Neil Mehta’s Givey Story From Tech to Charity

November 2, 2023 | | 0 Comments


In an age where digital platforms dominate our daily interactions, one UK-based company is utilizing this technological prevalence to reshape the landscape of philanthropy. Givey, under the leadership of CEO Neil Mehta, is pioneering a movement to embed charitable giving into the fabric of everyday life, focusing on aiding small, community-led organizations.

Neil Mehta’s journey from a successful career in the tech industry to the helm of a social enterprise is a narrative of modern-day altruism. His story reflects a growing trend among tech entrepreneurs shifting their focus toward social impact.

Empowering the Underdog

The heart of Givey’s mission lies in empowering smaller charities that often operate in the shadow of their larger counterparts. Through digital technology, Givey provides these organizations with a platform that amplifies their voice and extends their reach. It’s a digital haven for scout groups seeking funds for local projects, schools in need of equipment, and countless other causes that thrive on the power of community support.

Technology: A Means, Not an End

In a discussion rich with insight, Neil Mehta shared how technology serves as a means to an end, not the end itself. Givey leverages digital tools to enable storytelling, connection, and community engagement, ensuring that the essence of philanthropy remains grounded in human interaction and impact.

The Vision of Inclusive Giving

Neil Mehta’s vision for the future is one where anyone can contribute to societal improvement, irrespective of their resources. Whether it’s through volunteering time, sharing skills, or donating funds, Givey seeks to make social contribution a natural part of life, accessible to all.

The Narrative of Change

As the narrative unfolds, the story of Givey challenges the traditional dichotomy between profit-driven technology ventures and philanthropic endeavors. It’s a tale of convergence, where business acumen and technological innovation meet grassroots activism and social conscience.

The Impact Beyond Metrics

Givey’s success is not captured by donation metrics alone but by the stories of volunteers and the communities transformed by their work. The platform is a testament to the fact that in our interconnected world, a local cause championed by a small charity can resonate globally, thanks to the connective tissue of the internet.

Looking Forward

As Neil Mehta concluded his conversation, he painted a picture of a world in flux, where change is the only constant. In this ever-changing landscape, platforms like Givey serve as an anchor, grounding us in the values of community and shared responsibility.

In reflecting on the insights, it becomes clear that the intersection of technology and philanthropy is fertile ground for innovation. Givey stands at this crossroads, not just as a business, but as a beacon of hope for small charities looking to make a big impact.

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[00:00:11] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast for social entrepreneurs who want to build a social impact business. I'm your host, Adam Morris, and today I am thrilled to have Neil Mehta with me, CEO of the UK company Givey. Neil has been at the forefront of promoting charitable giving through Givey's innovative platform, a cause that speaks directly to the heart of giving back and creating a lasting social impact.

[00:00:33] Adam: Combining technology and philanthropy, Givey represents the future of effortless charitable endeavors. So Neil, welcome on the

[00:00:41] Neil: Fantastic, what a summary.

[00:00:43] Adam: Can we start off, can you just give us a little bit more information about what Givey is?

[00:00:47] Neil: Yeah Givey is something that is kind of a part of a personal manifestation of me believing that, we need to be giving as a small part of everyday living throughout our lives, basically. So it kind of starts from that place as a mission. And then Givey has kind of developed over the last four or five years to be very, very specifically geared towards supporting smaller charities and local communities throughout the UK through use of digital technology in its, total sense, basically, not just necessarily a platform to donate and get funding, but really use it as a enabler from storytelling to tools and, and widgets and whatever else that you need to give.

[00:01:37] Neil: Where obviously the majority of the volunteer led organizations, small charities, are run by volunteers who are not necessarily that time poor. And a lot of them are Mobile driven, basically,

[00:01:51] Adam: Um,

[00:01:52] Neil: them to use that , as the platform from a connectivity point of view, and their skills, basically, or whatever.

[00:01:57] Neil: So it's kind of money, skills, time, really,

[00:02:01] Adam: And what are, what's like a good example of somebody who uses Givey for their organization?

[00:02:06] Neil: It's quite a wide spectrum. So if we talk about it from, say, scout groups, so we have in UK, there's about 320 scout groups. But they're all run as individual community led organizations or, teams and they use the platform to purely raise donations on the basis of, are we on, we just want to do a Scout Hut, or we want to take some of them to a outing or whatever.

[00:02:31] Neil: So it's not, again, it's nothing. Huge major event driven kind of scenario is, is actually at that kind of level. We get a lot of parent teacher associations. So it's actually supporting the parents who are raising funds for their own local school in some shape or form.

[00:02:50] Neil: So through the pandemic, for example, whatever, we had a inner city school. It was very it's great for the government to say. Everyone worked from home and, you got free internet access for a while or whatever, but we had one of the schools, in the city of London where the children didn't have IT.

[00:03:06] Neil: They didn't even have a laptop or iPad. So they used Givey to raise money to buy IT equipment. And then you take it up to all kinds of causes, from domestic abuse to refugees to mental health.

[00:03:24] Neil: It covers a wide spectrum of society, basically, and all the areas that you can think about. So it's not just what I define as the top level, like cancer research or cancer and... Children only and save the children and whatever. So I think I'm very clear that what we do is, a lot more on the ground at the grassroots or whatever.

[00:03:46] Neil: And actually we, we again are the glue because we, uh, create ways for them to be able to use podcasts or social media posts or whatever. So all those things they can use. So yeah. It's free to really promote their cause and then obviously, get donations through that.

[00:04:07] Neil: All of that actually is kind of examples of saying, just out of the box or whatever, pick it up, use it. and then get engaged with the community and then obviously, hopefully, we're giving them a channel to the wider world, basically, of donors and volunteers and so forth.

[00:04:25] Adam: Yeah, and I suspect there's so many charities out there where, they're not the size of Oxfam where they have the budget and the technology to, to do this on their own. And so it's like having a platform where they can just plug in and use that without the hurdles of having a, a big

[00:04:41] Neil: Exactly. I think the biggest thing being that they, you, you've hit it on, on the nail, they do not have the skill or the capacity to be able to do these things if a lot of them are working part time. Majorities, again, there's a particular cultural dimension for small charities, which even the permanent staff are part time.

[00:05:02] Neil: They're not working five days a week. The volunteers is huge. And they, they obviously, again, work at a certain time and place type of thing. So you've got a lot of you need to be in a place where you can give something that's consistently there, that they can just come in to plug and play.

[00:05:21] Adam: Yeah, that's great. Now, you haven't always been in the social sector, right? You started off in

[00:05:27] Neil: Yes

[00:05:28] Adam: tell me just a little bit about that career and like what led to this transition?

[00:05:32] Neil: I think we are a product of some of it is our upbringing, parents were very much, uh, community driven and making sure that you're always giving back. And, yes, there wasn't a lot of money, but you're giving back whether it's neighbors, treating them food and washing cars and whatever else.

[00:05:51] Neil: So I think that is forgotten when you start your career and going to say, right, I'm on a career. Yeah, I started in technology by accident, to be frank, qualified and technology in the 80s was the thing. It still is, but in a different way. So yeah, but I arrived by accident and had a very successful career in technology and went through all the different phases of it until it ended up in software or so yeah, go back a long way in terms of the days when they used to have the first ever Phillips telephone, which was, they called it a brick.

[00:06:27] Neil: It was a brick telephone that I was very proud to get one. When I worked for one of the Dutch companies or whatever, and I said, I'll put a mobile phone and it's, it was literally a brick. So yeah, I've come from that stage to what we are now today. And then I think from having, built a company and worked with VCs and sold a company and all these things, I think more and more started to get involved in not for profits.

[00:06:53] Neil: And first more as a board kind of NED and board director or whatever with some initiatives, government, public initiatives. And I started fundraising for children's charities, doing, bike rides and climbing mountains and doing all these crazy things that I didn't do in my youth.

[00:07:15] Neil: Basically and started to kind of understand about, I suppose, the dynamics of social good, and what that looks like both from a pure kind of charitable point of view. And that was not just UK, but Worked in Africa, in India, in, in Cambodia, and, and you really go on the ground and you really see the impact of the money we, we raised do.

[00:07:41] Neil: And then, um, I've been ever since involved in the charitable world. So half my time is still as a volunteer. I am involved in a social enterprise in the UK and also another charity, which is an international NGO.

[00:07:57] Neil: So I think that's very much a personal thing that I'm very keen on ensuring that if I get involved, I actually do go on the ground and ensure that I see for my own self and the change and feel what the change is doing, to the communities, basically. So my, passion has always been, empowering communities.

[00:08:19] Neil: Then I think Givey is just a manifestation of, of bringing those skills of innovation, technology the communities, and how do you glue that together, because I think one of the challenges is always at the small community level, little goes a long way. but for people who raise the money disproportionately pay a lot to get them. So I think that's probably where something came along kind of bit me and said, like, I need to create something that. Creates the lowest cost of distribution so that the maximum goes to the community and in it doesn't need to be a lot But it will make a huge impact because I've seen what it does So I still believe small is beautiful in that context from most of the work that I do

[00:09:10] Adam: I love that. Well, and just to highlight this point that you're spending time going into the communities and volunteering um, connected to that gives you insight of what the needs actually

[00:09:20] Neil: yeah, it's quite I think the volunteers are very very under recognized in context of what I'm talking about, whatever, because they're the unsung heroes in particular for communities, small charities, without a shadow of a doubt. I'm sure the big charities have huge amounts of volunteers as well, but the impactful and the hard.

[00:09:41] Neil: heavy lifting that you have to do if you're in a, you're more engaged, you've got to be more get your hands dirty and get yourself really into making sure that you're making the impact happen more so not on the back of a, sitting in a chair. a spreadsheet,

[00:09:58] Adam: Just writing a check.

[00:09:58] Neil: Yeah, exactly.

[00:10:00] Adam: I'd love to hear just a little bit, , you've been in these two different worlds where, you know, technology and venture capital is a very different mindset that people in charities often have. Um, things that you think people in the social impact world can learn from, technology, venture capital track?

[00:10:18] Neil: I've seen a change obviously having lived in that world 20 years ago, 15 years ago, quite, quite actively. Obviously all this social impact funds and so forth have come along. So that's a shift that's happening basically or whatever. But I think there's always going to be a challenge of what I would define as profit driven objectives or whatever and what the returns are expected. That if you see, in the times I worked for VCs, traditional pure commercial VCs haven't changed in that context that they might be looking for, 15%, 20 percent IRR per year growth and et cetera, et cetera. And that's the area that I believe still is evolving.

[00:11:08] Neil: That if that kind of capital make a huge difference in the... Charitable world, and you can still make it profitable, but it's what's the delta

[00:11:18] Adam: Hmm.

[00:11:19] Neil: what's the timeline? so the my experience of local communities and small charities The truly sustainable ones have been the ones who've been here for 10 20 30 years And so because they have actually not necessarily gone huge big from a financial point of view, but they've just been consistent In, in what they've been doing and yes, they've been doing it at, sub a million dollars, sub half a million dollars, but they've done it for 20 years, and that has They've, is sustainable impact, because you've got the local communities involved. So it's all about timeline, return, patience, perseverance, and making sure, I call it patient capital. There is not enough patient capital. It does normally come from trust and foundations and family offices, maybe, and individuals basically do that.

[00:12:11] Neil: But institutionally, that's something that's still to be resolved, because I think that would be the kind of thing that technology helps so there's a lot of fundraising platforms, but ultimately they are actually a technology player.

[00:12:24] Neil: They are a software business somewhere down the line, they become more commercial organization by default, basically, because they're funded by an organization once a return, and somewhere down the line, they will more likely, in a, in a five, ten year timeline rather than twenty, thirty year timeline.

[00:12:42] Neil: So I've kind of seen a lot of these waves of things that have happened, obviously. For a period of time, but that could make a huge impact.

[00:12:50] Adam: Now, interesting, when you first were describing Givey, you mentioned that it's also a storytelling platform. And right now you're mentioning how you can give that return to the people that are investing, which I'm guessing is not really financial.

[00:13:03] Neil: I think it could be financial, but it could be a financial which is long term. So you could actually be saying, Hey, if you invest or whatever, you will get some return back over a five to 10 year period of time. And by the way, it will be capped at. 10 percent or 15 percent or something, which is the norm of somebody saying like normal people say, okay, well, I've got my savings plan and I'll put it into, stock or whatever, and hopefully it will grow at 10%, 20 percent over a lifetime type of thing or whatever.

[00:13:33] Neil: So I think A great believer that pure handouts is not good either, basically. You've got to keep that balance, because I think it's kind of self sustaining, but there is a model that says, okay, patient capital, aid return or whatever, maybe it's capped as such, and also that it's going to be over a longer period of time, I think some of the impact funds or whatever, look at it maybe in that way because they naturally look at succession planning and so forth. So they're naturally in that zone.

[00:14:06] Adam: and I love that model too of just thinking, Hey, if I'm going to donate to a charity, that's one time and they're going to use the money versus if I'm going to give money to an impact fund, that's going to fuel change, but that money is going to come back and can be reused again.

[00:14:23] Neil: So I'm a trustee of a social enterprise that basically gives mentoring and what we'll define as a soft loan monies. But the, the payback is actually as a revenue share. But the risk is obviously that, you are going to get your backing social. impact projects. And there's always a default rate on that, that they will fail, basically, potentially purely because of the nature of what they're trying to do. So you're kind of building this into a model, which is unusual,

[00:14:55] Adam: so it's not an easy measurement of saying, yes, in five years time, you're going to be sold for ten million dollars and get your money back.

[00:15:03] Neil: So, so one of the kind of things that we, we did in there is that we said, actually, we also want to be ensuring that we're not benefiting more than we should. So we, recently put a cut and a cap on that we, over a certain amount of 1. 5x of whatever monies that we've given, that's it. After that, whoever the, if they really grow it, fine. There's no equity, etc, etc. So it's quite an unusual, it's kind of innovating in, in a way that is very fair and equitable. But at the same time, as you said, it circulates the, the flow of money.

[00:15:38] Neil: But as a charity, which it is, it's a social enterprise charity it's also very open in its objects to say, look, this is how we're going to be doing it. So somebody coming along, as you rightly say, one of the questions was, well, what if we fly and become a multi million pound, social enterprise, basically.

[00:15:55] Neil: We hadn't thought that through, and then came back and we debated it as, that's the border again, you need a good board, basically, so actually, it's unfair that we should get more than so it's kind of that kind of flexibility and that kind of, giving basically and enabling is, is really the kind of things that I think for the future is very much looking at it from a point of view of somebody who wants to fund. something that is a a bit more at scale, if you like.

[00:16:26] Adam: And I really like that kind of transparency of being able to say, anybody who's participating in this, this is what the company stands for. and and you it's been thought through of this

[00:16:36] Adam: is a fair amount. It's not we're going to try to maximize our returns, we're, we're going to try to maximize our

[00:16:42] Neil: Yeah. And some of this is learnings. We didn't know that until we practiced some, obviously on the other side, receiving the money and said, well, hang on, what if things go really well that just doesn't seem equitable, but it's a, it's a very, very fine balance, basically, because at the end of the day, you're also going to get when you're funding startups, if you want to call it that, social enterprise startups or whatever, they have the same issues as most of the startups, so they have probably more of the challenges from a point of view of that they are sometimes If the skills are not there or they're disabled or whatever, and if you're funding that you might have a, whatever, 20 percent default rate.

[00:17:22] Neil: So you've got to build all these things into the equation of coming up with some of the things that we're just talking about, but that's the reality of the world, basically, that we live in at the end of the day,

[00:17:33] Adam: yeah.

[00:17:33] Adam: And I've noticed that a lot with social enterprises that start up. Like they're typically very strong on their, their motivation to create the social impact. Um, But quite often, that's what got them into it, not being serial entrepreneurs who started a lot of things, there's building up the skills of like, how do you actually measure and grow a business,

[00:17:54] Neil: sustainability is obviously one of the key kind of elements, um, of creating a sustainable model, from a collaborative. point of view. And I think that's kind of a, one of the key things that that needs to be done because there's no one master in that scenario.

[00:18:13] Neil: In the old days the master was the one with the deepest pockets or, the ones who puts up the money. But I think that, that hopefully that world has changed since lockdown and what's happening now with the ECG kind of things, basically, I think, awakening, if hopefully this is happening, from that point of view,

[00:18:32] Adam: I like how this conversation has been structured. 20 years ago you had the, the world that was making impact, which was your nonprofits and your charities. And you had the, the for profit business world, which is like, we're going to maximize our revenue. And that's how we thrive and give, give back. And now there's a mix and there's some balance of being able to say, okay, well, what does that mean to do both? But also in this conversation, a few things I've heard are not even about the money, but about how people are creating that impact. So, you know, a things that we've touched on just from the beginning of like how you personally are involved volunteering, connecting with the community and how for small charities that are starting up quite often, they're all volunteer run, right? So they don't have that experience. They don't have that access to that technology. one thing that's really important for them is being able to tell that story and, and connect with. The people that want, to help support them doing that work, but also relay back, Hey, here's, here's where the money is going and how that's actually getting

[00:19:37] Neil: Yeah. And I think, I think technology, again, has enabled that to be visible and, and democratic or whatever, if you like. And that's been, a good thing, basically, because, it's amazing in some of the things that you know what do you call it? How technology gives you data on, on, on the fly. From a charitable point of view, you will be able to kind of punch above your weight a bit, basically purely by using some of these things that are now available. But, yeah, you're absolutely right. It's just ensuring that you get the right capital, the right skills again, and the right environment, et cetera.

[00:20:17] Neil: I think one of the big things is kind of, you've got, a lot of like minded people. Basically, and partnerships, and those things are collaborative, and I know these are words that are very much, used in, in a lot of faith based organizations, it's, it's just naturally the DNA, you know, you can create that in the, in an environment which is for social good as well, I think things definitely, The generation that's coming through under 25 now, in their DNAs, I want to do good.

[00:20:52] Neil: I don't want to just earn money, but I actually want to do good at the same time. Whereas I think people like me, much older or whatever, started where, to be frank with you, that was not the case. The case was very much you go and you're very single minded in acquisition, whether it's whatever it is.

[00:21:10] Neil: Career, money, whatever. So I think there's a, there is a, there's that generation coming through, which are basically saying that, so we in Givey, basically, we get a lot of, I mean, the way we keep our low cost low is we operate like a small charity or whatever. So we got a whole bunch of student interns who come and go and learn digital skills, whatever.

[00:21:33] Neil: That's what you see in the social media space . We've got career break women who. Literally spend a few hours in between when young kids are at school, they're spending, two or three hours in, in between the school times, helping again.

[00:21:47] Neil: So we got, we kind of, embracing some of the kind of things that I'm talking about that we have to operate that way as well, because, that's the only way that you can make it all work. But technology is key again, because that is where you create the virtual environment that you need to do that, because you can't afford the huge fixed overheads that in the old days was a must, must have, .

[00:22:13] Neil: We had actually an intern from Canada and one from US do some research for us, six months ago, so, you can also bridge that internationally, although we are focused in UK people can still, contribute basically location, not an issue .

[00:22:32] Adam: Neat. what's the vision for Givey going forward?

[00:22:36] Neil: I would like to think that we can create something that make giving a small part of everyday living. So if we can create, a way for at any time, any place, an individual to be able to give those things through technology, basically on the fly. It might be an impossible thing, doesn't matter what age you are or whatever, but if you've got, say, two hours, and as an example, and you say, every Friday, two hours or whatever, I just want to stop whatever I'm doing, and I'm just going to go locally to a food bank and just serve. No, I'm going to go and volunteer and and actually this charity needs some help with their accounts. I'm an accountant or whatever. I've got two hours or three hours, I've got half, half an afternoon.

[00:23:25] Neil: I'll go in there and just help them to set it up or whatever, so that's, the skills bit or whatever, but they can also. do practical things that can also do, time based, they can do money based things saying, I'm going to come in and man a stand at, at the church hall for collecting donations or whatever.

[00:23:45] Neil: But to be able to do it in a way that is very much part of the DNA rather than actually I have to belong to this particular outfit in this particular subset and so forth. So you're giving, giving an opportunity for anyone to contribute whatever they have. And that is as valuable, money is not the only thing that's the most valuable. To me, just somebody saying, okay, well I'll take all people to hospitals or food shopping an hour every week. Fantastic. Now, the other way I look at it is that I would like to record all of these things and that will come through mobiles and data or whatever. And then you start to see some real stories that will create some kind of, statement, which actually says to.

[00:24:36] Neil: Whether it's advocacy to the government, to whoever, and say, look, this is the real impact that, that we are talking about, which is, everyone measures by donations, X donations, X charity and so forth. But guess what this is, the dynamics of this that we've just talked about, and the impact it's had.

[00:24:57] Neil: And then obviously the medium is there to be able to communicate those stories through video and so forth to a whole bunch of Stakeholders.

[00:25:06] Adam: ,

[00:25:06] Adam: and if Givey is collecting information from such a broad range, just being able to have that, that unique perspective around, hey, here's, here's what's going on in the community and what their needs are. And where you're seeing struggles, that is very powerful to communicate

[00:25:22] Neil: We're not there yet. I think it's one of these things where you're learning and obviously, I mean, everyone is talking about AI technology and so forth or whatever, but it's like all these things that's at the very surface level, but in terms of how you use that to be able to enable a lot of these things is some of the exciting things that's coming down the line, basically, because that does the heavy lifting as I call it.

[00:25:47] Neil: Some of these things we're talking about, which two years ago, I would have said, Oh my God, it's going to cost such a lot of money to try to bolt all this and together. And how would we learn? Get data out and all the rest of it and suddenly AI has appeared on the scene And you suddenly say okay interesting, but it will take time because the kind of things I'm talking about is a lot more integrated and holistic Rather than, as you, as you say, a piece of technology that says, oh great, chat GPT, that will solve all the problems, basically, no, it won't solve all the problems, but it's, so I think the technology, for technology's sake, is not necessarily the answer for Impact, impact is by default humanistic, human, it's the human element is a really key, an AI will never be able to emulate in emotion and spirit and, and a feel of without any language, you get a feel, and so forth, what are all these things are very important in the charity world, basically, because if that's what you're serving, unlike If you're doing, blogs or whatever, and then you say, Oh yeah, great.

[00:27:04] Neil: I can use this, this tools. So I'm, I'm conscious that you've got to be very respectful on use of technology in the right way for, for good. And that, again, deserves its kind of time and place and patience, because, those things take a lot, a lot more because of the dimensions that we have.

[00:27:28] Neil: We are both talking about which is our environment and our society and our, it's people

[00:27:34] Adam: At the end of the day, even AI is just a tool that we need to learn how to use and, bring ourselves to it as opposed to, assuming it's gonna take over and give us the answers.

[00:27:45] Neil: no. Absolutely.

[00:27:46] Neil: No, no, absolutely.

[00:27:47] Adam: So how do people find out about Givey? How can they help and get and support.

[00:27:53] Neil: We're digital. We are online. Basically we are on social media. We're on pod beam podcasts., we are very organic, driven, and let those things speak on behalf of the community and the audience that we serve,

[00:28:07] Adam: For people that are listening uh, you can get involved and help with that effort. Um, the best way is to go to givey. com. or if you're on social, most of the social handles are GiveyHQ.

[00:28:19] Adam: There's just so many different ideas of how people can give on the website, like, you know, go and check out and just see, Hey, here's different ways that I can help. And so you know, if there's a cause that that's near to your heart, it gives people a way to say, Hey, actually here's something that's local that, that I can support

[00:28:36] Neil: Yeah. And also the dynamics are, are very much going to be quite interesting in terms of the change. Change is always the case. Everyone says change, but I think we're going to go through quite a major next four or five years with all the things from climate change to ESG to AI to whatever else you can talk about.

[00:28:56] Adam: There's a lot of change happening right now

[00:28:58] Neil: Oh,

[00:28:58] Neil: without a shadow of a doubt, it's challenging in lots of different ways, But that's the world we're in. I mean, it is what it is you always say that you can't look backwards and you can't look forwards, that you've got to just look at really what it is and yes, the other things are going to happen. Depending on at that point in time so head in the clouds, feet on the ground. .

[00:29:24] Adam: Well, thank you so much for joining today and just walking through what Givey has done in your own journey,

[00:29:30] Neil: Yeah. Thank you for your time. Thank you for the conversation. It's been hopefully helpful to other people in their journeys, thank you very much.

[00:29:38] Adam: And if you're listening, do go check out givey. com, a lot of cool ideas on

[00:29:42] Neil: Yeah,

[00:29:43] Neil: Fantastic.

[00:29:45] Neil: Thanks.

[00:29:45] Neil: Thanks, Adam.

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