Queensland micro-philanthropy company aims to make the little count

Mathew Sayed, co-founder and General Manager at Little Phil

A new offering by Gold Coast micro-philanthropy platform Little Phil is linking charities and a Millennial workforce demanding companies give back. Little Phil, which is short for Little Philanthropist, is transforming traditional donations by using innovative tech to track micro-donations but is also having a decidedly mega impact on global charities and workplaces.

The Gold Coast-based non-profit platform started in 2017 with the aim to disrupt the charity sector and lift the lid on where fundraising goes by enabling donors to track their money from start to finish. Using blockchain technology, the platform means givers have peace of mind knowing their funds are going to real, verified recipients and being used to make a difference.

What is Little Phil’s product offering?

As well as offering greater transparency about where the funds go, the Little Phil donation tracking tech helps cut administration costs, which in some cases eat almost 70% of donations. The tech has helped prevent third-party gouging of funds that have been donated.

And, when comedian Celeste Barber raised $51m for bushfire volunteers in 2019 only to have the money tied up in court, the rapidly-scaling tech startup also found a new niche. The same tech also helps prevent legal challenges over fundraising dollars, because it puts the power about where the money goes in the hands of the donor rather than the recipient.

It does this with a “smart contract” that is embedded in the digital code at the time of the donation and is stored in transparent, shared databases, allowing the giver to see where their money has gone from the moment they give, all the way through to the receiver.

Having applied blockchain tech to micro-donations, Little Phil is launching its new “Company Giving” initiative. The initiative aims to transform workplace giving at a time when companies are increasingly focusing on social responsibility and are donating more than ever before.

Little Phil co-founder and General Manager Mathew Sayed said workplaces were entering a new era of corporate giving to attract workers who had become more choosey about the firm they were prepared to work for. Figures show this frontier of giving saw Australia’s top 50 corporate givers last year donate around $1.2bn, which is $42m more than in 2020.

How are millennials turning workplaces into big donors?

Sayed said research conducted by Little Phil found there was a huge push for corporates to donate more. But the generation emerging as the dominant workplace demographic was less confident donating – without transparency around where the money was being spent.

“We looked at the workforce that was dominated with baby boomers as the boss guys, they were the ones with their finger on the trigger, making decisions. We found that older generations were more accustomed to the old-style workplace giving models where they would sign up for money to come out of their monthly pay, like set and forget,” Sayed said.

“Or they’d donate through a tin can shaker. But that has changed, and millennials have been coming up into the more senior positions. Millennials are more accustomed to new technology coming in and shaping how we live our lives. We found millennials weren’t giving. They wanted to, but the biggest issue was how to know where the money was going.”

Sayed said that as the next generation of workplace decision-makers was emerging, the pandemic was also contributing to a complete shift in employees’ attitudes to jobs, work and life, dovetailing with a new work from home revolution and the “great Australian resignation”.

People were seeking different types of work or careers and had the choice over who to work for, where and even when they work, he said. “What we found was companies were really struggling to retain their employees, there was too much competition in the market,” he said.

“Firms were offering all sorts of perks, but we found that millennials didn’t care so much about these, but they did care about what the company was doing. We are now in a world where the most socially-conscious generation is coming into the workforce in higher posits, and what we saw was a large number of employees were going to firms creating some positive impact and that CSR (corporate social responsibility) was undergoing an explosion.”

Little Phil’s findings are backed by research by Deloitte last year that found 44% of workers felt they belonged more in a workplace that made charitable contributions. The importance of CSR in attracting and retaining talent had also contributed to large corporate donations.

The 2021 Giving Large report found BHP last year gave away $234m to causes like social inclusion, the environment and Indigenous communities. Coles donated $124m to support food rescue, health and education. Atlassian donated $13.4m to education causes and the Pledge 1% movement it set up with Salesforce in 2014 where firms donate 1% of annual profits, 1% of employee time, 1% of company equity and 1% of product annually.

Around 1300 Aussie firms, like Canva, venture capitalist Blackbird, and Townsville-based SafetyCulture, have signed the Pledge 1% movement along with more than 15,000 firms worldwide. Sayed said Company Giving harnessed the desire of companies to donate more, attract and retain workers, link them to reputable charities and empower employees.

“We came up with the concept of instead of workplace giving where an employee gives their money, a firm gives a credit to each employee and then they can choose to give to wherever they want to on any charity on the platform. And we have 58,000 charities on the platform.”

How are companies giving more to charity?

Sayed said Little Phil was helping forge a new era of empowering employees to choose where company donations should go and being able to track their impact.

“Some of the best products have arisen from factors outside of their control. We are in a situation which might not be great as there is a great deal of need, but what we are providing is right at the time it is needed. Our solution does not cost businesses money. If we can provide this so money gets to where it needs to go, that’s a good result,” Sayed said.

Following a trial with six organisations, Sayed said Little Phil’s Company Giving would be released nationwide ahead of a global rollout. It would mean employees could select not-for-profits or community causes they were passionate about and provide direct financial support, rather than not having a choice in a generic organisation-wide program.

“This is about enabling a continuous donation stream to flow through to the not-for-profit sector, all while allowing companies to retain the charitable tax benefits and letting employees support causes they care deeply about. At the same time companies can create a better culture, which leads to higher retention and employee satisfaction,” Sayed concluded.