The Other One Percent


Liverpool – a name standing for Rock’n’Roll, UNESCO world heritage, football, poverty or European capital of culture. Apart from the Beatles, Liverpool has been the birthplace to different characters like Sir Simon Rattle, Wayne Rooney and Peter Shaffer. Despite better economic days, the Mersey metropolis figures are still among the UK’s ten poorest cities. Liverpool is a metropolis of tensions and opposites that makes for enormous creative potential and extraordinary ideas.

In such an atmosphere, a bottle of wine among friends can make an initial spark to create a remarkable project.

This happened in 2011, when Steve Pilgrim, songwriter and current drummer with Britain’s mod-father Paul Weller, was thinking aloud at a friend’s wedding about how to help the world’s poorest in the most direct and verifiable way. His friend Matt Johnson, successful business development entrepreneur with great expertise in working with NGOs in developing countries, said: “Give me a page on it and we’ll do it.” Another friend suggested asking people for a tiny bit of their income instead of conventional contributions.


The idea they come up with was to build a network of people who continuously help via regular contributions. This was to be made up from one percent of the contributors’ monthly or yearly income. Be One Percent was born and within a few months, the idea became a registered charity. The funds they raise aim to provide finance to the most effective and efficient international charitable organisations who work on the ground in some of the world’s poorest communities. Pilgrim and Johnson also managed to recruit Bob Doherty, Chair of Marketing and Director of Faculty at The York Management School and Chair of the Liverpool Fairtrade Steering Committee to be a trustee for Be One Percent.


Be One Percent (BOP) is now 4 years old and up to today, have only one salaried part-time employee, everybody else is a volunteer. At the moment, over £6,000 of contributions is given to charities like Self-Help Africa, Against Malaria Foundation, Mary’s Meals or Concern Universal. Another important point in selecting BOP partners are low running costs, i.e. no high marketing costs or expensive fundraising events. BOP is also very interested in specific projects for long-term self-help.


Paul Weller, by the way, has supported Be One Percent since their early days. In 2014 he did a fundraising concert in Liverpool.


Some key areas of BOP’s engagement are water and sanitation, agriculture and sustainable food programmes, medical care, schooling and improving skills as well as investing in communities and start-up aid. BOP’s running costs are funded for separately, meaning that 100% of contributions made to the charity are passed on to their partner charities.


Still, making a mark the way BOP would like to isn’t easy: “We’re living in a very saturated society, constantly shouting at us to buy or to give something. That doesn’t make things easy for charities”, Steve Pilgrim says. “Increasing economic inequality within our own country makes it harder too. Many people are worse off than five years ago, which of course leads to less contributions. These are the challenges we’re facing.” On a trip to Africa, Steve Pilgrim was deeply impressed by “the amount of joy that people who have nothing could have and how sick our society seems in terms of affluence and the sorts of psychological ills that come with it.”


Contrary to regular individual contributions, contributing as a collective enables BOP to ring-fence the contributions to specific projects and get exact feedback on the impact the money has had. Emails and the BOP website inform BOP members every month on what effects their donations have had as well as on the exact amount of contributions given to BOP that very month.


No matter whether it’s aids prevention, micro-finance for start-ups, malaria nets, school meals, sustainable agricultural techniques or first aid on environmental disasters in Africa, Asia or Haiti – BOP are proud of any help they can give.


Steve Pilgrim isn’t upset that the charity’s still comparably small: “If we’d grown too fast, we wouldn’t have been able to manage it.” The majority of contributions to BOP come from the UK, but there are already foreign donors.


For the future, BOP have a step-by-step approach – a project manager, an office in London and further co-operations with people and businesses both in and outside the UK. Medium-term, BOP are also interested in starting their charity in other European countries. To keep the status quo of having running costs covered by donations so that all contributions can be given to BOP’s partner charities is a pre-condition.


Contributions to BOP can be made by regularly giving one percent of a monthly income or one percent of a yearly income once a year. An interesting asset is Britain’s aid to charity contributors: via the Gift-Aid programme the British government add to a contribution some 25% of the amount given. “You don’t change things by fighting the old but by creating the new”, Steve Pilgrim closes. A motto valid not only for Liverpool. For questions and more information, contact Be One Percent on



Nikolaus Wiesner / Denkwerk Zukunft, May 2015