Public scrutiny of charities has never been higher. The collapse of Kids Company, the bombardment of vulnerable elderly with fundraising requests and the relationship between Age UK and E.ON have led people to question the values driving the sector. Charities face a dilemma – the demand for their services remains high but funding from the public sector is being cut.  How can they raise funds in a way that is ethical and transparent? 

As a start-up charity this question is at the forefront of our mind.  Obviously the priority is to ensure that every pound raised secures maximum impact and I believe Hubbub has delivered a huge amount in its first 18 months with a core team of just 8 employees.  

Virtually all our funding is from the private sector.  We are transparent about who funds us and why.  Inevitably tough questions are asked about the impact this has on our independence and priorities.  Our safeguard is a fully engaged and experienced Board of Trustees who scrutinise and question our corporate relationships.  This has already resulted in some potential partnerships being declined.  Despite this, critics still find it hard to believe that there is a clear distinction between organisational independence and funding sources.  We have to accept that these concerns are legitimate and exist.

We also know that exclusive reliance on corporate funding can restrict our innovation and desire to explore approaches that fall outside the interest of companies.  It is for this reason that we have launched Hubbub Enterprise.  

This new social enterprise is a separate company wholly owned by the Hubbub charity.  Its aim is to take our best ideas and explore whether there is a commercial market that will take the idea to scale and generate new revenue for the charity.  If successful the relationship will create a virtuous circle of increased impact, greater revenue and inspiring new concepts.

We are delighted to announce that the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation has had sufficient confidence to provide a £50,000 grant that enables us to test the approach.  We have appointed Rebecca Dove to run the enterprise and she has already started to turn the concept into reality.

Our first product is the Ballot Bin. This idea was created as part of our Neat Streets anti-litter campaign. Our special outdoor ashtray encourages people not to drop cigarette buts on the floor by asking topical questions such as ‘Who is the best footballer in the world, Ronaldo or Messi?’. People can vote using their discarded cigarettes.

We created one of these bins for the Neat Streets campaign and the interest it generated from around the world was enormous.  Based on this, we developed a version of the bin that can be mass produced and built a web-site to generate sales.  It is early days but orders have already started and we are confident the Ballot Bin will create positive social benefit and income.

The Ballot Bin is the forerunner to a number of other products and services created by Hubbub that will gradually be handed over to the enterprise company over the coming months. If you would like to hear more about what’s coming up, feel free to drop Rebecca a line.

As with much of what Hubbub has tried over the last 18 months, the creation of the Enterprise arm is a leap of faith.  There is a huge amount to be done ranging from negotiating the cultural fit of the two organisations through to the more prosaic financial arrangements.  What we do promise is to openly share all that we experience - good and bad - hoping that our approach is something that other charities could replicate to help them in these austere financial times.