By Justin Watts
Everyone Eats has been a real adventure and in many ways a massive success. The previous blog post outlines what we’ve achieved and the impact that it has had. We’ve also faced some challenges in fundraising – as many non-profits do. Here is an overview of the fundraising side of Everyone Eats. There have been a number of ideas that we have tried and tested using an MVP (minimal viable product) and methodologies used from the Lean Startup by Eric Reis. One thing that I’m proud of is that the pivots in Everyone Eats became more and more rapid – which (for the most part) cost less time and less money.
2009 – TOMS Shoes
In 2009 I worked for TOMS Shoes as an intern and loved their raison d’être, to enable people to make a difference with every purchase that they made. ‘For every pair of shoes we sell, we will give a pair of shoes to a child living in need. One for one’. I thought that this would be a great model to apply to food. Buoyed by seeing the WFP Red Cup Campaign I realised that this could be done quite inexpensively – so I began researching options for making this happen.
2011 – Starting a Restaurant
Initial idea was to start a one-for-one restaurant. This was quickly disbanded as I realised the money needed to start one and my lack of experience.
2011 – Plate-for-Plate
I partnered with an upmarket Tapas restaurant in Malvern Melbourne to enable diners to give a meal overtime that they bought a meal. My value add was that Everyone Eats would bring interest to the restaurant in the form of public relations – driving more customers, which would make the 25c cost to the restaurant worthwhile. At this stage I was giving the money directly to the WFP Australia. I spoke with their representative and they were unwilling to provide me with any photos or to let me use their logo until I had a successful program running. I conducted surveys and found that in general people supported the idea – but the results differed.
The diners questioned where the money was going and also how the restaurant was able to give an extra meal each time they sold one, as one diner put it ‘are you guys charging us way too much to begin with?’. The restaurant owner decided not to continue with us.
2012 – Reusable Coffee Cups
I pivoted and switched to coffee, which was a more frequent purchase. By this time I had set up the relationship with Hunger Free World Bangladesh and had established the cost of supplying the meal, nutritional education and health check up at 17cents (the Bangladeshi Taka was low then). The cost of a paper cup is roughly 14cents when you include the cap. Every time that a customer uses a reusable coffee cup, they are saving the cafe 14 cents, and some cafes actually give a discount of 20cents for customers that do this. I approached a few cafes and started a program where each time that a customer used a reusable coffee cup, they gave a meal to a child instead of receiving the discount. We had a launch party (can be seen on the Facebook page) and partnered with a small reusable coffee cup company who gave us some cups to give away.
Less than 5% of coffee drinkers use reusable cups and everyone already knows that they are better for the environment than disposable cups. An extra reason to use the cup didn’t prove sufficient enough of an incentive for people to change their behaviour. Even the free cups that we gave away were never seen again by the cafe owner. On top of that, the coins that were saved by the cafes would need to be manually collected, so it couldn’t work on a large scale basis.
2013 – Branded Premium Coffee Cups
I approached a disposable coffee cup supplier and received a box of 1000 free coffee cups which I labelled with an ‘Everyone Eats’ stamp. I then gave these to cafes to sell for an extra 20 cents. The idea being that it would be a premium coffee experience where people could give a meal and drink their coffee. ‘Can I have a take away Everyone Eats Flat white please’. I also tried selling these directly to the cafes so that they could absorb the cost and have all of their coffees as ‘giving coffees’.
Cafes have wafer thin margins are are very protective of this, not wanting to give away anything for nothing. Before I could convince customers to pay more for a cup, they needed to be educated. They could only be educated by the baristas, who were often really under the pump as lots of people wanted coffees at the same time – so they didn’t have time to explain what the ‘Everyone Eats’ cups were about. This was tested in 5 cafes.
2013 – The Everyone Eats App
This idea was based on replacing loyalty cards that cafes give to customers. The premises were that giving a meal each time a customer buys a coffee would be cheaper for a cafe than offering a free coffee after 10 coffees bought, and that customers would be more incentivised to give meals than they would to get a free coffee for themselves. The development of this app was outsourced to a company in Bulgaria with a local contact. The app would track how many meals a user had given using a QR code that they would scan when they bought a coffee, they would then receive an image that they could share on Facebook. The cafe would receive an invoice with a tally of how much they would pay Everyone Eats once a month.
Cafes viewed the cost of the coffee they were giving away at cost price, not as sale price – so for them it was a loss of about 70cent, not $3.50. They also do a lot of cash in hand and don’t want to pay another bill. Additionally, they couldn’t see any benefit for them. The app development ran over budget and over time – in the end it was never used. This was the largest outlay on Everyone Eats undertaken, and it never saw the light of day or was used. A major hurdle here was not getting tax deductible status for Everyone Eats – as this would have made it more lucrative for the cafes involved.
2013 – Boxes
By this time the program in Bangladesh was well and truly underway and I didn’t have any income coming in. I set up boxes with plates on top and a slot in the middle. This was against what I had wanted to do from the start as it was so traditional.
These were placed in 7 cafes and have remained the most consistent fundraiser – averaging $40/cafe/month. People know what to do when they see a box on a counter – put money in it. This is not scalable as it requires people to manually collect the money and bank it. This system has continued until now and is the only one that has made any considerable impact with fundraising.
2014 – Evri
I tried to see what Everyone Eats was doing differently to any other charity, as it was now resorting to collecting funds in a very traditional sense. I figured it was the ability to share with the donor exactly what the money was going towards, something tangible. With this in mind I developed Evri which would enable donors to see a regular video of the children receiving a meal once a week. I could then use Everyone Eats as a test bed for the technology and supply it to other charities. Everyone Eats cafes could then sell stickers with a link to download the app and see the video – or else they could show the videos on small screens at the cafes – just like they show advertisements at some cafes.
It was going to be very hard to implement in Bangladesh as they were not even used to recording things on paper and taking digital photos was rare and difficult. Additionally after speaking with the heads of Communication at CARE Australia, Save the Children and the marketing consultant who works with the 5 other largest humanitarian charities in Australia, I discovered that they are very focussed on making an immediate ROI and weren’t interested in spending any money on a ‘potentially good product initiative’.
2014 – Trunk Platform
With some savvy partners, I helped start a software company that utilises some of the learnings in Evri and applies them in the for-profit space. With the technology that can create real cost savings, communication benefits and open transparency – we believe we can transform whole industries. With this proven and a business model in place, Trunk will be in a position to arc back to it’s roots and focus on the not-for-profit sector.
If you’d like any further information on Everyone Eats, I’d be more than happy to share our learnings. Please feel free to contact me at: justin[at]trunkplatform.com Linked Inwww.au.linkedin.com/in/justinwattsyeah or Twitter: @JustinWattsYeah