‘Time is the greatest gift’: Manchester website aims to make charity work Wonderful

From accountancy to Zumba, gardening to piano lessons, a new Manchester-based organisation is encouraging people to be ‘wonderful’ by donating their time to charity.

Wonderful is a not-for-profit platform which enables individuals and professionals to offer their services while donating their fee.

People who use a service pay the usual rate, 100% of which is then donated to two charities – one elected by the service provider and one by the user.

“Wonderful has been created to allow people to give a little time doing things they enjoy and in which they are skilled, trained or experienced,” Chief Executive Kieron James told MM.

“So if you’re a piano teacher, we’d like you to become a ‘wonderful’ piano teacher by giving a little time to support charity.”

Entrepreneur Kieron first secured the domain back in 1998, but was determined to save it for a venture he considered worthy of the name.

Then last year, frustrated by the profit-making approach of other charity portals, he finally identified a use for it.

“I wanted to take something that I’d been doing for a while as a hobby, yoga, a bit further and teach it, he said.

“But I thought if 100% of the money that those people paid actually went to charity it would make it worthwhile from a personal point of view.

“No platform for that kind of thing currently exists and I thought that’s actually a ‘wonderful’ idea and it fits really nicely.”

Existing online fundraising platforms are openly run for profit.

JustGiving, for instance, charge a 5% fee on donations to cover running costs and reported a turnover of £16.1million as recently as 2013.

But James is determined that Wonderful’s approach will remain entirely philanthropic – an approach which he believes will inevitably attract scepticism.

“Everyone’s cynical at the moment,” said Kieron.

“I think charities were hammered last year by the press and understandably so.

“One issue surrounds transparency and the other surrounds fundraising techniques such as cold calling, which I’m not sure is the most appropriate way.

“There’s always that scepticism as to what you’re really doing and why you’re doing it, but this genuinely is 100% philanthropic.

“It’s quite simple, if I’m a gardener and someone books me for an hour and I charge £15, the whole £15 goes to charity.”

Of course Wonderful does incur running costs but, as Kieron explains, they are supported by his separate telecoms business.

“The business handles 100m calls a month so we have some fairly serious infrastructure there, so we cover all the hosting ourselves,” he said.

“Web development has been done by one of our internal developers.”

One problem Kieron does predict is an increase in credit card processing fees should the domain begin attracting substantially large donations.

However, he dismissed the idea of ever having to introduce a charge.

Ultimately, Kieron is hoping for what he describes as a ‘multiplier effect’.

“Our operational costs will never be passed on in terms of time given for charity,” he said.

“Ideally we would like sponsors to pick up the baton and pick up the costs for card processing for six months, before passing the baton to another sponsor, and so on.

“Our view is that if you give money to us, we’re not only supporting 20-30 charities, but we’re also enabling tens of thousands of people to give in kind as well.

“So that multiplier effect is quite strong, I think.”

A number of high-profile charities are already signed up to the philanthropic venture, including mental health charity MIND and Cancer Research UK, and Kieron is adamant that the new portal can be beneficial to all parties.

Indeed, JustGiving has been forced to invest in new technologies and partnerships as profits have dropped off, resulting in a pre-tax loss of £278,000 last year.

“Charities are interested in innovative ways of raising money because the traditional techniques are starting to feel a bit tired and jaded,” he said.

“Our view is that it’s a lot less onerous for someone to say ‘I’ll give you a bit of my time’ than to put their hand in their pocket.

“We’re living in tough times and people don’t necessarily have money to donate.

“You can apply it to piano teaching, dog walking, plastering, gardening – absolutely anything.

“If people give an hour of their time every now and again or maybe just even as a one off, it’s nicer than hounding people on the street asking them to fill in a direct debit form or cold calling and asking for £20 a month.”

Kieron will be competing in the Great North Run in September followed by the New York Marathon in November where he hopes to raise awareness of Wonderful.

“Walt Disney said ‘we can build the most wonderful place in the world but we need people to make it a reality’.

“That’s exactly where we’re at.

“We’ve built this site, it’s functional, it works, you can use it, we now need people to come on board and support it.

“Whether on a regular basis or as a one-off, we really believe that time is the greatest gift of all.”

For more information click here.

Image courtesy of Kieron James, with thanks.

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