Case Studies

Ben Brabyn and Matt CooperBmycharity was founded by Ben Brabyn and Matt Cooper to help charities harness the fundraising power of the internet

Ben Brabyn, 33, and Matt Cooper, 32, first came up with the idea for Bmycharity on holiday together in the autumn of 2000. "Both of us had good jobs elsewhere", explains Ben, "but neither of us felt particularly challenged." A sentiment that many people might share except that for this pair, "challenge" has special meaning: both are ex-Royal Marine Commando officers. Which might explain why their "holiday" was spent parachuting out of aircraft over the Californian desert. "We chatted every day driving to and from the drop zone", explains Matt, "and by the end of the week we had five ideas of which Bmycharity came out on top."

Like many good business models, the Bmycharity offering solves a common problem with a cost-effective solution. Whilst charities often benefit from individuals who undertake a sponsored challenge, many miss out on reclamation of the potential "Gift Aid" tax component from sponsors. The Bmycharity service enables any charity to offer its supporters a free personal online sponsorship page that is charity-branded. And the service collects donations from supporter's sponsors securely by credit card and handles the Gift Aid tax reclamation. Revenue for Bmycharity comes via a simple commission charge.

The founders launched the business in 2001 and their offering is proving popular with charities. In fact, Briony Truscott of Oxfam says, "We encourage our runners and trekkers to use Bmycharity - it's the most efficient way for them to fundraise - and it's easy for us to manage." But, admits Ben, their biggest challenge has been winning over charities. "We estimate that charities in the UK lose out on up to £200 million every year and expected them to beat a path to our door", he says. "But we've had to learn how the charity sector works and adapt our offering to meet their needs." Their key challenge has been to get charities to understand that Bmycharity provides a platform for the charity brand. "After all", says Matt, "brand is a charity's key asset."

Adapt and overcome. Could their military training have been of help in building their business? "I'll get stick from my old mates for saying this", says Ben, "but to be honest, having a difficult question thrown at you is a lot less stressful than a petrol bomb." An attitude that will, no doubt, serve them well with potential investors: they are about to raise finance for their second venture.

This article first appeared in "The Independent" in 2006

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