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Tag Archives: 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. 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

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: