Kevin Waudby is co-founder of a specialist consultancy called Good Innovation which helps charities and other purpose-led organisations innovate successfully to deliver new income and achieve greater impact. He led several business development teams to deliver millions in future income for Cancer Research UK, where he also established the charity’s innovation programme and managed it for over five years.
Three years ago, Good Innovation initiated a project with a simple but radical mission: to discover new ways to fund charities in the UK. This was Good Lab, a collaboration of twelve leading charities, industry experts and experienced innovators who worked together to design new ways for charities to fund their life changing work. The ambition was to create £250m p.a. of new income for the sector within ten years.
How do you look back on the Good Lab initiative?
The Good Lab was set-up as a three-year initiative and it came to an end in March ’19, over a year ago, so plenty of time for reflection! I have two responses to this question. One personal, the other professional. Personally, I look back on the Good Lab as hugely exciting, complex, challenging and fulfilling. Its genesis was long. I originally had the idea for it while still working at CR-UK, but it wasn’t until five years later in 2016, when the fundraising environment was right in the UK (i.e. it had become very challenging!), that it became a reality. I’m personally thankful that we had the trust and the support of so many Fundraising Directors to take a risk and support the Lab. And I’m proud of my business partner, and the Good Lab team for making it happen. Professionally, from a sector perspective, I think the lessons we learnt from the Good Lab are hugely important, particularly in the context of a challenging fundraising environment in the UK – more on that below...
What were the results of the Good Lab initiative?
The tangible results of the Good Lab were:
- Four start-ups each supporting the charity sector to deliver income and impact in different ways, using different business models. In combination they will generate c. £200m p.a. for the charity sector in ten years (if they deliver on what we believe their potential to be) – check out: OnHand, Matchable and Experience Something Different (due to Covid this one is currently mothballed because its operating model requires face-to-face contact). The launch of the fourth start-up, a payroll giving joint venture called Good Giving, has been delayed by Covid.
- A Venture Studio located at Good Innovation’s office in London which supports charities to realise the potential of their assets to deliver both money and mission (more later…)
- Micro-fund investments in two social start-ups (RightsDD and IBS Coach), helping to establish the principle of using charitable resources to invest in social, mission-focused start-ups to deliver both mission and money
- Scoping a ‘Capacity Fund’ financed by Foundations to support and fund smaller charities to create greater sustainability by taking more risks and developing their enterprise capacity
- We’re developing a ‘Change-Makers’ programme to gather and support sector pioneers to make change happen even better by provoking experiments in change
What are the main lessons learnt?
We learnt so much! The full report on the Good Lab’s outcomes is a great summary of what we learnt. But I’ll mention three of the most important here:
- Giving in the UK is a competitive market and new models of giving at scale are hard to find. But the charity sector has assets, skills, knowledge and capabilities that hold huge unrealised potential to generate both income and deliver impact. OnHand, for instance, is turning volunteers time (a widely used charitable asset) into income. Another great example is Arthr, a start-up launched in the UK by Versus Arthritis which is turning the charities unrivalled knowledge of the problems experienced by people with arthritis into beautifully designed products that make their lives easier. And every charity similarly has assets that could deliver both income and impact. We call it ‘Mission & Money’.
- Innovating radically to deliver new income is challenging for established charities. There are massive structural challenges to charities doing good differently (governance, for instance, that manages risk rather than sets ambition). Social venturing (establishing and/or funding mission-aligned start-ups) provides a route for charities to commercialise their considerable assets to deliver mission and money differently.
- For many reasons, collaborations are a great way to deliver bold and radical solutions to problems. But collaborations of this sort work best when there is a clear, urgent and important need to be addressed. The problem the Good Lab was set-up to help solve was the flat giving market in the UK. We hoped to explore different funding models to increase income to the sector. The need was definitely clear (giving in the UK has been flat for many years) but solving it at a sector level wasn’t sufficiently urgent or important for our charity partners. So, it made prioritizing the Lab’s work challenging because it struggled to compete with the day-to-day priorities that Fundraising Directors and Executive teams had to address. Having said that, through pure determination we managed to pull-off some brilliant innovation!
Would you recommend starting a similar initiative in the Netherlands, and if so, in what way?
I am a huge fan of collaboration. The problems charities are trying to address are so massive that only partnership within and beyond the sector can ever hope to solve them. So, I would encourage charities in the Netherlands to explore collaboration as a strategy. But, to my point above, I would suggest that a clear, urgent and important need be identified first, one that is a priority for every member of the collaboration. Taking time to identify and articulate the need that’s being addressed is really important and will pay huge dividends in the scale and impact of outcome’s collaboration can deliver. There’s much more about our lessons on collaboration in the Good Lab report.
Anything else you would like to add? A bit of advice for the NGOs in the Netherlands perhaps?
I hesitate to give advice to fundraisers in a market I don’t fully understand, but the most important outcome I have taken from the incredible experience of running the Good Lab is that charities have massive potential to deliver both mission and money from the assets, skills, capabilities and knowledge they own. Realising this potential could unlock impact and income on a scale that we haven't seen in many years. So, if I was to give advice, it would be that NGO’s in the Netherlands identify and analyse the potential of their charitable assets to realise new income and deliver greater impact.
Auteur Ellen Janssens is DDB Expert Innovatie en schrijft over dit onderwerp regelmatig columns en achtergrondartikelen.
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