Is Giving Time Impactful?
Founders Pledge is a growing community of entrepreneurs with unique skills and resources that can benefit the world. This begs the question: is there an opportunity for our members to give their resources for good, beyond the pledge?
Giving time and skills to non-profits can feel fulfilling, but it’s difficult to know just how impactful these collaborations actually are, and how to do them well. So last year, we decided to find out. For 12 months we’ve been researching the questions of giving time; our members’ appetites for it; the potential impact; and how Founders Pledge can facilitate these collaborations.
There's a Lot of Potential
Our conclusion? There absolutely is an appetite for Founders Pledge members giving time and skills, both from members themselves and from high-impact charities. However, we have to do some practical testing in order to find out how feasible and impactful this can be.
Now Let’s Test it
Over the coming year we’ll be piloting 'Beyond the Pledge': a charity matching programme where a few lucky Founders Pledge members will have the opportunity to work with some of the best charities in the world. The collaborations will happen on a fixed-term project basis, with clear deliverables and potential for meaningful change. The results of these experiences will inform our next steps.
For more information on our research findings so far, and how we went about the project, read on.
Our research so far has involved analysing relevant literature, and 60 conversations with our members, charities and mission-aligned organisations. We aimed to answer two distinct questions:
Question 1: Can our members create impact by giving their time, skills and knowledge, beyond their capacity as donors?
Based on our interviews, the answer is an emphatic yes. There is a strong appetite to utilise our community’s skills to help solve social problems, both from charities and members themselves. Founders Pledge is well-positioned to be an intermediary in this process. These findings encouraged us to move on to stage two of the research.
Question 2: How can Founders Pledge members create social impact with their time, skills and knowledge?
To answer this we researched five potential initiatives, and compared their potential merits and risks:
Workshops: small scale learning and problem solving events.
Project-based matching: short-term projects to support with clear deliverables.
Mentorships: commitment to guide a member of a charity team over a set period.
Field trips: immersive learning journeys abroad.
Advice post exit: consultancy service to support members to ‘do good’ in their next steps post liquidity.
Each potential programme was evaluated against two key criteria: does it help charities increase their impact and funding, and does it help Founders Pledge members to effectively leverage their skills, and learn about the sector?
We found the most promising initiative to be project-based matching. We explain why further down.
Are Founders Pledge members interested in giving time?
Our conversations with entrepreneurs revealed a strong desire and willingness to engage more actively with high-impact charities, and create impact beyond their financial pledges.
Several members are proactively looking for fulfilling ways to spend their time and leverage their skills for good. This is important because it reframes the counterfactual impact Founders Pledge can have. If members are already giving time or planning to do so, we can help increase the impact of that engagement by facilitating the best possible charity matches.
Our main concern is that time constraints, rather than willingness or intent, are the biggest barrier to success.
Do charities want Founders Pledge members to give time?
Most charities we spoke to were enthusiastic about the project, while maintaining a degree of caution. It became clear that Founders Pledge must help identify and scope out the charities’ demands for founders’ time and skills, and thoughtfully connect them to entrepreneurs with the right specifications.
In general, the charities we spoke to said they can relate to and learn from entrepreneurs, as they identify as “learning organisations”, and resemble start-ups in the way they strategise and operate.
How exactly can entrepreneurs support charities with their time?
Cross-sector collaborations can promote increased value creation and productivity gains. We identified the most important areas for collaboration as:
Business Strategy and Development
Communications and Public Relations
Branding and Marketing
Technology and Data Analytics
Human Resources and Talent Acquisition
Given our community’s particular expertise in technology, we were interested in the possible effects of better deployment of technology for charities. The literature suggests that improved technology in the non-profit sector can amplify reach, improve processes, and allow for better fundraising.
Why project-based matching?
It’s likely effective. It requires low lift relative to the benefit for participating charities and entrepreneurs.
It’s needs-based and concrete. Expectations and goals are easily identifiable, expectations can be managed, and impact can be measured.
It’s viable. It allows for flexibility and choice, which increases the probability of successful matches.
How impactful were similar projects in the past?
We spoke to potential partner organisations and other connections who had experience with similar projects in the past. Our key finding was that, given their experience building businesses, entrepreneurs have many qualities the social sector can benefit from.
However, to ensure a productive partnership, the match-making process must be very carefully managed and demand-led. The experts we spoke to highlighted that a myriad of organisations offer volunteer match opportunities, yet value and skill alignments are not always carefully thought through. This can lead to very resource-intensive workloads for the charities.
What are the risks of the initiative?
We identified 3 key risks:
Poor matches can lead to wasted time at best, and negative impact at worst.
In cases where we don’t find an immediate match, charities may postpone important projects while waiting on support.
Mismanagement or misalignment of expectations can lead to negative experiences.
Piloting the Programme: Charity Matchmaking
Overall, we’re confident in the value of piloting a programme to support our members in their personal and professional social good endeavours. We believe the programme is feasible, and has a lot of potential for positive social impact.
Now we're looking for engaged people to help us test it.
If you want to maximise your impact, spend some time with one of the world’s best charities, and help us trial an initiative that could catalyse impact for even more FP members and charities, get in touch to register your interest.
This was a short research summary. For the full research report, please contact email@example.com.
We would like to offer a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all the individuals and organisations who gave their thoughts, feedback and ideas, and shaped our thinking on this topic.