EP10: Paul Dunn on B1G1 giving impacts, smiles and SMEs

By November 30, 2015 Podcasts No Comments

There are so many ways we can give to ‘deserving causes’.  A click of the mouse and money can be winging its way across the world; a cheque from a large corporation is still prized.  But Paul Dunn, founder of B1G1, believes that giving  impacts is a more sustainable model for future giving, primarily because pure donations offer so little long term engagement with the end result.  He also believes that giving has to be made even easier, especially for SMEs who may not be able to afford the high ticket cheque donations of larger corporations. In this Connected Conversation, he shares why giving impacts works, along with the story of how this highly successful social enterprise got off the ground and how they overcame some of the challenges they faced. 

Paul’s organisation enables small and medium sizes businesses and organisations to get involved in high impact projects which make a difference around the world. Since setting up B1G1 in 2007, Paul’s organisation has created over 68 million giving impacts, or ‘smiles’ as they describe the immediate impact they have, in 70 different countries worldwide.

It’s a simple system which makes it easy for busy business owners to engage with a meaningful and purposeful project of their choice. By joining B1G1, the organisation only gives to a pre-selected project each time they take on a new client – so as your business grows, you give. There are over 400 live projects to choose from which are picked following a truly rigorous selection process to ensure there are real impacts on the ground.


Highlights of this Conversation

What was noticeably different about B1G1’s business and communication model is that it is structured on positive outcomes. You would think that’s true about all charitable enterprise but is it? A CEO stands up and gives a cheque to a charity. Is that about the money and the reflected ‘glory’ of having done that or is it about the impact. Giving shouldn’t be about the money, it should be about the impact.fashion

His view that the current charitable model of exposing us to pain and unhappiness to make us feel guilty about how we live, and therefore give, is unsustainable has a real simplicity and clarity to it. We don’t want to feel unhappy and guilty all the time, we would rather feel good about ourselves. And it’s true isn’t it?

Charity fatigue is perhaps predicated on the fact that we have all become very focused in the last 2 decades on ourselves as individuals – what we want, how we feel, and so it makes complete sense to me to create a new giving model based on happiness and joy all round!


What is noticeable is the depth of business experience and expertise Paul brings to setting up an initiative of this size and success, and the time it takes to get this kind of initiative off the ground. It was 3 years in the planning, and is backed up by a lifetime in corporate business and advising over 17000 small businesses. He brought a huge amount of insight about both corporate giving and SME motivations to the project.

B1G1 came into being after a ‘connected conversation’ between Paul and one of his mentees, Masami Sato (now head of B1G1). His natural comic style in relating her light bulb moment and his slighter slower than Edison response, is a joy to listen to.

The challenges and solutions in setting up B1G1:-

Putting Processes in Place

  • Developing the processes which would mean that 100% of the giving arrives at its destination
  • Finding ways to track every single cent against impact measures
  • Creating the selection process for projects which would mean tracking impact was possible
  • Creating the management structure, picking the right board, making sure the board was independent of the management of B1G1


  • $380billion dollars are donated in US
  • 5.43% of that comes from business and has never been above 6%.
  • The rest is individual giving and foundations.
  • The 5.43% is the big corporations.
  • Nothing from SMEs who make up 70% of the economy and its not because they don’t want to but because they’re focused on driving sales.

Paul’s Top Tip for creating sustainable projects

Ask this question: what will happen and how will we manage, when the funding runs out? If you ask this question, and answer it, you will always create a sustainable project.


The B1G1 Website

B1G1 on Twitter

B1g1 on Facebook

If you could like to get involved with B1G1 and support their amazing work there are several different entry points to membership depending on the size of your organisation.

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