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Tag Archives: Fundraising


“We worked with The Giving Lab to help us look at launching a new digital product. Their experience was an enormous help, engaging internal colleagues, breaking down the customer journey and conducting consumer focus groups.”

Julie Shaw, Mencap

Mencap came to us with a challenge.

Could we help shape and test a big fundraising idea?

It was going to need significant digital investment, so they needed to understand whether it was going to make a cash return for them.

Sure, we said.

It was an ideal project for an open innovation process.

The principles are simple.

Learn as much from other organisations and experts as you can (that’s the open bit). Use that and your own knowledge to develop the consumer product or experience and the business model. Then validate your model and look for evidence in the market of similar commercial success or similar customer behaviours.

Together we talked to other charities, experts in the proposed area, fundraising, technology and potential commercial partners to help construct a full model.

We mapped each stage of how the idea might appear to users and conducted user research on the results.

We examined the potential return on investment might be over 3 years (and whether other similar projects had achieved similar financial targets) and what investment and skills might be required to deliver it.

Consumer research and other market evidence suggested it was unlikely to deliver a sufficiently strong return.

The Mencap team took the brave decision not to invest further.

This open innovation and market testing ‘cost’ 10% of the proposed budget, but ‘saved’ 90% of the budget being wasted on a project unlikely to succeed.

It was a great, evidence based smart decision.


Here’s a 5 stage process to test your idea (systematically):

Agree objectives and measures of success.

What are you trying to do and how will you know when you have succeeded?

In Mencap’s case, it was a success if it raised many thousands from a specific market on a repeating basis (that’s 3 measurable outcomes – money – target audience and repeatability).

Search for ideas, knowledge and data inside and outside your organisation

Invite external people and companies in to offer their experience and challenge your ideas.  Keep an open mind about the best way to do things. Put all the evidence on the table, good and bad. Look for hard data – how much has been raised by similar projects, how many charities are competing in that space?

Map out a complete end to end customer journey. Then cost it.

Walk through your idea like a customer or fundraiser or charity partner.

How will they find out about your idea? What are you asking them to do? How will they start a conversation and engage with you. What will they feel at each stage? Map out every step until the relationship is complete and ended. It could be the end of an event, or a lifetime relationship.

What’s the business model for this? What resources or skills will it take to deliver? What will it raise?

De-risk your model, by researching/benchmarking the critical parts of your model

Which elements will make or break your idea?

If marathon runners raise half the expected amount you expect what will happen?  This stage is about examining risk systematically. Take the critical bits of the model and look for evidence that this target or behaviour has been achieved before.

You might want to get 10,000 people to run a marathon, but has any charity ever managed that many? How much will people really raise? How do you know the target audience likes your big new idea?

This is where consumer research and external expertise can be critical.

We’re big fans of qualitative research like focus groups to tell us what people think they think about an idea and in tandem behavioural research where we test whether they will do what they say they will do.

One of the  quickest tests of this is facebook advertising, where you can create many potential propositions, target them at an audience and measure click through.


Make the decision

Does your customer experience and your business model meet the objectives you set in stage one? Is there evidence from the target audience they will like your idea and behave in the way you expect?

What’s the ROI? (that’s the return on investment). 3:1 means you’re raising £3 for every £1 you spend. 3:1 is about average in the sector but different types of fundraising have different ratios, for example a successful grants fundraising bidding for big amounts who gets lucky can achieve up to 9:1.

The final question to ask yourself is if you weren’t going ahead with this project what else could you be doing with your time, resources or passionate supporters? Is it the best use of them?

Now you’re ready to make the decision.

TheGivingLab offers innovation consulting, consumer research and digital design to help charities change and grow. Contact us:


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

We created our own micro-music festival to find out. More here. We also tested whether you could create an online music festival with Google Hangout. More here.

We wanted to know what music events inspire the next generation of fundraisers.

We asked survey company Populus to survey 1000 adults aged 18-40 across the UK in the target audience, which type of event (if any) they were likely to organise.


The results were clear.

Fancy dress beats music festivals hands down.

We suspect this is a mix of the hassle factor in organising music festivals and the participatory fun of fancy dress.

Time to get the comedy wigs out (for charity).

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

* The exact statements used in the test were:
THEMED PARTY in your house where people could dress up if they like and bring themed food
Creating a MINI MUSIC FESTIVAL where you invite several bands or DJ’s to play in your house, garden or nearby venue
Holding a KAREOKE PARTY in your house and asking your friends to make a modest donation to your favourite charity
Holding a PARTY WITH A PERFORMANCE, where one singer, someone who plays an instrument plays for some part of your party
NONE – I would not consider any of these


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: