27 January 2016

INTERVIEW: forgood, the social giving site and employee volunteering platform

This was an interview Katherine Robertson and I did with the Tech4Africa team. I didn't see it get published - and it was quite a cool interview to do, interesting set of questions. Thought I'd publish it here for prosterity - it gives some insight into our thinking behind the forgood platform. Enjoy!

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Interview questions answered by Andy Hadfield (AH) – CEO of www.forgood.co.za and Katherine Robertson (KR), Head of Corporate Programmes.

OCTOBER 2015 



What problem does your business solve? Or, what problem do you solve?

AH: Forgood connects people and businesses to Causes.

On the consumer side, we’re seeing a groundswell in “activist” behavior. Not only the protest kind, but people generally wanting to be more socially involved in their communities. With a lack of technology (especially technology at scale) in our social sector, there hasn’t always been an easy channel for these people to mobilise through. How can I get started? Where can I get involved? Can I trust the organisations I work with? Where can my skills make the most impact?

KR: We also solve a corporate headache that is the tracking and monitoring of employee volunteering. CSI departments often use Excel as a way to manage who is doing what and who is giving to who. Corporates want to enable their employees to ‘do good’ (the research is all there that it makes business sense to do so) but they don’t have the resources or structure in place to make that happen. Forgood enables corporates to efficiently and effectively engage staff, while providing cool reports on every aspect of employee volunteering.


What's your progress / traction like in the last 6 months?

AH: 497 Causes (growing at almost 10 a week). 988 specific “Needs” captured by those Causes (when we know what they need, we can facilitate a much more meaningful connection) - and 963 real connections between People and Causes. And by the time you print this, those numbers will be out of date. It’s been a good ride – and we haven’t even touched on the current #foodforgood campaign or the previous knock out #uberforgood campaign.

KH: Our traffic spikes nicely when we do campaigns or activations. For example, we worked with Uber on a Spring Clean (#uberforgood) activation. People were able to put together stuff they no longer wanted and request an Uber to collect it, for free. Forgood then received the donations and matched them out to relevant Causes using the platform. The activation trended on Twitter in South Africa, resulted in over 10 million opportunities to see and the Joburg Drop Off Depot alone saw more than 175 cubic metres of stuff! Next up – our integration with the Tshwane Free Wifi Project, where users on their network will be able to use forgood without affecting their daily browsing limit. Zero-rated activism!


What do you look back at and feel is the most rewarding so far in your journey?

AH: Personally? For once in my life, it feels like the timing might be right for this tech business. While CSI and community involvement platforms aren’t unfortunately a “must have” purchase decision for businesses – there is enough evidence flowing in about how actively involving your staff in relevant volunteering and community projects results in high retention and higher morale. That war of talent thing needs some ammo – we could just be it.

KR: The most rewarding part of this journey is seeing people benefit from forgood. There are so many great moments that give you faith in humanity and hope for this country. One example is meeting someone who had travelled from Pretoria to collect a printer that had been donated during the #uberforgood activation. He had travelled far by taxi and was so excited about getting one printer for the NGO he worked for (Trendsetters.) He was a quiet guy who you wouldn’t ordinarily notice except for the fact that he dedicates his entire life to helping teenagers. To see such a small thing make such a big difference…


What would you say has been toughest so far in your journey?

AH: Cost of and time commitment to do development properly. Slow nature of enterprise / B2B sales.

KH: I agree!


What are the 3 biggest opportunities you see in South Africa right now?

AH: Building African solutions for African problems. Scaling into developing markets, not developed markets. Katherine, you want to take the 3rd?

KR: Living in a country where there is so much need, and such an opportunity (with forgood) to change the landscape of that need.


What are the 3 things frustrating you most about the tech ecosystem in SA at the moment?

AH: I think there’s still a lot of ego. At the moment, we’re brutally trying to carve out our own little portion of not much. There is a collaborative spirit in more developed tech ecosystems that is still in its infancy here. I spoke about this 2 Tech4Africa’s ago – how few people even bother to share stats? It doesn’t appear to have got much better.

KH: I would add (a bit of a lateral answer) that a many in the social sector have not cottoned on to the tech ecosystem. Many people doing great work just don’t have access to the Internet or don’t know how to use technology. This disjunct is frustrating.


When did you last have a huge amount of fun at work?

AH: Today! Putting together the #foodforgood campaign for World Food Day. And testing the campaigns module that our product and dev team had just deployed. Check it out here: http://bit.do/foodforgood! It’s stressful, fast-paced, but we have a ton of fun.

It’s quite a different mental outlook when each conversion you do doesn’t result in a 5% margin eCommerce sale to a random stranger – but rather in the relevant connection between a citizen who wants to become more involved in the future of their country – and a Cause that can use that person’s skills.

KR: Also today! We have a great team. Ran a little campaign with one of our corporate clients, through the platform, for St Vincent’s School for the Deaf – the campaign will directly impact the kids there. For me, knowing my work makes a difference, is what makes my job fun.


What advice would you give to anyone who is sub-30?

AH: Take more risks, fail more – the older you get, the harder it gets because there’s more at stake. Have lots of conversations – accept advice and hard feedback, in fact, search out hard feedback, everything else is meaningless small talk.

KR: I think we can learn from the sub 30s as much as they can learn from us. I find that I think differently from a slightly younger generation. As a tech company, we need to be open to youthful minds and respond to the way they operate


Where would you like to be in 18 months from now? What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge in getting there?

AH: We’d like to have 10-15 active business clients using the forgood platform to run their employee volunteering programmes. We’d like to be getting a stream of social activity data, an understanding of the impact each connection is creating. And starting to really leverage the platform nature of what we’re building – all the new revenue streams, the new features and the new partnerships that an open, API-based platform at scale allows you to do.

I want to be able to say the word “scale” without a jealous, wistful tone in my voice!

KR: I would also like to be bridging the understanding gap between Corporates and Causes. The gap is wide - and its creates frustration and compassion fatigue (among other things). I want to be part of the solution to this problem in +/- 18 months!