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Tag Archives: charity innovation


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:


People love music, most people love parties and some people love karaoke. Can music events engage and inspire the next generation of 18-40 fundraisers?

We asked what events motivated people. More here. And we tested whether you could create an online music festival with Google Hangout. More here.

And we created a little pilot music festival of our own to explore music event fundraising models.

Here’s how we created Cowfest:

  • We ran ads on facebook asking for people who were interested in music to sign up for more information. £50 worth of advertising recruited 70 names – 70% of people interested were under 40.
  • The majority wanted to use bigger venues outside their houses (see our findings about what music events most motivate people here).
  • We surveyed them asking them what help they wanted and 4 things stood out: help with kit hire, a ticket system which their friends could use and got the money to charities, a list of things to do (licences etc) and to be part of a national event.
  • The majority of organisers wanted to chose the charity (although some wanted the audience to decide). Most organisers favoured local charities they had a strong connection to, so we created a simple online ticket system to make that possible.

[We believe there is a huge opportunity for a big national music event that works across the sector, to support a wide variety of charities].

  • We asked 5 brave and generous people to run pilot events in March (on a day which turned out to be the coldest and snowiest of the year).


  • Music events engaged a high percentage of first time fundraisers. Yay.
  • Our 5 brave test pioneers all want to run another festival (in better weather). Yay to them.
  • Average donation at pilot events was higher than expected – at £10-15 rather than £5-10 expected.
  • People want to be part of something bigger – They liked the idea a famous band could turn up, that lots of events were happening at the same time and they could be connected together online.
  • Organising a music festival is a higher barrier to entry than a house party; micro music festivals appear to organisers to be much harder work, follow up survey work showed people 3 times more likely to run their own ‘house party’ than a micro music festival. See the full results here.
  • Organisers were happy to pay a registration fee for core support if it was clear what it was for and how it would be useful.


If this has inspired you to start a music festival that plays great music and makes a difference check out the awesome We’re big fans.

If you’d like help to create a brand new music fundraising event, or want help with digital strategy email us:

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.

You can find out what kind of ideas were generated here and what we learnt here.

But here’s what it cost and what it generated.


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