The Big Advice Day, micro-mentoring and online dating

Love is...

We coined the term “micro-mentoring” in 2012 to encapsulate the idea of Crowd Guru. Last month I experienced the power and flexibility of it as a small charity at The Big Advice Day, part of Small Charity Week 2013 ( This was a great event and is just the sort of thing we need much more of: cross-pollinating skills to support the organisations that make a difference in society.

If you don’t know how it works, Big Advice Day is a bit like a series of blind dates for advice instead of romance.

Was I going to meet “the one” or come home depressed and insecure? Here’s how it went…


1. WLTM a fundraising mentor

The first encounter of the day was with a highly experienced fundraiser. Initially the advisor was supposed to give me some guidance on trustee roles and responsibilities. Naturally I checked her out on LinkedIn before the session, and could see she had a lot to offer on the fundraising side. A great profile can be a real asset! We exchanged a few emails in advance of the Big Date and developed a shared understanding of what I needed, which was much more focused around an aspect of fundraising.

I could tell we were going to hit it off because my advisor seemed to grasp my problems better than I did. She quickly ramped up to a pace and level of detail that challenged me but did not overwhelm me. And she pulled the advice back into practical steps that I could carry out myself.

I was really lucky because my advisor felt a personal connection my cause, and wanted to stay involved afterwards.

We have continued to exchange emails, and another date is planned via Skype.


2. WLTM someone with hidden talents

The second encounter of the day was a little unusual because of the process used to set up the sessions. Again, I had selected (because of a lack of other options) a session on trustee roles and responsibilities. I had had no communication with my date in advance, but during the introductions phase it was clear that my opposite number knew pretty much all there is to know about skilled volunteering – something that I really want to encourage.

We both agreed that we would spend 10 minutes covering the topic we were supposed to cover, and then dive into the practical things that I needed help with.

I enjoyed the session hugely, but I don’t really know if that feeling was mutual. My advisor had come into the session perhaps hoping to demonstrate her skills in one area, only to find herself pulled back to the thing she knew inside out. One of the motivations for volunteering or mentoring is to challenge yourself and develop your skills. So perhaps I enjoyed it more than she did. I will certainly leave a message on her answer-phone, but will she call back?


3. WLTM a user experience guru

Sometimes you meet someone really nice, but you just know there is no spark. My third date was with someone who didn’t really match the profile of what I was looking for. I wanted someone with hands-on experience of designing user experiences for websites. This is quite advanced as a topic, but an hour with such a guru would be really valuable.

Within the first five minutes we realised that we didn’t share any interests and that the session should probably be disbanded. Part of the problem was really the matching process: the broad topic of “websites” covered everything from design, hosting, technical development, user experience, advertising, and much more. We kept chatting politely for a little while and ended the date early. He would be a perfect match for someone, but that someone was not me (at this stage).


4. WLTM a marketing guru

The fourth date was a wildcard: I had seen there was a spare slot with someone who worked for a marketing communications agency and thought that bouncing some ideas around would be useful. Once again, we had not had a chance to chat around what we could usefully do together before the meeting, so the initial conversation was a little stilted whilst we both tried to make the experience a positive one. However,  one hour on, and we had crafted an innovative guerrilla marketing event. I learned a lot about what corporates might want from engagement with a charity, and we tentatively agreed to stay in touch as I carried out the planned event.


Big Advice Day, Every Day

The Big Advice Day successfully delivered over 160 hours of advice to good causes in one day. The challenge for Crowd Guru is how we deliver that every day: face to face, online, over the phone, or in whatever way people find most useful.

The Big Advice for us was:

  • Keep it focused on tackling a specific task – the sessions were more productive that way
  • Let people get to know a bit about each other in advance – it saves time and helps you move forward faster
  • Get the matching right – the task in question and the level of experience should be appropriate
  • If at first you don’t succeed… not every match will work, so it is good to just pick up and move on where the chemistry and/or skills are not right.

Giving or receiving support is addictive once you get into the swing of it (cue obvious joke about Michael Douglas). My experience is a Cause seeking and receiving help has absolutely confirmed to me that this project is going to have a big impact!



  • Ben recently took up a trustee role for Amazing Children Uganda (, a small charity who provide educational scholarships to street children in Africa.
  • Small Charity Week is the brainchild of The Foundation for Social Improvement (The FSI,

Volunteering – How does the UK compare to other countries?

Volunteering – How does the UK compare to other countries?.

Oodles of Doodles Competition

Get your doodle pads and pencils at the ready. It’s competition time!

The Competition

We want you to send us a sketch that describes what CrowdGuru is all about. We will get the sketch professionally illustrated (see below) and use it on our home page.

This image is going to be the first thing people see when they arrive at the website so it needs to communicate our ethos and benefits.

It should not be too complicated but should feature people, because we are focused on people.

What is the first thing a CrowdGuru visitor should see?

What is the first thing a CrowdGuru visitor should see?

The Prize

If you win you will:
1. Have the pleasure of seeing your idea brought to life
2. Have your face illustrated as part of the image, making you famous beyond your wildest dreams.

In aid of Great Ormond Street

Leon, a professional illustrator, has set up a cool idea to support a cause using his undeniable skills. Donate for Doodles is simple, you make a donation and Leon will do a doodle for you of whatever you like. All the proceeds go to Gt Ormond Street charity.
We have made a donation to Leon’s cause and in return he will make a doodle for our homepage.

The Rules

You’ve got 2 weeks.
Email your ideas and/or sketches to
Ben, Kathryn and Leon’s decision is final 🙂

Are you a front-end guru?

We have a challenge that will interest you.

Do you want to be responsible for the front end development of Take a look at the site. You can see why we need some help!

What’s the challenge?

the blank canvas

In a nutshell, we want to be so intuitive and simple to use that it makes a tea cup look over-engineered. We need someone (or a group of you) to take the lead on making a slick, beautiful and engaging thing. What we think we need are:

  • User experience expertise to translate our user journeys into something natural and pleasurable to use
  • Graphic design skills to turn that experience into a high quality visual look and feel with distinct personality
  • HTML5/CSS and Javascript skills to turn the above into an enhanced online experience that works for any device. Ideally with some Java experience, but not necessarily.

If you have one, some or all of these then read on…

How the team is setup

You will join a growing group of Java developers and representative users who are focused on helping you create the reality.

  • User-centred design: we have a User Group of people who will do tests and trials of usability. And we will grow the group as we get more to show them.
  • Design feedback: all the people involved in CrowdGuru have some experience in developing great web projects, and we understand the difference between “I like” and “it works”. We’ll test design elements with real users (and you can help us do it).
  • The “back end”: We have plenty of experienced developers waiting to make your requirements a reality.

We have already conducted a lot of user experience research to come up with key elements of the experience, but we know that more is needed. And we will spend as much time with you as is needed to get you up to speed.

What is required?

Depending on the mix of skills, you will form a team (good for networking) that will lead on the front end. At the end of the day the user is king, but apart from that we want you to make it as exciting as possible.

We expect that the work will take around 1 day per week, perhaps a little more to start with. And this will last for about 3-4 months.

We meet up or skype regularly to keep everyone up to speed and working together.

Be part of something amazing

We hope that what we are trying to achieve will inspire you. We are really excited about what will achieve and want to take all the volunteers with us on the journey… wherever it may lead!

We will give you all the support you need and heaps of kudos for being associated with the project. Not to mention lots of supportive tweets, LinkedIn recommendations and new friends.

If that ticks your box, then drop us a line at

We came, we saw, we CrowdStormed it!

On 27th April, a group of over 20 Crowdstormers donated their brains for one afternoon to tackle a challenge for a London youth charity, Rewrite. Here’s what they did…

The Challenge

To help Rewrite become more financially stable by boosting regular donations.

We used the video below to give everyone some background to Rewrite.

The Constraints

It wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy now, would it? We made sure the Crowdstormers faced real constraints:

  • budget and time, due to the organisations’ size
  • focus on the public (and not corporate or government funding)
  • make sure that young people are not put at risk!

Generating a sustainable income source is a problem faced by many charities, and, despite being an age-old challenge, the Crowdstormers approached it with enthusiasm and creativity.

The Top 5 ideas were…

Sponsor a Story

#tmoi: the medium of intruigue

#tmoi: the medium of intruigue

1: Sponsor a Story

This team evolved the idea of sponsor a child to suit the ESOL programme and enable donations to continue indefinitely (as opposed to linked to a particular child who will leave the programme at some point)

2. The Medium of Intrigue

This idea builds on the power of creating a sense of mystery and suspense. The idea is to release stories in episodes, and build intrigue around the story by releasing episodes through different medium and sporadically, so people have to be on the look-out for the next episode.  Flash mobs, social media, and a twitter hash-tag: #tmoi would all be used. There would be a small charge for being able to access each episode.

3. Pop-up Theatre

Pop Up Theatre

Called RECONNECT, the pop-up theatre gives a chance for people to reconnect with their communities. They would be held in busy areas in and around Southwark, capturing the interests of tourists, the general public, and of course the local population. Performances would include street performers as the warm-up act. Collections would be made from the audience, and people would also be asked to fill out a sheet with their names & contact details for follow-up regarding regular donations. RECONNECT would become a brand in its own right, and could be extended to festivals and other parts of London.

4. More Bang for your Buck

Sustainable funding strategy
This is a more strategic approach, using the main annual event that Rewrite put on as the focal point, around which to build a solid campaign and drive donor engagement. The event would be supplemented by materials showcasing the work Rewrite do in various mediums. The work would be made possible through the use of interns or students as well as alumni of the programme and ambassadors. Some small investment would be put into ensuring the necessary systems are in place to manage this activity.

5. Kickstarter for kids

This idea uses the creative writing workshops to get kids to tell their story and use this to drive a Kickstarter campaign. People would be asked to pledge to transform a child’s life, and help prove that immigrants can be successfully integrated in Southwark.

You can see more pictures from the day on Picasa

Attention CrowdStormers! Introducing the charity of the day…

CrowdStorm is nearly upon us! If you haven’t already booked your place then this is still time to (just) at our Eventbrite page.

Introducing Rewrite

The charity setting the challenge at London CrowdStorm will be Rewrite, a London youth charity who use drama and creative writing to fight prejudice and injustice. We’d recommend that you watch the video below before you turn up (it’s under 3 minutes) so you have an idea of what Rewrite do.

Rewrite do incredible work and have been praised by Global Fund for Children, the Financial Times and even the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. If you want to read more about it then visit their website where you can download articles.

So what will happen on the day?

After a short introduction, Rewrite’s Director, El Cocks will set you the challenge that you will be working on during the CrowdStorm. You will be working teams with facilitators to help you tackle the challenge. And the best team gets a prize!

You can get a feel for what you will be doing in the afternoon from our promo video below…

We will wrap up at 5.30pm and then head to the Two Chairmen pub round the corner for drinks. Everyone is welcome!

Look forward to seeing you there

CrowdStorm – Saturday 27th April – 12.30-17.30


What is a CrowdStorm?

The idea is a spin on events like Jams or Hacks, where a group of people get together to create something useful. CrowdStorm will focus on helping a good cause – in this case a charity that works with young people to tackle issues like social exclusion and prejudice in deprived parts of London. The cause is a leader in its field and has won numerous awards for its work. But, like all good organisations, it is keen to explore new ideas to improve and extend its impact.

If you fancy being a part of it, you’ll be working in a small group to brainstorm, develop and prototype your ideas. It will be challenging – it will be fast paced, and you’ll need to get creative! But it will also be fun. You’ll get a chance to meet people, learn new methods for developing and prototyping or visualising ideas, and leave feeling proud of what you’ve created at the end of the day. Between us, we will certainly come up with some genuinely useful ideas that the charity can take forwards.

One afternoon is not much time, so there will be plenty of help on hand – experts to give you insight into the users/customers, an on-hand researcher, interactive tools, and more.

Why are we running this event?

We, at CrowdGuru believe…

“If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don’t hoard it. Don’t dole it out like a miser.  Spend it lavishly, like a millionaire intent on going broke.”

We love this quote by an Irish poet called Brendan Francis. The CrowdStorm event is all about bringing people together, and using their skills to solve a social problem. In fact, you could say the CrowdStorm event brings to life the ethos of CrowdGuru.

Event Details and Tickets

The event will be held in Hub Westminster, in the heart of the West End, and a short walk from Charring Cross and Piccadilly Circus. It’s a pretty cool venue, described as a “startup laboratory for changemakers”, “a superstudio for the new economy”.

Full details and tickets are available from our Eventbrite page:

The day will be split onto 4 sessions, with short breaks between each so you will have time to meet other CrowdStormers (and keep the caffeine levels up!).  And if you fancy carrying on the fun afterwards we’ll be heading to The Two Chairman just round the corner.

Session 1 – The Challenge     After a brief welcome from us, the Charity will pose the challenge for the CrowdStormers. You’ll be put to work right away, brainstorming ideas.

Session 2 – Design                    Working in teams, you’ll start to flesh out your ideas.

Session 3 – Prototype             Time to get creating! You’ll pick an aspect of your proposal to prototype or visualise using some of the tools provided, bringing the concept to life.

Session 4 – Share                      The day will wrap up with the teams sharing their ideas.

We’d love to see you there!