‘Charitable giving can seem inaccessible to the general public’: Natalia Vodianova on Centre Stage

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They call Natalia the Supernova. She’s a supermodel with 69 Vogue front covers, a string of major campaigns for Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney and Givenchy and about 1.5 million social media followers to her name.

She co-founded Elbi in 2013 and it’s gotten a fair bit of attention – it’s backed by Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, Huffington Post Co-Founder Arianna Huffington and Bebo Co-Founder Michael Birch.

Elbi makes it easier for people to donate to charities. Users can donate to a number of charities through the app and it allows organisations to engage with supporters and promote user-generated content.

“It brings the power of social and digital worlds to charities,” said Natalia, having thanked the Web Summit audience for welcoming her to Centre Stage:

“When it comes to technology, I’m here to learn from your guys.

“Please reach out; give us your feedback. It would mean so much,” she said.


Natalia in conversation with FT’s Matt Garrahan on Web Summit Centre Stage.

Elbi has thus far partnered with 30 registered charities and takes its name from the words ‘little’ and big’:

“Little actions that make a big difference,” Natalia explained.

“It shouldn’t be just about giving money. You can do other things,” she said.

Part self-financed by Natalia, Elbi is trying to challenge misconceptions about charitable giving:

“Giving can seem so inaccessible to the general public. There are so many ways to give,” said Natalia.

Demoing the app, Natalia explained that users can take a “silly snap”, showing a collection of selfies that Elbi users across the world have sent to show emotional support to a young patient.

Elbi also allows users to donate £1 to a given charity with a ‘Love Button’:

“If you really love something, you have to put money behind it,” said Natalia.

“It’s a micro donation; we can all do this once a week,” she added.


She’s built Elbi from the ground up over the last two-and-a-half years and it’s live across the UK, the US and today, Ireland.

Still a top-tier model, Natalia said that she’s more than able to juggle all her commitments:

“It can be hard. I’m quite good at delegating,” she said.

“My modelling only takes up two months a year. My real passion is philanthropy,” she said.

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