of migrants and asylum seekers, those which mentioned their back story AND the contribution they make now, for example as a teacher, or community worker were much more likely to engage and motivate action.  A vital insight for a fundraiser seeking to engage.

So what of our Guardian readers group, all of whom identified as givers to charity? The people in our group demonstrated little empathy or desire to give to this cause, a reminder perhaps that a shared view expressed through media choice might be a poor indicator of giving propensity?

Our young, 20 something migrants from within the UK to London surprised us too. They expected that during their career they would work abroad in another country  and were correspondingly optimistic, open and relaxed about people coming to the UK and doing the same. Secondly as new arrivals to London themselves they wanted to connect with migrants and asylum seekers, wanting to share skills and social experiences. We can’t wait  to be invited to the first ‘New To London Charitable Feast’.

This audience insight has helped MRC develop their fundraising strategy and web presence – and before you launch another campaign,  or revamp your website, run your own focus group. Find out what your audience is thinking about your cause at the moment.

You might also like this article on how Foodcyle researched foody volunteers or this article on what music events appeal to fundraisers, or get in touch if we can help:

*This headline is from The Express not The Guardian just in case of any doubt


Foodcycle is a fast growing charity, taking waste food from supermarkets and turning it into nutritious meals (and other social benefits) at a network of community cafes run by volunteers.

They have over 1200 volunteers across the country and a small head office team, so they wanted to work out how to support volunteers better and scale and improve the digital platform which underpins HQ and the community cafes.

FoodCycle worked with The GivingLab in developing and planning for theBlog - kieron expansion of our national movement. The support allowed us to gain key insights into better understanding the motivations behind why people volunteer or give in other ways to FoodCycle, as well helping us to identify the tech needed to better support giving in our charity.  Kieran Daly, Head of Programmes, FoodCycle

We believe designing effective digital services starts by understanding audiences, customers or users and their needs. Through a series of workshops with volunteers and Head Office staff we researched motivations and needs of different types of volunteer, the different experiences volunteers have had at different centres and where the current IT/digital support fits in and where it could improve the experience in the future and allow Foodcycle to grow without dramatically increasing costs.

Once we mapped users needs and their journey’s, we worked alongside the Foodcycle team to define all the potential technical requirements for the improved platform and helped them  prioritise features which delivered the biggest impact.

We also identified quick wins, many of which didn’t cost money. For example asking volunteers when they moved if they’d like to consider opening a community cafe in their new location, or creating a visible ‘career structure’ for volunteers to take on more responsibility.

If you’re planning to deliver services digitally, doing online fundraising or planning to launch an app or mobile service, here’s 5 tips for success:

  1. Define your objectives AND measures of success. What are you trying to achieve and how will you know you’ve made a difference? For example if your objective is  ‘We want to increase the number of long term volunteers with the same resource level’ three potential measures of success could be: number of volunteers, resource spend and volunteer retention length.
  2. Understand your audience and their needs. Base your model or solution on evidence –  Conduct research with the key audiences and understand their needs. Explore how other organisations have solved this problem. Get expert advice.  Have the measures of success you are setting have been achieved elsewhere? blog - food cycle picture
  3. Design an EXPERIENCE not a process. If you want more volunteer output,  how do you want them to feel as they express interest, join, train and start helping your charity. Map out every single step and think about how each step feels. Where does digital help and where does team leadership and face to face contact matter? For example, do you send a thank-you at each stage to show you value volunteers time and effort? Do you screen early and effectively to make sure you don’t waste resources or the volunteers time?
  4. Test , test and test again – Put 25-25% of your budget aside to pilot and test ideas. Test paper designs with potential users before you build; do the words and headings make sense to the target audience, is the proposed user journey intuitive, could the least IT comfortable person work through the necessary steps? Then if you can test a prototype and finally launch a great experience. Don’t make launch day your first test.
  5. Measure and learn – the process doesn’t stop when the website, app or service is launched. Make sure  analytics are built in from the start to measure the things you want to achieve. Are people behaving the way you expected, is this achieving the measures of success you set at the start? Look for quick simple improvements.

If you’re interested in volunteering, you might like this article on turning volunteers into donors, or if you’d like help to design and deliver better deliver services, manage volunteers or improve your fundraising get in touch:

During 2012/13 TheGivingLab ran a series of hack weekends in collaboration with Microsoft, Google Campus, General Assembly and others to test  whether they might be a vehicle for incubating new ways to generate income for UK charities.

Find out what they cost here and how to make them a success here.


Hack events bring together generous and smart people with skills in coding, digital design and entrepreneurial thinking to create innovative solutions to charity problems, including new income streams or ways of fundraising.

Click here to get a flavour of some of the ideas generated.


We wanted to see if the ideas created added something different to the charity market, so we asked several major and mid scale charities to assess 10 of the prototypes created. We wanted them to rate the ideas for originality (we wouldn’t have produced this), relevance to them (does it solve a problem they have) and commercial scale of impact (would it make a difference).

To our delight – ALL ideas were rated highly creative and surprisingly each charity focused on one or two ideas relevant to them and each charity made DIFFERENT selections. All charities found 1-3 projects commercially viable for them.


There are 3 quick questions you need to ask:

  • Why are you doing it?
  • Where does it fit into your business process?
  • What’s the cost vs what’s the benefit?

Hack events aren’t a cheap replacement for your fundraising and digital teams.

What they do deliver is a diversity of thinking, ideas and energy. That’s valuable. Hack communities are great at seeing things differently, they can help think about reaching new audiences, innovative products and different ways of delivering your services – and they love tech.

But your charity still needs a plan for taking great ideas to market and a financial model that makes sense. Also you need to be clear about the terms of engagement – do teams keep the rights in their ideas (especially revenue generating ones), do you want to develop ideas generated in-house or collaboratively with the creators?

If your charity is thinking about running hack events and you’d like some help, drop us a line: