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Fledgling Charities Get Help From Hatch Accelerator

6 October 2016 at 11:27 am
Wendy Williams
Grassroots charities are the hidden power behind our communities, according to a global technology company which has launched a new accelerator program to give fledgling charities the “best start in life”.

Wendy Williams | 6 October 2016 at 11:27 am


Fledgling Charities Get Help From Hatch Accelerator
6 October 2016 at 11:27 am

Grassroots charities are the hidden power behind our communities, according to a global technology company which has launched a new accelerator program to give fledgling charities the “best start in life”.

Hatch, by Blackbaud, is an intensive 90-day incubation program designed to give small charities a chance to make a big impact.

Blackbaud managing director Kevin Sher told Pro Bono Australia News the initiative, which has been in the pipeline for several years, aimed to promote the work of small charities and increase capacity within the sector.

“Small, grassroots charities are the hidden power behind our communities, but starting out can be tough,” Sher said.

“Blackbaud as a company in Australia has been involved in the sector, working with charities for nearly 20 years now… and we’ve always been interested in innovation and supporting charities.

“In particular we have been exposed to so many small struggling charities who always seem to lack resources and expertise and support, and it has been challenging to see them trying to get off the ground.

“We have talked about the concept of an incubator in our management team for several years and never really had the opportunity to do it… we always had the inclination but the office space was an issue. So we moved into a larger premises about 12 months ago, settled in and then it took us a few months to build the program up to launching it.

“Hatch, by Blackbaud is about propelling the social good sector forward and giving small charities the chance to make a big impact.”

The initiative aims to “hatch” 12 organisations each year, providing up to $25,000 worth of pro bono support which includes:

  • office space (in the Blackbaud North Sydney office) for three months
  • professional mentoring in business operations, marketing, fundraising and outcomes measurement
  • eTapestry fundraising software for 12 months and fee-free donation processing
  • everydayhero peer-to-peer software for 12 months
  • access to an online training program.

The scheme is already being piloted by Studio Artes, a charity that provides creative activities for people living with disability.

Studio Artes executive director, Jem Muharrem, said after being in operation for 16 years, the charity was going through “a rebirth”, largely driven by the introduction of NDIS, and the “headspace” provided by Hatch would have a big impact on their capabilities.

“‘Like many charities, the NDIS will change everything that we do. We need to start thinking about our projects from a customer service perspective, building better relationships and ‘selling ourselves’ through improved marketing,” Muharrem said.

“We can be a little inward focused at time, so stepping away from the office and being mentored will help to broaden our horizons and be more strategic.”

Sher said the Hatch program is initially only open to charities in Sydney but the hope is for the program to become national in the future.

“I wish it was available to folks outside of Sydney but from a practical perspective we only have office space in Sydney and certainly for the first year we want to work through any of the issues physically with the charities that we bring on,” Sher said.

“Overtime we want to develop it into a national program… if we can bed down the approach, methodology and demonstrate success we would love to work with others in other states, other providers in the sector like us or anyone else who might be able to help support the program through office space and other support, and also in Asia as well, we have a big presence in Asia and this is a program we are looking to take into that market as well.”

Sher said they were looking for innovative charities with the potential to become going concerns.

“The sector is going through a lot of change, there are a lot of charities forming that don’t succeed and quite openly a lot of charities who startup who shouldn’t start up because you don’t need 700 charities focused on raising money for cancer for example, and then there are a lot of  mergers, charities doing the same things that are trying to become more efficient and merge,” he said.

“So what we really want to do is bring on charities to the Hatch program that are doing something unique and innovative either with how they are executing their charity and raising money or with their mission and helping support those charities and we are planning to do that through the application process.

“So there is a series of questions that applicants need to go through and then we’ll take those programs and review them and evaluate them on uniqueness, innovation, thoughtfulness and ability to become going concerns over time, and that is a formal process that we’ve put together to try and make sure we bring on the right charity.”

Sher said while there were risks associated with launching an accelerator, even if one charity was able to succeed where they might otherwise have failed, the program would be a success.

“We would be arrogant to think we are going to make all the difference in the world,” he said.

“Incubators traditionally… have high failure rates, which hopefully we won’t, but the traditional tech incubators have one in 10, one in 20 success rate, if that, depending on the type of incubator they are.

“We are hopeful that of the 12 charities we plan to incubate or ‘hatch’ through a 12-month period that half of them become going concerns over time and that the other half give it a go.

“And if that success rate is what we achieve then we would be very, very happy. We could be at a place where only maybe one or two become successful over time and if that is the case and the Hatch program is the reason they did succeed then we would be happy as well.”

Sher said the program also stood to benefit Blackbaud employees.

“It brings our employees much closer to the sector by having them exposed to new charities every single day, they are sharing an office, they are drinking coffee with them and just being exposed to them and hopefully that will allow our staff to build more and more empathy with the sector and help them achieve better outcomes within the sector in their day to day jobs, so that is the other auxiliary benefit to doing a program like this,” he said.

“Hopefully it will work out, it could be a complete disaster. It is a risk for us because we are associating our brand with something that may or may not work out but we really think it is something that we want to try and we are not afraid to give it a shot.”

Sher said small charities had a huge role to play in the sector.

“When you look at the Charity Commission report of 2014, 5 per cent of charities get 80 per cent of the sectors income,” Sher said.

“There is a role for large charities and there is a role for smaller charities and I think they cohabitate in the sector to some degree, so smaller charities can be more nimble, they can be much more focused on a particular cause, they can do things that larger charities can’t do either from a risk perspective or from a brand perspective.

“So we are seeing a lot of larger charities and smaller charities working together to grow incomes for example in the medical research space, there are smaller charities that are raising money specifically then to give to larger charities who are doing the research so that is one example.

“But also a lot of innovation is driven from smaller charities because they have to be innovative, they need to do that to survive and raise money, particularly on the fundraising side. There is innovation in smaller charities and we like to see that in the sector because it can then help the larger charities as well with their fundraising efforts.

“Australia needs to improve the quality of its fundraising so we can get a greater percentage of GDP coming to the charitable sector in the form of fundraising donations particularly from the 25 to 40 years olds where Australia underperforms dramatically compared to the US in funds raised.”

Applications are now open for the first intake, commencing January 2017.

The program is aimed at start-up charities but any small charity with an income of less than $2 million may participate in Hatch.

“If you’re doing something unique that benefits your local community and need a helping hand, then we’d love to hear from you,” Sher said.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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