Introducing the BRIDGE: A New Lookup Tool to Identify Global Social Sector Entities

BRIDGE mapMost of us take it for granted that the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration assigns every vehicle a Vehicle Identification Number (or VIN). This number makes it possible for buyers and sellers to track the story behind a car. With a bit of research, consumers like you or me can learn the history of a used vehicle before we buy it, without ever interacting with the car’s previous owners. This is only possible because the VIN acts as a unique identifier for the auto industry.

Until now, the social sector hasn’t had this basic building block for an information system. In order to easily share details about an organization’s social impact, financial performance, or eligibility, we must be able to firmly differentiate one organization from another.

This is the problem that Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, GuideStar, and TechSoup have set out to solve by creating BRIDGE (Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities). Publicly launching today,  BRIDGE is a system that assigns a unique identifying number—a “numerical fingerprint”—to philanthropic organizations across the globe.These can be non-governmental organizations, programs, and projects or other entities in the social sector, including schools and churches.  

Revolutionary Lookup Tool Now Available to the Public

BRIDGE logoThe BRIDGE project aims to revolutionize information sharing in order to better understand and track the flows of philanthropic dollars and thereby enhance transparency and effectiveness in the global social sector. Funded by Google Inc., the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and with support from the Markets for Good community, the BRIDGE project has reached a major milestone: the launch of a lookup tool.

Already there are nearly three million BRIDGE numbers assigned worldwide, a result of synchronizing information from the databases of founding partners Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, GuideStar, and TechSoup. Ongoing synchronization makes it easier to share and compare data among databases.

This week, BRIDGE launched a search tool at bridge-registry.org where anyone can look up an organization’s name, location, or BRIDGE Number. If you work with an NGO, it means that donors will be able to find your organization more easily to support your cause. If you’re a donor, it means you’ll be able to more easily find partner organizations that work in the fields you most care about. If you work with an intermediary organization, you’ll be able to find members or partners that work in your space and better serve your clients. Everyone, including NGOs, institutional funders, aid transparency organizations, and other NGO service providers can now have a more accurate and holistic picture of what’s happening in the nonprofit and international development sector.

Expect More Innovation

The founding partners intend to grow the collaborative BRIDGE project so that it can strengthen other philanthropic collaborations and create a more structured, transparent, and measurable philanthropic market. The knowledge derived from the BRIDGE project will also facilitate more strategic decision making by those who are working to create positive change across the globe.

This launch is an important milestone for the world of transparency, impact measurement, philanthropy, and nonprofit and social enterprise performance. In the same way that no one involved in the creation of Universal Product Codes (UPCs) in the 1970s could have anticipated the current crop of smartphone scanner apps, we expect BRIDGE to provide a foundation for future innovation that we can’t yet predict. We know BRIDGE will have far-reaching implications for philanthropic information sharing, but we can only begin to imagine the breadth of the project’s ultimate impact.

You can access the lookup tool at bridge-registry.org. For more information, contact the BRIDGE organizers or sign up to receive future milestone announcements from the BRIDGE project.

 

Making it Easier to do Good

photo credit Monarch Butterfly Fund

GlobalGiving was founded to democratize aid and philanthropy, and in 2008, we launched the first Open Challenge campaign, making it easier for any nonprofit in the world to share its idea about how to make their community a better place. Organizations were given a specific time period to reach a set fundraising goal, and those that were successful in reaching that goal were welcomed as permanent members of the GlobalGiving community.

Thousands of nonprofits from almost every country on the map have participated in Open Challenge campaigns since then, many of whom are still active partners of GlobalGiving, continuing to access the training, support, and resources to improve their communities. Nevertheless, we often received feedback that the time restrictions created by the Open Challenge were too rigid to accommodate busy calendars. We also heard that some wonderful organizations weren’t able to qualify for permanent membership in the time allotted, even though they were committed to learning, improving, and doing great work in their community.

Last year we took a long, hard look at the way new potential partners interact with GlobalGiving, and we challenged ourselves to think creatively about how we could provide more value and greater opportunity to nonprofits around the world. We’ve decided to  implement some changes in 2016 that will hopefully make joining GlobalGiving faster, easier, and more flexible for potential partners.

What 2015 Taught Us About Improving Employee Engagement

Employee engagement and culture issues are the number one human resources challenge for companies according to Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends study. More than 85% of respondents cite this challenge as “important,” including 50% who say it is “very important.” But for all the recent buzz around employee engagement, misconceptions around the true meaning of the term are still common.

A Forbes contributor defines employee engagement as the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. But on corporate employee engagement strategies, Gallup Business Journal contributors note, “Many make the mistake of prioritizing the easy, shiny stuff — hip office space, remote work arrangements, and inventive benefits — over the elements that will strengthen emotional ties and connect employees more deeply to their managers, teams, and companies.”

This may be part of the reason why a low 13% of employees worldwide are engaged.

 

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Gallup estimates that employees who fall into the “not engaged” and “actively disengaged” categories collectively cost $319 to $398 billion annually in the U.S. alone. And two important CSR target groups, managers and millennials, have low levels of engagement: Millennials, who are set to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2030, are the least engaged generation, and only 35% of managers are engaged in their jobs.

Implementing strategies that reach the individual emotional level can be a logistical challenge, especially for global companies with diverse workforces. Luckily, with companies’ increased prioritization of employee engagement, there has been a flood of research on the topic.

Here are 3 ways companies can bridge the divide:

1. Recognize your employees, with a focus on values-based recognition

The O.C. Tanner Institute finds that recognition has a direct impact on causing great work, increasing engagement, encouraging innovation and productivity, improving trust and manager relationships, and attracting and retaining talent. In particular, HR leaders and practitioners reported in the 2015 SHRM/Globoforce Survey that values-based recognition programs significantly contribute to bottom-line organizational metrics – engagement, retention, safety, wellness, employer brand, and even cost controls – and help employers create a stronger culture and more human workplace.

EMC, a global leader in information technology as a service, has aligned its recognition program with its overall CSR strategy. Each month, new hires and employees celebrating a service anniversary are sent a $25 GlobalGiving e-gift card that can be redeemed in support of global projects aligned with EMC’s Giving Back strategy supporting causes such as education, food, water, and disaster relief.

2. Offer year-round workplace giving opportunities

For the past three years, the America’s Charities Snapshot Series has tracked changes in workplace-centered philanthropy and employee engagement. Snapshot 2015 – The New Corporate DNA: Where Employee Engagement and Social Impact Converge finds dramatic shifts in employee-giving models from past years. This year, almost two-thirds (60%) of corporate respondents say they offer year-round opportunities for employees to give.

In 3BL Media’s webinar on the report, Heather Lofkin Wright, Director of Corporate Responsibility at PwC US spoke to this change, “There’s no shortage of experiences, news items, interactions that move someone to want to give back. And we as a corporate entity are not in the position to put a time frame on that. So having things available 365 days a year for our people to do is really critical for giving through the workplace to be a significant onramp and opportunity that our people will take advantage of.”

3. Provide your employees with skills-based/pro-bono volunteering opportunities

The BCCCC’s 2015 Community Involvement Study found that among companies that measure the connection between volunteering and employee engagement, 89% found a positive correlation between participation and high engagement scores. Company representatives also report that volunteering helps to establish positive brand within operating communities and displays organizational values in action.

Tech companies are increasingly encouraging their employees to volunteer tech skills to organizations that lack proper funds and staff. For example, the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Advising program allows HPE employees to offer their professional expertise and advice to nonprofits and entrepreneurs at no cost. In the past, HPE employees have helped in a variety of key business areas, including branding and marketing, IT, business planning, managing staff, and recruiting volunteers. Through its partnership with GlobalGiving, HPE has been able to provide support to more than 200 international nonprofits.

Rethinking your employee engagement strategy in 2016? Reach out to our Business Partnerships Team to learn what other companies are doing to build a more motivated workforce: https://www.globalgiving.org/companies/contact-us/ 

Is Overhead All In Your Head? How Cognitive Psychology (and Font Colors) Can Drive Donations

Nick Hamlin, GlobalGiving’s Senior Business Intelligence Analyst, shares results of a recent experiment on the GlobalGIving website. (Photo courtesy of The Muse)

Nick Hamlin, GlobalGiving’s Senior Business Intelligence Analyst, shares results of a recent experiment on the GlobalGIving website. (Photo courtesy of The Muse)

No one likes worrying about the overhead costs associated with nonprofit work, and rightly so!  For years, overhead ratio has been of the only metrics that donors could use to compare philanthropic choices.  More recently, conversations like The Overhead Myth have pointed out that the world’s best businesses need operating capital to innovate and succeed, so why should nonprofits be any different?  Even though better measures of impact and effectiveness are increasingly available and accepted, a typical donor’s natural reaction when they see a percentage come up in a conversation about nonprofit fees is to interpret it as an overhead ratio. And most donors still don’t like overhead.

For us at GlobalGiving, this presents a challenge.  While we retain a 15% fee on donations through our website, our actual administrative overhead ratio is around 2%. Despite testing several different ways of demonstrating and explaining the difference between our fee and and our overhead, we still get lots of questions about our fees from users who assume that the two are the same. To help fix this, we recently asked ourselves: what if it’s not the explanation text that’s the problem, but how users are experiencing and processing the information it contains?

For inspiration, we turned to the world of cognitive psychology.  In his famous Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman describes how we all have two systems at work in our brains.  System 1 is our intuitive, quick-reacting, subconscious mind, while System 2 is analytical, logical, and methodical.  He mentions a 2007 study that tried to use the interaction between these two systems to improve scores on the “cognitive reflection test”.  This short quiz consists of questions that seem simple at first, but have a “wrinkle” that makes them more complex than they appear (try them yourself). Half the participants in the study took the test normally, while the other half took the test under a cognitive load, meaning the questions they received were written in a lighter font that made them slightly harder to read. The researchers found that the second group performed much better on the test, presumably because the cognitive load caused their analytical System 2 processes to take over from their more reactionary System 1 minds.  Once in this “more logical” frame of mind, they were much better equipped to tackle the tricky problems.

After reading about this study, I wondered if we could replicate the results on GlobalGiving to help donors process the explanation of our fee and the accompanying invitation to ‘add-on’ to their donation to cover this fee on behalf of their chosen nonprofit. Our hypothesis was that donors usually use System 1 when thinking about our add-on ask; they quickly assume that the 15% represents overhead and they’re less inclined to donate additional funds to cover it. But, if they engage their System 2 mindset that makes them process the text more analytically, hopefully they’ll find the explanation more convincing and be more likely to add-on. To find out if this would work, we planned a simple test in which a subset of users would be randomly chosen to see a slightly modified version of the add-on page during their checkout process.  This page would have exactly the same text, just shown in a slightly lighter font that, we’d hope, would trigger the cognitive load and drive extra add-on contributions.

Users in the control group saw this unmodified add-on prompt.

Users in the control group saw this unmodified add-on prompt.

The test group received this add-on prompt with a decreased font contrast to create cognitive load.

The test group received the second add-on prompt with a decreased font contrast to create cognitive load.

The plan made sense in theory, but we had to be careful as we put it into practice.  First, we needed to make sure that the random assignment process, made possible by our Optimizely A/B testing framework, was running correctly and that all the data we would need to analyze the results was logged properly in our database.  Even more importantly, we have an obligation to our nonprofit partners to make sure we’re doing everything possible to maximize the funds they can raise by offering a seamless website experience for donors.  If this experiment caused users in the treatment group to become less likely to complete their donation, we’d need to know right away so we could stop the test.

We set up a pilot study where we closely monitored whether the cognitive load caused by the change in font color would cause potential donors to leave the checkout process prematurely.  We also kept a close eye on post-donation survey feedback to see if anyone mentioned the changed font color.  Fortunately, there was no difference in donation rates or feedback during this initial test, and we felt comfortable continuing with the larger experiment, which ran two weeks at the end of July (just before the launch of our new website).  In the end, we collected results from about 700 eligible users.

So what did we find? 49.4% of our control group chose to contribute towards the fee, compared to 56.8% of users who saw the lighter font.  This sounds like there’s reason to believe users were engaging their System 2 brains and processing the request for an additional donation. But, it would be premature to declare success without additional analysis.  Specifically, we wanted to make sure there wasn’t another explanation for the difference in add-on rates.

For example, it’s possible that users who were new to GlobalGiving would be less familiar with our fee and therefore less likely to want to add-on to their donation to offset it.  Similarly, donors contributing during a matching campaign might be especially inclined to make sure that the most money possible went to their favorite organization and, as a result, would add-on more often.  So, in our analysis, we statistically controlled for these factors, along with the size and geographic origin of each donation, to get our most pure estimate of the effect of the cognitive load.

The final result was a 7.8 percentage point increase in add-on rates with a P-value of 0.046. This means that we have only a 4.6% chance of seeing results at least as large as these purely by chance.  If we take this increase and estimate what might happen if we made the change on the whole site, we expect we’d see around another $27,000 in additional funding created for our project partners over the course of a year.  That may not sound like much in the context of the $35M+ that will be donated through the site in 2015, but it’s not a bad return for our partners for just changing a font color!

These are exciting results that suggest the possibility of a new way of thinking about how we present our fee, and there’s still plenty of work to be done.  Longer runtimes and larger sample sizes would give us even more confidence in our results and let us explore other potentially important factors, like seasonal effects.  Thinking about how we might integrate these results into our new website also presents opportunities for follow-up experimentation as we continue to Listen, Act, Learn, and Repeat on behalf of our nonprofit partners around the world.

 

Special thanks to my classmates Vincent Chio and Wei Shi in the UC Berkeley Masters of Information and Data Science program for their help with this analysis and to Kevin Conroy for his support throughout the project.

GlobalGiving Powers Philanthropy Behind The Sustainable Development Goals

SDG_SocialSharePostOn September 25, 2015, GlobalGiving announced a new initiative, GlobalGiving for Global Goals, in support of nonprofits around the world that are contributing toward the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with their work in their communities. As world leaders have come together to commit to 17 Global Goals to end extreme poverty, fight inequality & injustice, and fix climate change during UN Week in New York, GlobalGiving is mobilizing individual donors, corporations, and philanthropists to take action around these goals.

The Millennium Development Goals, the predecessors to the SDGs, shaped the international development agenda over the past three decades. Since 1990, more than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, cutting the rate of poverty in half worldwide. But there is still much work to be done, and this time, the new SDGs aim to foster a more inclusive effort by governments, the private sector, and civil society to finish the job. GlobalGiving is supporting thousands of vetted nonprofit organizations around the world that have long been working to address the issues laid out by the SDG agenda.

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The new GlobalGiving Global Goals initiative features sustainable development projects that address each of the 17  Goals. GlobalGiving has vetted each of the featured nonprofits, and they are among GlobalGiving’s highest-ranked organizations; those that are committed to learning and effectiveness.

“We believe that locally-driven organizations committed to listening to their communities are in a powerful position to make lasting change in regard to poverty, climate change, and inequality. The launch of the SDGs is a great opportunity to raise the profile of those local changemakers, whose voices are vital in this conversation, and also to help individual and institutional donors identify opportunities to make meaningful contributions toward the goals,” said John Hecklinger, Chief Program Officer at GlobalGiving.

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It is not only individuals who are interested in new ways to make strides toward the SDGs. Private companies, grantmakers, and other philanthropic organisations are also working with GlobalGiving to channel funding toward local projects addressing the goals. The SDG Philanthropy Platform aims to build a means for philanthropy to engage with, and participate more effectively in the Post-2015 Agenda, and amplify the voice and action of grant makers and grantees in determining and achieving international targets and strategies. GlobalGiving is proud to partner with the SDG Philanthropy Platform to help philanthropists support effective development outcomes around the globe. Visit SDGfunders.org for more information.

Learn how you can get involved with the GlobalGiving Global Goals at GlobalGiving.org/sdg.