My Week: Polly Gowers of Everyclick

The technology entrepreneur on persuading charities to change the way they fundraise, being a flexible boss and only taking two days maternity leave.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 04 Mar 2011
My ambition is to raise £1bn for UK charities by bringing fundraising methods into the 21st century. I started Everyclick, a search engine which raises money for charity as people search, with a business partner in 2005. So far we’ve raised about £1.5m for a wide range of UK charities - but we’re changing the focus now. What we’ve learnt over the last five years is that it’s almost impossible to get people to change their behaviour. Google’s so successful and used by so many people that, although people love the idea of Everyclick, it’s difficult to get them to change their habits.

The new idea we’re working on is an app for PCs called ‘Give as you Live’ which means people don’t have to change their usual consumer habits. Once the software’s installed, it follows wherever you go on the web. It means that you can turn your normal browsing activity into a way of giving money to your favourite cause. We reckon that an average person will raise about £75 a year for charity just by surfing the web and making transactions online.

The app’s in its pilot phase at the moment, with 4,000 users testing it and 300 charities benefitting. We’re hoping to launch the app in spring and this week I’ve been working on selling the idea to retailers. Currently 1,200 retailers participate but next week we’re going live with another 92 – including M&S, the Body Shop and FCUK.

I have 14 staff working for the business which is based in the West Midlands. My business partner has retired now (although she still remains an active shareholder) which means that I run the business day-to-day as the company’s CEO. Two days a week I’m in London for meetings, but the rest of the time I can usually be found in the Evesham office between 8.30 in the morning and 6.30 in the evening - although I have been known to work slightly bonkers hours. I have a three year old daughter who regularly asks me at breakfast ‘Mummy, are you going to be late tonight?’

I was in London this Wednesday as I had a planning meeting with one of our company’s partners. We have a new process going live next week which will change how charities sign up to participate in the scheme. The challenge, of course, is trying to persuade charities to change the way they fundraise:  charities understand sending someone to stand on a street corner with a bucket. But we’re trying to persuade them that the web can potentially raise billions of pounds annually, and that it’s worth their time investing in the new technique.

We’re quite a family-oriented business. A lot of the staff have children so I’m quite flexible about where they choose to work - next week’s half term so some might choose to work from home, for example. As long as people are hitting targets and getting their work done, then I don’t think where you do it is important. I raised the biggest round of funding for the business when I was eight months pregnant four years ago. In fact, I had my daughter not long after starting the business as I decided having a child was a ‘now or never’ moment. At the time I was living above the office which meant I had about two days maternity leave. One of my New Year resolutions was to try and cut back on the amount of time I spend thinking about work – but at the moment I’m failing miserably.

Polly Gowers is the CEO and co-founder of Everyclick, a technology company which connects online activity with charitable giving.

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