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Case Studies in Social Innovation: Timeraiser

The impetus to start Timeraiser was sparked when the founders attended a charity event. The event was structured like many others they had previously attended: it involved expensive tickets, loud music and a silent auction with local artwork. Leaving underwhelmed, Timeraiser’s founders were motivated to revamp and renew the fundraiser model so that they could make it easier for individuals to find meaningful and relevant volunteer opportunities.

A innovative fundraising model

While developing their idea, Timeraiser identified two key factors:

  1. People are often willing to donate their time to a good cause.
  2. The financial support of emerging artists can also positively influence the local arts industry.

Using these two factors as driving forces, they engaged in an extensive process of brainstorming, consultation and business-plan development. Their efforts culminated in the first Timeraiser event being held on April 24th, 2004.

Timeraiser can be described in three parts: one-third volunteer fair, one-third silent art auction, and one-third night on the town. The initiative is unique as individuals do not bid money but instead bid volunteer hours for the chance to gain artwork and volunteer experience. Throughout the evening of an event, individuals meet with different not-for-profit agencies and match their skills to their personal interests and the needs of the agencies. Once they’ve completed their pledge, they get to bring the artwork home as a reminder of their goodwill. 

Additionally, Timeraiser’s model involves paying artists market value for their work. This is accomplished by securing sponsorship from corporate partners.

As of 2012, Timeraiser operates in 11 cities across Canada. It has:

  • Generated 100,000 volunteer hours
  • Encouraged 6,500 people to pledge and participate
  • Invested $580,000 in the careers of artists
  • Worked with over 350 not-for-profit agencies

Advice for innovators

Throughout its growth, the organization has remained focused on nurturing local partnerships while engaging enthusiastic and skilled local volunteers. This has been key to its success. Two main lessons were instrumental in Timeraiser’s development:

  1. True innovation does not come from doing one big thing. It comes from all the little things you test and discover along the way. Innovation is the sum of all the little things that put a big idea into motion.
  2. The business model matters: it shapes how you get help and learn about management. Make sure you know how much time and money it will take to move your idea from proof-of-concept to market readiness to full-scale operation.

For more information about Timeraiser, visit: http://www.timeraiser.ca/

The Case Studies in Social Innovation database is a joint initiative between SiG @ MaRS and the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation. Browse through more case studies here.

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