2020 has seen people from all walks of life turning their hand to help charities achieve positive change and raise urgently needed donations. Fundraising Europe interviews the inspirational Swissfundraising Award winner, entrepreneur, designer and developer, Kilian Sonnentrücker about his brainchild Refill the Shelf.
[Fundraising Europe] The coronavirus has impacted so many people across the world this year. But what was it that inspired you to take action?
[Kilian] Back in March 2020, I found myself standing in a nearly empty supermarket for the first time in my life – a situation that had seemed unimaginable in the otherwise so well-organised and prosperous Switzerland.
The mood was almost a bit dystopian and people were irritated that they couldn’t get what they needed. Those who could, stocked up on absurd quantities of toilet paper, handwash, cleaning fluids and food, without any consideration for others. I was shocked by so much selfishness.
At the same time, the media were reporting more and more about the effects of the pandemic. They highlighted the fact that people were losing their livelihoods as a result of the crisis and were therefore no longer able to buy, while others were emptying the shelves.
That got me thinking. I asked myself how people could be sensitised to the problem of panic buying, how solidarity could be strengthened, and how people in need as a result of the crisis could be helped.
What did you decide to do about it?
As a designer & developer, I had already been inspired by several Covid Hackathons (such as WirVsVirus in Germany) to develop something to address this problem.
So I sat down and started to sketch various ideas. I wanted to create something that would tell a strong story, be easily and quickly understood and not be perceived as too educational. At the same time, it had to be quick to realise, should not cost anything (except my time) and needed to provide added value for users and affected people.
About 60 working hours later, I was able to launch Refill the Shelf – a collaborative, virtual supermarket shelf to raise funds for all those in need due to the Corona crisis.
How did people respond to the concept of a virtual supermarket?
To date, about 3,500 people have visited the website and over EUR 6,500 CHF has been donated, all of which went to Caritas Switzerland, supporting the national response to the corona crisis.
At first glance, this is not an insane amount. In a broader context, however, the figures are far above the international average. The conversion rate at Refill the Shelf was 7.5% and the average amount per visitor was EUR 22, which compares to the average conversion rate for online donors on charities’ websites at around 0.17%, according to M+R Benchmark 2020. And, apart from transaction fees, no costs were incurred, so it has turned out to be a really effective platform. And I was absolutely delighted recently when the project won the award for the most creative campaign at the Swissfundraising Awards 2020.
So, how did you spread the word?
The promotion was one of the biggest challenges. Initially, I simply reached out to my own network of people through messaging and mail. From friends and family members to my peers and other professionals, contacts in schools and institutions, people in agencies and technology companies and so on. Then I advertised it on my personal social media accounts. Caritas shared these posts on their channels and gave me some additional contacts. Plus, they promoted it on their website and in their newsletter. And finally, I made contact with newspapers, magazines and influencers. Honestly, I found that quite disillusioning. Most of them wrote me back that they were receiving tons of requests and stories related to Covid projects, so they couldn’t take mine into account. Nevertheless, the project received some media coverage and a lot of positive feedback. As an example, the German PAGE magazine is calling the project a benchmark for digital fundraising.
It’s fantastic to see Refill the Shelf continuing to raise funds for the coronavirus response in Switzerland. Do you have any ideas for further developing the project?
It was great fun to realise Refill the Shelf and to have been able to help people in need. I was really pleased to hear all the positive feedback from the fundraising industry and hope to have inspired other fundraisers with my project. As a next step, I’m hoping to launch the shelf in other countries as well. So, it remains a very exciting project to be involved with.
About Kilian Sonnentrücker
Kilian Sonnentrücker is a Swiss designer, developer, lecturer and entrepreneur who has been working in the web industry for almost 10 years. Most recently he worked for the renowned digital agency HinderlingVolkart and since September 2020 he is co-founder of a new company called mutoco. The mutoco team designs and develops outstanding digital experiences. Kilian is also founder of several side projects such as Swissbeatbox, the world’s largest beatbox community and many more. He is always curious and strives to do valuable, impactful work. And he likes to venture into new areas and fields, such as fundraising.