A new platform which connects businesses with good causes has launched with the backing of Sir Robert McAlpine, South West Water and Argent Related.

ActionFunder aims to make it easier and quicker for firms to channel funds to community grassroots activity that matter to their business, people and customers.

Businesses are already giving £2.7 billion to charities in England and Wales each year but small and micro charities receive only 2% of this amount, with most going to bigger charity brands. 

ActionFunder is tapping into a growing desire among businesses of all sizes to do more to support smaller charities as well as local community initiatives whose role in tackling the climate crisis and growing inequality has been spotlighted during the COVID pandemic. 

A virtual funding agent for community groups and small charities enabling them to pitch, just once, for consideration by many companies, the platform provides a video pitching feature as an alternative to a written application form, enabling voluntary sector leaders to convey the passion and demand driving their charitable project. ActionFunder levies a 5% fee on funds.

A cross-industry group of businesses who have committed funds on ActionFunder is backing its call for hundreds of businesses to set up grant programmes for local causes during the next three months following launch. 

During the platform’s pilot phase around 650 projects have come forward seeking support with thousands more charitable and community projects now joining. ActionFunder will draw upon an existing register of charitable organisations curated by Semble, the B Corp behind the platform. £350,000 has been committed during the site’s four month-long beta trial period.

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ActionFunder’s ‘tech for good’ matching functionality helps businesses quickly find relevant projects that meet their giving preferences with attributes including geography and cause areas mapped according to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Businesses get real-time updates from grantees as well as a full impact report, images and video content from grantees through the platform within several weeks of project completion.

Over the past few months, founder Sir Robert McAlpine has funded around 40 projects through ActionFunder in communities near its construction sites across eight UK locations. 

“As a 152-year old family-owned business, one of our defining values is the care we show our people, our clients and our partners,” said Hector McAlpine, executive partner, Sir Robert McAlpine. 

“Wherever we have projects, the measure of our success must include the positive, lasting legacy we leave in those local communities to ensure they thrive. 

“ActionFunder is helping us to quickly find, fund and follow the impact of community action. Although we are literally in the business of community building, every business is, to some extent, a custodian and champion for the communities they operate in.”

ActionFunder’s trial phase has generated interest from professional services firms, companies with a network of local offices, family-owned businesses and foundations looking to deliver on their local environmental and social commitments without needing specialist in-house resource.

Law firm RW Blears, which has 15 staff based in Southwark, London, has committed £20,000 to projects supporting education and young people through ActionFunder.

Roger Blears, senior partner, said: “We have been committed to causes which support the education of young people for a number of years now, but as a smaller firm we do not typically have either the time nor the expertise to deliver the level of outreach to communities that we would like to. 

“Working with ActionFunder has meant that our grants should now find their way more efficiently to projects and make a longer-lasting impact. We’re very proud to be an anchor funder and look forward to raising and deploying ‘Fund II’ next year.”

Cheshire for Good, a new business network for Cheshire businesses who want to make a positive difference, pledged an initial £2,000 to new fund through ActionFunder. This was match-funded by Sykes Holiday Cottages, one of the UK’s leading independent holiday cottage rental companies. They are in the process of selecting recipients of their fund.

Donna Okell, founder, Cheshire for Good, said: “There are 4,000 charities in Cheshire, most of them quite small and without the resources to do much work proactively seeking income because they are so focused on delivery. 

“There are also close to 100,000 businesses in the county, many of whom would love to be able to make a difference but don’t necessarily know where to start. ActionFunder is a great way of bridging that divide, not just here but in all parts of the country, so I’m proud that Cheshire for Good has launched this initial fund and delighted that Sykes Holiday Cottages have match-funded Cheshire for Good’s donation.”

Mark Shearer, founder of ActionFunder, said: “We are witnessing a new movement of community-centric companies  – a modern manifestation of the values that drove the Rowntree and Cadbury businesses. 

“ActionFunder is making corporate giving faster, more tangible and relevant to employees and customers. This is a win-win for communities and for business.”