Published 15th January in Herts & Essex Observer (see article) by Eleanor Patmore
A ‘FREE giving’ website enabling online shoppers to donate to their favourite charities which was developed by four Bishop’s Stortford dads raised £185,000 for good causes in 2012.
TheGivingMachine managed to buck a downward trend in UK charitable donations recently reported by the Office of National Statistics by achieving a 49 per cent increase in donations via the site over the past 12 months.
The non-profit social enterprise allows consumers to generate free donations with every purchase by diverting the commission that retailers would normally pay to profit-seeking search engines and websites to their chosen charity.
Since its inception in 2006, TheGivingMachine has recorded more than 580,000 transactions worth about £450,000 in charitable donations. More than 100,000 donations were generated over the Christmas period alone, with online retailer Amazon the most popular with shoppers.
Other retailers signed up to the site include Tesco, John Lewis, Next, Argos, Marks and Spencer, and Ebay.
Founder Richard Morris said: “Our figures show that despite the tough economic climate, Britons still want to support their communities if we lower the barriers to giving.
“TheGivingMachine has been successful because it was developed on the understanding that many can no longer afford to give as much as they would like, so ‘free giving’ that takes advantage of the increase in online shopping activity is an innovative solution.
“Furthermore, there is a growing desire to connect businesses and their profits to the communities in which their customers live and work. TheGivingMachine allows brands to empower their customers to make a difference, which is directed by the customers and not chosen centrally.”
Local causes which have benefited include East Herts YMCA in Stortford, Northgate Primary School and the 1st Bishop’s Stortford and Hockerill Scouts.
YMCA chief executive Robert Purcell said: “Times are very hard for many community organisations like East Herts YMCA. The demand for our services continues to rise but funding cuts and falling income from traditional fund-raising make it ever more difficult to help those that need it.
“Like many charities, we recognised the need to fund new ways to engage supporters. TheGivingMachine is an innovative scheme and one of the cheapest and most sustainable ways for UK charities and schools to generate a regular income.”
Richard helped set up TheGivingMachine after taking a sabbatical in 2005 to undertake voluntary work for Perry Green-based epilepsy charity St Elizabeth’s as well as helping local people suffering from sight and mobility issues with their computer problems.
It was his time spent volunteering that encouraged him, along with Mark Clark, Jonathan Bayly and Craig McKenzie, to develop a solution to help all charities in their work.
TheGivingMachine is now run by a network of Hertfordshire-based mums who oversee the day-to-day operations of the company, from managing relationships with schools, charities and retailers to developing promotions for online shoppers.
Stortford mum-of-two Claire Thompson helps support the organisations which have joined to raise awareness among their supporters.
“I and the other mums involved with TheGivingMachine realise how important it is to support our communities,” she said. “The hours are flexible with our family commitments and it offers a fantastic opportunity to make a real difference, and have fun at the same time.
“With the help of our online community, we want to help grow the organisations and inspire even more people to give for free in 2013.”
For more information, see www.thegivingmachine.co.uk.