Alex Day is Director of the Big Give, the UK’s number 1 match funding platform. The Big Give brings charities, philanthropists and the public together to increase their impact.
Alex graduated from Exeter University in 2005 and has worked in non-profit management ever since. As director of the Big Give, he is responsible for developing and implementing strategy, leading the team, and managing key relationships.
We spoke to him about his journey and the motivation behind his work.
Tell us about your career before The Big Give?
Well, like a lot of young graduates when they’re leaving university, I had no idea what I wanted to do. So I took some time off to travel around a little hoping that on my travels I’d be able to figure out my career path. Seeing and interacting with strong communities in different parts of the world gave me a resolve to work on something that would actually make a difference.
I also knew I was good at working with people so on my return, I joined an NGO’s HR department. However, I quickly realized I wanted to be where the action was and actually get involved with the NGO’s programs.
Fast-forward to a few years later and I was fortunate enough to work for several different NGOs in their programs and progress into more senior positions.
I ran the UK division for Medair which gave me a view into different aspects of the organization and made me realize how big an impact tech could have as a force for good.
The biggest transformation actually came from the software rollout for our finance team. It allowed us to do our job faster and more efficiently and I’ve been committed to that mission ever since.
Is that what led you to The Big Give?
Yes! So today, I work as a director at The Big Give. That doesn’t tell you a lot about what I actually do so here are my 3 main remits:
Leadership: I manage the team and report to our board.
Key relationships and partnerships: I manage our relationships with each of our philanthropic partners. We work with anywhere from 30 to 50 partners a year.
Strategy: Thinking about where we want to take the organization and our products in the future.
Tell us more about The Big Give and its mission?
We’re the leading online match funding platform bringing charities, philanthropists, and the wider public together to harness the impact they could have. We were founded by Sir Alec Reed in 2007, purely because back then there wasn’t an online home for philanthropy. This was both the motivation and the guiding mission for The Big Give.
A year later he put in £1 million of his own money to kick off our first Christmas matched funding campaign. We met our goal in about 45 minutes! Since then our Christmas campaigns have remained our biggest initiatives, but we’re doing things throughout the year.
What are The Big Give’s biggest challenges at the moment?
Managing our priorities is always a huge challenge. We try to be ruthless internally with time, resources, employee focus, and of course, spending. Everyone has high expectations but our guiding focus is always high impact.
What do you wish people knew before they entered ‘the third sector’?
There are a few things that I’ve formed some pretty strong opinions about:
Research and rethink
There are over 160,000 charities in the UK. Very often people start charities without first looking up what’s already out there. Not only can this dilute messaging, but it can have a rather destructive impact of drying up donations for the wider area you’re working within. There truly is a lot of value in combining strengths so always look for where you can get involved and contribute before venturing out on your own.
A purpose at the forefront
I think the line between businesses and charities is starting to narrow. In business boardrooms, senior leaders are starting to talk about their companies’ purpose – it’s become all the rage. I want that momentum to keep going, but I’m hoping they can go beyond just talk and discussion and solidify whatever purpose they identify. This is one of the reasons why the B-corporation area, the certification, and the approval process is something I’ve been fascinated with.
Try and advocate for tech within your charity, especially in high-level discussions such as with your board. We at TBG have a small board but we have a few ‘tech-first’ leaders and this has served us very well. In the past, technology has been an intimidating term in our sector, but I think it’s best to adopt tech in one or two areas of any given organization where it can have the most impact.
Be genuine, always
Unless you’ve really involved those that you’re trying to help, you won’t be able to make a real difference. You’ll hear this from those who’ve worked in or with charities over and over. You’re serving a purpose but also the community, so talk to those in it and truly learn about it. Create a feedback look, and be continually listening and caring.