Exclusive interview with Marcelle Speller, OBE, Founder and Executive Chairman of Localgiving.com

Charity Digital News recently caught up with Marcelle Speller, OBE, Founder and Executive Chairman of Localgiving.com, a non-profit website where small charities and local community groups can use the internet to raise money, awareness and support online.

| 5th Sep 13

Charity Digital News recently caught up with Marcelle Speller, OBE, Founder and Executive Chairman of Localgiving.com, a non-profit website where small charities and local community groups can use the internet to raise money, awareness and support online.

1.     Why was Localgiving created?

In 2005 we sold Holiday-Rentals.com, the company I co-founded in 1996.  I embarked on a bit of a quest to do “something worthwhile” which, after a few mistakes, led me to attend the Philanthropy Workshop at the Institute for Philanthropy in 2007.  Wherever we went, I was impressed with small local charities working on the rock face to improve their communities. I saw the problems they faced in fundraising and building awareness, and realised that the growth of online giving was seen as a threat – if they’re too small to be registered, they can’t take online donations or receive Gift Aid.

I also noticed an increased public desire to give locally, but saw that it was difficult for donors to find local charities.  My light bulb moment was to realise that the technology and skills I had developed building Holiday-Rentals.com could be used to help local charities and the people who want to help them.  My problem identifying local charities was solved by Matthew Bowcock, then chairman of the Community Foundations Network (now called UK Community Foundations), which gives grants to about 20,000 local charities, who was also on the Philanthropy Workshop.  So, Localgiving.com was born!

2. Could you describe the service that Localgiving provides?

Localgiving.com is a non-profit website where small charities and local community groups can use the internet to raise money, awareness and support online.   We help local groups promote themselves to local donors.

All charities rely on donations, volunteers, practical help and advice. And for the small, grass roots charities, survival can be tough without the support of those who care about the local community. At Localgiving.com, we’re making it easier for people who’d like to do their bit for their neighbourhood to engage with the charities who desperately need their support.

Localgiving.com offers essential online marketing tools that provide access to new donors, unrestricted funding and the growing online giving community.  Charities can use space on their webpage to advertise for volunteers or launch a new project – updating the page is simple, and, for those charities which find technology a challenge, we can to talk through the process via our Help Desk.

From the donor’s perspective, Localgiving.com makes it easier to find and support smaller, hard-to-reach charities and community groups.  Donors can communicate directly with their favourite charities, staying up-to-date on the latest news and seeing first-hand how their donation makes a difference.

Localgiving.com is not all about fundraising.  We also encourage the donation of time and skills through volunteering and mentoring for charities.  We run workshops for local charities teaching them how to maximise their online presence and providing basic skills for working online, fundraising and using social media.  And we promote a community of self-support by encouraging seed charities to pass on their best of practice experiences to other local groups.

3.      What makes Localgiving different from other fundraising websites available to the charitable sector?

One difference between Localgiving.com and other fundraising websites, is that we focus entirely on local charities.  All money raised on Localgiving.com must go back into the community where the charity is based.  If a charity is national, it can’t be on Localgiving.com.

Nearly 20% of the 3,700+ charities and groups already on Localgiving.com turn over less than £5,000 a year, which means they’re not eligible to register with the Charity Commission, nor can they claim Gift Aid.

All charities on Localgiving.com are assigned to a Foundation, be it a Community Foundation or the Localgiving Foundation.  Donations made via the website go first to the Foundation, which claims Gift Aid.  The donation plus Gift Aid is then passed on to the charity or group which receives the money, usually within eight working days of donation.  In this way, our charities can benefit from Gift Aid, even if they are below the official threshold to receive it.  This is the main difference between Localgiving.com and other online fundraising website.

4.     Are there any particular features that charities can benefit from?

In addition to the ability to benefit from Gift Aid, at Localgiving.com we give our charities many tools to help them market and fundraise effectively.

Our Supporter Database Guide is a charity’s secret weapon for formulating targeted marketing campaigns to existing donors.  It provides an email list of current and engaged supporter, allowing easy and focused communications between charity and supporter.  Our Financial Report Guide delivers a one-stop document for accounting and auditing purposes providing details of specific and overall donations, so even the smallest charity can have clear and transparent accounts.  And our Fundraising Guide helps charities to understand what works best online and how to achieve maximum results from their webpages.

The best use of technology often means offering the simplest and, perhaps, most easily overlooked tools.  We hold regular webinars so that charities new to the website can learn the concept of online fundraising, how to create and promote an attractive webpage, and engage with supporters.  Providing guides and training so community charities and groups can feel confident and relaxed using a new technology like the internet may sound obvious, but it is vital to getting the best from the resources we offer.

Research shows that half of all first time donors are not converted to repeat the action through poor communication.  Many smaller charities do not know how best to use technology to communicate with supporters:  social media, Facebook, Twitter etc, are alien languages to some.  The Fundraising Toolkit which we provide for all charities on the platform includes a downloadable guide to social media and our programme of webinars includes one on Social Media. Through our regular blogs and online newsletters to both charities and supporters, we encourage an on-going relationship with technology that goes beyond our platform and website.  Helping people to be comfortable building connections through the computer will, ultimately, help charities and community groups to survive and thrive during a time of funding cuts and tough economic times.

5.     What does the future hold for Localgiving?

2013 has been an exciting year for Localgiving.com.  Since our commercial launch in 2011, the number of charities on the website has increased by over 300% from just 884 in 2011 to over 3,700 today and there are now more than 50,000 registered supporters on our data base.

We continue to grow at a rapid pace, and have recently given the website a complete refresh and introduced supporter fundraising pages where we offer the only option for people wishing to fundraise for local charities too small to register.

In October, we launch our second “Grow Your Tenner” national match fund campaign with a grant of £500,000 from the Office for Civil Society.  We hope to repeat last year’s success and turn £500,000 into more than £1.2 million directly for local charities in England.  We’re also developing products to allow local match funds that will enable the same leveraged giving to donors or companies who want to give locally.

We continue to take part in national initiatives, like #GivingTuesday and Britain’s Personal Best.  And, for the long term, we’re building relationships with several major corporations on projects designed to strengthen and unite both communities and staff.  We share a goal with the OCS to bring giving back to people and local causes, and we’ll continue to work with the Cabinet Office to promote these objectives.

The most important thing for Localgiving.com going forward is that we continue to grow our base of charities and supporters working in their local communities.  These small and dedicated groups do so much to build strength in their own back yards and Localgiving.com is there to help them through online donations, marketing and fundraising.