I never gave much thought to building products with a social mission until I hit my early twenties; back then all I dreamed of was building the next "cool" startup. Out of curiosity more than anything, one day I wanted to find what the biggest problems in the world were, how those problems were being addressed, and who was tackling them.
The thing is there wasn’t really anything out there that answered these questions. No matter how much I searched there was no centralised place that gave this information in an easily digestible format. This gave me the idea to create a website dedicated to solving this problem, a website where I could search for a cause to learn more about it, or simply be shown causes for me to dive deep into.
That idea, I think, is what planted the seed.
Ultimately I never created that website. I couldn’t see how it would make money and being an “entrepreneur” at heart, I threw it to the back of my mind, switching my attention to ideas that “would be profitable”.
A few years and a few projects later, I still couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that I needed to be working on something that gave back, something that did a little good. I had become inspired by the stories of Scott Harrison and Blake Mycoskie. How Scott turned his life around to create Charity: Water and how Blake had such a simple, yet revolutionary, idea to create a pair of shoes that doubled up as a donation - giving a pair of shoes to a child in need.
I created a brand called “Good Apparel”, a brand that created “cool” custom t-shirts and for every tee sold, £5 would be donated to homeless shelters throughout the UK with a different homeless shelter or charity being the focus every couple of weeks. Good Apparel launched right around Christmas and saw a flurry of sales. We were on to something!
Actually… not so much.
After the Christmas boom we just couldn’t shift any product, we worked with charities to try to promote what we were doing but with just a few sales coming in each month, it just wasn’t sustainable. On to the next.
The human kindness app making charity more transparent
While working on Good Apparel I learned a bunch of things around what makes a charity tick, what makes a supporter tick, and how those two things generally differ.
Early on it became apparent that the younger generations, millennials, in particular, have little trust in charities. They’re not confident that the money they give is used in the most responsible way, with an overwhelming perception that charities have excessive administrative costs, executives enjoy overinflated salaries, and that funds are greatly diluted before any meaningful work on the cause actually occurs.
From working with many charities large and small I knew that for the most part, these perceptions were unjust, and that actually charities really do work hard to maximise their impact.
The problem largely boils down to charities not being effective at communicating with these emerging generations of supporters. As an industry charities are typically slow to adopt and capitalise on technology, too held down by a plethora of red tape and ageing executives too risk averse to consider the tech trends they’re unfamiliar with.
With a lack of effective communication comes a lack of transparency. In the internet age where there is a constant fight for your attention, a constant fight for your hard earned cash, charities unable to be transparent and communicate their activities effectively, ultimately earn distrust.
The way I see it, the solution has to be in changing the narrative. In shifting public perception back to one of real trust and faith that these organisations are doing all they can to better the world we live in.
Ella’s role in this starts with championing charities, making charity discovery easy, engaging and inspiring. Making a charity’s finances available to supporters in an easily understandable format so they can make better-informed choices about their giving.
And that brings us to today.
So what’s the big plan?
Oh man, this is where I get excited! I’ve so many plans and ideas for what I’d like Ella to grow into, plans and ideas which, for now at least, I’m going to hold close to my chest. This isn’t out of anti-competition — ness, it’s more that I’m trying to spend less time saying what I’m going to do and more time actually doing it.
I will say this.
The coming weeks and months will see some pretty neat features introduced.
The first being a tool to crowdsource public perception of a charity, digging deep into how supporters view a charity’s activities and creating an overall trust score. Trust is everything, and so any insights that can be gained here are not only hugely useful for supporters, but for charities too.
Another feature will see the introduction of charity activity feeds. It’s time for charities to take control of their communication and really engage with their supporters. Charities will be able to add updates to their profiles in a sort-of micro-blogging format, much like Twitter or Facebook - sharing what’s going on behind the scenes, showcasing campaigns and engaging with followers.
There’s a whole host of other things I could talk about here, but... I have to think in stepping stones so I don’t get ahead of myself. Right now I’m turning my attention to shipping those first few features and starting to build an audience so that, fingers crossed, Ella can help bring about that change.
If you’ve made it this far, maybe you could help with that?
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