Rethinking Fundraising

By Vittorio Cerulli, Founder and Director, Purpose House

In January, UNICEF Italy launched BZR, a new fundraising platform developed as part of Next Generation, a laboratory for new disruptive solutions of partnerships and fundraising. BZR is a virtual marketplace where fashion companies and influencers sell their unused products, and all profits go directly to fund UNICEF programmes in Afghanistan. 

On the 10th of January 2022, UNICEF Italy launched BZR, a virtual marketplace where everyone can buy second-hand and new clothes from a selection of Italian fashion companies and influencers. The launch of BZR is part of Next Generation, an internal programme that UNICEF Italy started in 2019 as a laboratory for new disruptive solutions of partnerships and fundraising. From the UNICEF’s website: “Next Generation has the goal to raise funds and awareness with a more contemporary fundraising system through its networking and new communication channels”.

Auctions and donations are common ways to fundraise. What is new about BZR? UNICEF’s platform introduces a refreshed approach to fundraising inspired by social media. Designed as a virtual marketplace, BZR blends strategic philanthropy with influencer marketing and e-commerce. 

By partnering with emerging entrepreneurs and influencers, all under 45 years old, UNICEF Italy developed an engaging online platform that could create a new fundraising channel for UNICEF but also a new way of buying fashion items for consumers around the world.

In the following interview, I found out how the platform was conceived, and I hear about the scope of Next Generation from my former colleague Cristina Spinelli and Tommaso Chiabra, two members of the team that have been developing the programme at UNICEF Italy:

Hi Cristina, what is your current role at UNICEF Italy?

Cristina: My role is to develop and execute Next Generation UNICEF Italy’s strategy. Specifically, through driving and landing innovative ways of fundraising, such as BZR, and by building and growing the community around the same values and attributes. Next Generation is a community of young, like-minded emerging leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers, whose goal is to raise funds and awareness with a modern approach to fundraising.

Can you share a bit about your background? How did you get to work on Next Generation at UNICEF Italy?

Cristina: My experience spans a breadth of industries. I started off in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi and JWT. Then I moved to media and entertainment at Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, and large FMGC like Unilever. Most recently, I have been building purpose-driven marketing activities through my roles in Purpose House and UNICEF. 

How did the idea of Next Generation come about? 

Cristina: I’ve asked Tommaso Chiabra, one of the founders of Next Generation UNICEF Italia, to answer this question.

Tommaso: As I started my collaboration with UNICEF, I noticed the many fundraising challenges and their impact on children around the world. This inspired me to apply my skillset in venture investments and support UNICEF in the resolution of some of these challenges. I realized the enormous potential for UNICEF to engage, inspire and connect a new generation of philanthropists, activists and advocates. With three other co-founders, we started Next Generation: a vibrant community of young leaders, emerging entrepreneurs and change-makers, all under 45 years old whose goal is to raise funds and awareness with innovative solutions. Next Generation UNICEF Italy now has more than 30 members and there are active communities in the USA, Thailand and the UK, with more countries building theirs as we speak.

BZR is a perfect example of a Next Generation activity, in which Ilaria Norsa, a fashion entrepreneur and member of Next Generation UNICEF Italy, came up with the idea and committed her resources, skills and connections to build, with the UNICEF Italy team an innovative and very successful way of doing philanthropy.

What were the main challenges faced in the development of BZR?

Cristina: The main challenge, as always, is raising funds. When you are working for a non-profit, it is crucial to keep the costs at a minimum and maximize every opportunity to raise awareness for your cause and money to fund the programs in your organization.

In BZR’s case, the so-called “influencers piece” was critical to determining the operation’s success. We were able not only to reach a young and committed audience with our messages but, most importantly, to sell half of the items available in just two days with no paid media support.

What’s next?

Cristina: BZR is a temporary e-market, and this campaign for Afghanistan is currently live until the 4th of February. However, the plan is to have multiple fundraising campaigns per year, with proceedings funding a different UNICEF program, from COVAX to Mental Health, to girls’ education in Niger, to Winterization program in Syria.

Given the success BZR had, we are already planning our next drop for Spring 2022. We genuinely believe that BZR is here to stay and can be a long-term market-place that will create not only a new fundraising platform for UNICEF Italy but also a new way of buying fashion items for young consumers around the world.

Author: Vittorio Cerulli, Founder and Director at Purpose House

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