Whether it’s a Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or Chuffed campaign online or the Salvos knocking on the door for the Red Shield Appeal, there’s no end to the number of individuals and organisations asking for donations or contributions to a cause.
Taking a fresh approach to the space is Melbourne startup Good Mob, which wants to help groups of people establish and maintain a giving group through which they can regularly donate to causes they’re passionate about.
This is based on the concept of the giving circle: a 2009 study estimated that around 600 giving circles in the US had together donated more than $100 million over the previous year, engaging more than 12,000 people.
Similarly, whether they be sporting groups, book clubs, families, friends, workplaces, community organisations, or any other kind of group, Good Mob allows for the pooling of all donations made and transferring of the funds to the chosen recipient, enabling groups to track their impact on the recipient over time.
Cofounders Sarah Wickham and Bryony Green first met while studying their Masters of Philanthropy and Social Investment at Swinburne University. Through their studies they learned and became passionate about collective giving and the potential it has to engage a wide range of Australians.
“We loved seeing giving circles establishing in Australia, but felt that at the high buy-in member rate of $1,000 they were mainly engaging people already involved in philanthropy. Bryony and I wanted to find a way to use the collective giving concept to engage people that we believe would be interested in giving but aren’t able to give significant amounts on their own,” Wickham said.
Their next step was to develop their own giving circle, she explained, but they soon realised it would be a challenging and time consuming task, mainly because there was no tool that could be used to communicate with members and transfer their regular donations in a streamlined manner. You can see where this is going – they decided to create their own platform.
In 2014 the pair attended the Nexus Youth Summit, a global movement of young social change makers and philanthropists under 40, where they met Tom Dawkins, cofounder and CEO of StartSomeGood. As well as setting them up with Dawkins as an early advisor in the venture, the conference motivated Green and Wickham apply for the 2015 Nexus Innovator of the Year Award, which they won.
Wickham said the award was “a real turning point” for the pair, as it both motivated them to act on their idea thanks to $10,000 in funding and gave them leverage they needed to gain further support, including a philanthropic grant of $30,000 from The Telematics Trust this past May.
Having won in the award in February 2015, the cofounders undertook research and conducted initial financial and business modelling before starting to design their MVP in September and building it in November with the help of designers and engineers who largely gave their time pro bono. They then started testing it in March, launching this month.
The platform works by having giving circles led by a ‘mob boss’ with ‘mobsters’ the individuals participating, titles given because the cofounders “wanted to make the concept fun and accessible to people outside the philanthropic sector,” Wickham said.
She explained that the mob boss is the most essential member of any giving circle, and the founder of the group. Good Mob works with the mob boss to establish and lead a giving circle, with the mob boss developing the initial theme and framework for their mob and then inviting their networks to join. The mobsters, then, join existing groups without having to worry about the running of the mob; however, they do get to participate in the decision making and impact of the mob, such as where a particular month’s donations go, for example.
There are also three mob types, or different frameworks for giving circles, to cater to the varying levels of engagement that donors want to have in the giving process.
“Our early research confirmed that individuals are interested in giving in different ways, some wanting to be more hands on with the process and others are just keen to know their donations are going to a good cause,” Wickham explained.
The three types are the ‘hands on mob’, the ‘guided mob’, and the ‘wise mob’. The hands on, as the name suggests, is for the groups where all members are involved in every step of the giving process, including nominating, shortlisting, and voting on the cause. The guided mob works for members that want to take some direction from their mob boss; it allows for members to nominate and vote on a final cause, but the mob boss guides the direction by shortlisting the causes.
Lastly, Wickham said the wise mob supports mob bosses that are experts in their field, or influencers with a network of supporters, allowing the mob boss to choose a different cause to donate to each time the mob gives.
Each member pays a $2/month fee to use the platform, with an additional transaction fee that goes to Stripe for each donation made.
With the trial version of the platform now launched, Wickham and Green will look to spend the next six to 12 months refining it to ensure it works well for all groups, hoping to show Australia that any group can come together on Good Mob to participate in collective giving.
“When we first embarked on the Good Mob journey, we thought of our friends and professional colleagues as our target audience – millennials, disposable income, passionate about social change – however we quickly realised the potential of this platform to enhance the experience of any existing collective, like book clubs, sporting groups, workplaces, families, and friends,” Wickham said.
Also on the agenda for the next 12 months is raising funds to help bring on a team and scale the platform, with Wickham and Green also keen to continue filling roles on their advisory board and begin putting together a board of directors to ensure the startup grows in the right direction.
Image: Bryony Green and Sarah Wickham. Source: Supplied.