A Full Circle of Giving

Posted by Donna Callejon on March 28th, 2014

VMwareInspirationBoothPiDay2014GlobalGiving recently joined the VMware Foundation at its Palo Alto headquarters to celebrate Pi Day by sharing ways that we can all support our global community. On the day marked by 3.14—and the joys of calculating the circumference of a circle—it was a reminder to us about the full circle of giving: the giving and receiving that helps propel our mission. We see this full circle exemplified by our continued collaboration with the VMware Foundation.

The VMware Foundation believes in Citizen Philanthropy, in which every individual’s actions matter and add up to our collective impact. In recognition of all the individual contributions its employees made that contributed to the company’s collective success in 2013, the Foundation gave the gift of giving to its more than 14,000 employees worldwide as a holiday gift in 2013. Each employee received a GlobalGiving charitable donation gift card for US$100, which they could then direct to projects of their choosing on GlobalGiving.org.

The cycle of giving continued with VMware employees directing their support to charitable programs of more than 1,000 organizations in 120 countries with their holiday gift cards. While many organizations received these gifts, for several the unanticipated support was quite a holiday surprise that will contribute to their missions and work in the year ahead.

More than 400 employees collectively donated $36,000 to Give an Hour, an organization that can now provide 2,000+ additional hours of mental health services to members of military families across the United States such as Jennifer Crane. Jennifer returned from her tour in Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress and found herself homeless and struggling with flashbacks and nightmares. When her course of treatment with Give an Hour ended, she reflected, “I no longer feel broken, but instead I feel whole. I am not trying to fool myself because yes, every day is a struggle. But the generosity of the individuals involved with Give an Hour has given me the faith in society that I so desperately needed.”

Thousands of miles away from VMware’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California, a woman named Nissima gave birth to twins in India. Her son weighed 1.5 kg, and her daughter just 0.73 kg. She rushed them to a nearby public hospital that had an on-site Embrace program and 21 infant warmers, but before she made it there, her son passed away.

Hypothermia is rarely a cause for concern across the birthing wings of the developed world, but in resource-challenged India it is a primary contributor to newborn deaths – and it is preventable. “Embrace is helping to reduce the risk of death in preterm babies in India. We establish programs at under-resourced clinics and hospitals and donate the Embrace infant warmer for free to low birth weight and premature infants in need,” explains Alejandra Villalobos, Director of Development at Embrace.

When they arrived at the hospital, Nissima’s daughter was immediately placed inside a warmer and Embrace staff gave Nissima support, explained what hypothermia was, and taught her the skills to keep her baby daughter warm. Villalobos considers education a key component of the Embrace strategy. “Recognizing that technology alone is not enough to solve complex problems like neonatal hypothermia, we also hire local staff to provide intensive health education programs for mothers, families, and health care workers.” The Embrace staff followed up three months later to find Nissima practicing the skills she had learned and her daughter, now named Fortunate, growing every day.

Embrace has developed a simple solution to a life threatening problem, and with the support of the VMware Foundation and 721 VMware employees, is on its way to providing the life-saving technology of an Embrace warmer to more than 150,000 low birth weight and premature infants in 2014. “The Embrace team is humbled and honored to receive VMware and GlobalGiving’s support. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of VMware employees during the holidayssaid Villalobos.

For Jean, a Technical Account Manager at VMware, the hardest part of giving was choosing which worthy project to support. After giving to Embrace he noted that he actually received a great deal in return. “I felt so great and so happy just knowing that I helped someone in the world,” he said. All donors on the site can feel confident their money is being sent to credible organizations with proven track records due to GlobalGiving’s thorough vetting process. Jean felt the program opened his eyes to problems around the world and motivated him to create a better place to live.

GlobalGiving is proud to collaborate with VMware as we work together to continue the full circle of giving and receiving that has the power to impact, and potentially change, all of our lives.

Happy Money

Posted by Alison Carlman on October 18th, 2013
Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending - Book

The Science of Smarter Spending – Book

If you think money can’t buy happiness, think again. In their new book Happy Money, our friend Michael Norton and his fellow behavioral scientist Elizabeth Dunn, explain how money really can buy happiness – if you follow five core principles of smarter spending.

One of the principles should come as no surprise to all you GlobalGivers: spending money on others can increase your happiness even more than spending your cash on yourself.

It’s not just a warm fuzzy feeling. It’s science. Click here to see the book or read more in this Economist article.

Virtual Community, Actual Impact

Posted by Donna Callejon on June 4th, 2013

Paul was a teenager when he was drafted into the United States (US) Army during the Vietnam War.  And when the US ended its military involvement in Vietnam, it was just the beginning of a longer battle for him.  He was later deployed to multiple other international posts, and when he finally returned home, he was left with little support and undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The disorder wreaked havoc on his life, leaving him homeless, unemployed, over-medicated, and depressed.

Today, with the help of Canines with a Cause (CWAC) and the generous donations of VMware employees all over the world, Paul has a second chance.  CWAC carefully partners veterans with the life-saving companionship of rescued shelter dogs.

“Many with PTSD remain hyper-vigilant, suffer from nightmares, and have difficulty sleeping.  The dogs give them a sense of security so they can sleep well,” explains CWAC founder Cathy King.  “When veterans have an anxiety or panic attack, we train the dogs to paw or bark at them, bringing them back to the present and not somewhere dangerous in their minds.”

photo courtesy of canines with a cause

photo courtesy of canines with a cause

More than four million healthy, adoptable animals are euthanized in shelters each year.  One in four war veterans will come home with PTSD.  The CWAC program prides itself on being able to save two lives at once — it helps both Paul and his former shelter dog reconnect with society.  “He has responsibility and purpose now,” says Paul’s friend.  “Through the CWAC program, he thinks he’s training the dog but really, he’s retraining himself.”

The VMware Foundation partners with the GlobalGiving Foundation to support the work of CWAC through its ‘Citizen Philanthropy’ approach to giving.  The VMware Foundation provides a platform for its more than 13,000 employees worldwide, enabling each employee to amplify his/her contributions to the community. One way VMware supports employee-led giving is through its Milestone Awards. Celebrating service with VMware, people receive charitable donation gift cards when they join the company and when they reach their 1-year anniversary. VMware people can direct the donations to a GlobalGiving charitable project that’s close to their hearts.

Gail Gilstrap, a VMware Engagement Manager based in the Washington, DC, area recently celebrated her 1-year anniversary with VMware. Gilstrap explains how the company has supported her charitable interests.

“There were a lot of organizations to choose from but I gave to CWAC because animals have always been close to my heart and my daughter is studying to be a veterinary technician.  A lot of my family has also served in the military so I thought, ‘what better way to support?’”

Another employee, Priya Kornalius, recently joined VMware as an IT Change Manager in Bangalore, India.  On her first day, she received a GlobalGiving gift card as a welcome gift from the VMware Foundation

“I was pleasantly surprised by the GlobalGiving gift card at first but, really, it has set my expectations for VMware — it’s a company that values people and giving back to communities in need,” says Priya.

“I’m from a small village in India and I’ve seen so many children who don’t have enough money for a better education,” Priya continues, “It was such a joy to donate to help schoolchildren in the Sundarbans (India).”

The Sundarbans is a remote delta region located partially in West Bengal, India.  About 80% of rural households in this state are not electrified.  This limits economic opportunity in the region and consequently, a high proportion of its dense population lives below the poverty line.

For schoolchildren, the lack of electricity means that at nightfall, it becomes simply too dark to study.  Kerosene lanterns are sometimes available but they are expensive, release dangerous smoke and fumes, and frequently cause fire accidents.

Priya used her VMware GlobalGiving gift card to provide solar lamps to children and classrooms in the Sundarbans.  The Indian non-profit organization, the Association for Social and Environmental Development (ASED), leads this initiative and has received more than US$12,760 from VMware employee Milestone Awards

Fourteen year-old Kakoli Giri received an ASED solar lamp in April 2012.

She comes from a family whose monthly income is just 2000 Indian rupees (US$37).  They practice subsistence farming and her father migrates seasonally in search of daily-wage work in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.

Kakoli is currently in the ninth grade and her favorite subjects are physical science and geography.  In the evenings, she uses the solar lamp to study.  She attends tutorial three times a week and during this time, her younger brother is able to use the solar lamp for his own studies.  Since receiving the lamp a year ago, Kakoli’s grades have improved and she has moved from 39th to 33rd in her class.

“GlobalGiving has been a wonderful partner,” says ASED project leader Diti Mookherjee.  “Together we are securing brighter futures for needy children.”

 

VM Ware Employees Share on VMLink, the company's internal social network

VMWare Employees Share on VMLink, the company’s internal social network

 

VMware continues to support the personal charitable interests of its employees.  To date, more than US$170,000 has been donated to more than 1100 projects in more than 100 countries throughout the world by VMware people starting their journey with VMware and those marking their 1-year anniversary through giving back to the broader community.

How they won: American Open Challenge Winner says “crowd-sourcing was the key to our success”

Posted by Marc Maxson on February 13th, 2013

Jared Schwartz of Frogloop (a nonprofit online marketing blog) interviewed the guys from Critical Exposure and have some excellent advice for nonprofits trying to succeed on GlobalGiving:

http://www.frogloop.com/care2blog/2009/9/7/how-a-small-nonprofit-used-social-media-crowd-sourcing-to-wi.html 

The goal was simple. Earn a permanent spot on the GlobalGiving website by raising at least $4000 online from 50 individual donors in three weeks. Win up to $6000 in additional bonuses for out-fundraising the 70 other participating organizations.

The challenge was daunting. How does Critical Exposure, a little non-profit with a small group of supporters raise more money than the dozens of other participating organizations, many of whom have a large, established fundraising base?

The answer was clear. Use an array of social media channels — including Twitter, Facebook and crowd-sourcing to turn our small group of tech savvy supporters into a powerful fundraising force.

What Critical Exposure Did

A Plan of Attack – The first step Critical Exposure took was to lay out a three-week communications plan, then we threw the entire thing out. Well, not really. As the competition heated up, we certainly had to adapt, but having an overall strategic plan helped make sure that every communication piece was ready to go when needed.

Message Saturation ­­- Critical Exposure sent repeated pitches and updates to our supporters via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, community listservs, our website, phone calls, and more. Heck, we’d have sent candy-grams if we thought it would help. There was certainly concern about over-messaging, but as our supporters became more invested in the competition, they actually wanted more updates from us.

Empowered Supporters = Emotionally Invested Supporters­ ­- The power of crowd-sourcing was the key to our success. We realized that Critical Exposure didn’t have the resources to win this competition on our own. However, our supporters are an energetic, dedicated group of people and we knew that if we gave them the tools to help us, they would more than meet the challenge.

From day one, we made it clear that we didn’t just need our supporters to open their wallets (our suggested donation was just $10). What we really needed was their ability to leverage their personal networks. Every message asked them to be our fundraisers, and we gave them sample e-mails, Facebook and Twitter messages to post. By the end of the competition, my Facebook page was full of nothing but status updates from our supporters, each stating their own personal reason for supporting Critical Exposure.

We regularly updated our supporters on the fruits of their labor and during the final weeks of the competition, we pointed our supporters directly to the real-time standings. Many of our supporters later told us that as the competition entered its final days, they wore out the refresh buttons on their browser keeping tabs on the competition. Our supporters were 100% emotionally invested in the competition and did whatever they could to help Critical Exposure win.

The Results

Our supporters were an unstoppable fundraising force. Critical Exposure needed to raise $4000 from 50 donors — we raised over $15,000 from more than 600! That was 120 more donors than the next closest organization, 400 more than 3rd place and good enough for $5000 in additional bonuses.

The larger organizations may have had more big donors (the other prize winning organizations averaged $85 and $200 per donation, respectively). But no other organization got more people involved than Critical Exposure, who raised comparable money while averaging just $25 per donation!

[Here is  a snapshot of the the current Open Challenge leaderboard - where each organization and its donors can follow progress in real time]

http://www.globalgiving.com/dy/v2/globalchallenge.html

Lessons Learned

It was an exciting three weeks and everyone who participated truly felt like they were part of something very special. And really, that is why it worked. Our supporters aren’t just faceless masses (or cash machines) on the other end of an e-mail chain, but they are people, many who passionately believe in our causes as much as we do and are looking for an opportunity to help make a difference.

Facebook, Twitter, crowd-sourcing — these wonderful tools were what enabled us to tap into our supporters’ personal networks, but ultimately, it was about getting our supporters emotionally invested in being part of something big that carried us well past our wildest expectations.

This aritcle was written by Jared Schwartz, a consultant who advises non-profit organizations on using digital communications and social media applications to engage supporters, raise funds and build their organization.

google hunger relief campaign: simple ways to take a bite out of hunger

Posted by Donna Callejon on January 10th, 2013

Koro is a six-year old girl who arrived at A Child for All’s orphanage (ACFA) without a home or family, her thin body extremely malnourished.  The founder of ACFA, Kadiatou Sidibe, remembers the first meal Koro had with the organization in 2010.  “It was lunch-time, and you know how in Mali, we all eat around one large plate of food.  Koro saw the food; her eyes grew big.  Then she took the whole dish and ran away—she didn’t know that there would be another meal later.”

Koro’s health has improved dramatically with the help of ACFA and its donors throughout the world.  It’s hard to think that engineers and marketing managers 7,000 miles away in Mountain View, California are key to improving the life chances of Koro and other children at ACFA.  But the fact is, they are.

Recently Google, Inc. partnered with GlobalGiving to launch its Hunger Relief Campaign, an initiative that encouraged employee donations to hunger relief agencies globally.  Googlers took a short online quiz on food security to receive a GlobalGiving gift code that allowed them to donate US$10 online to a hunger-related project of their choice.

And no, they didn’t have to answer the quiz questions correctly.

ACFA is just one of fourteen projects listed on Globalgiving.org as part of Google’s campaign.  Googlers could give to unique projects in India, Haiti, Guatemala, and Kenya (to name a few) but also to U.S.-based ones like the River Fund Mobile Pantry’s project to aid Hyperstorm Sandy victims.

“We love working with new partners like Google that innovatively deploy our gift card program to support their employees’ passions,” explains Mari Kuraishi, Co-founder and President of the GlobalGiving Foundation.

For ACFA, ten dollars goes a long way.  “All of the children that come to us are malnourished.  Ten dollars can provide multivitamins for two months,” says Sidibe.  The Google Hunger Relief Campaign drew awareness to these issues and often, after redeeming the gift card and learning about the projects, employees chose to give an additional donation that their company matched.

Mali, where Koro is from, has one of the highest child mortality rates of children under age five in the world (178/1000).  Over half of these deaths are related to malnutrition.

And the situation isn’t getting any easier.  Droughts throughout the Sahel and rebel uprisings have struck simultaneously, leading to more than 400,000 displaced and in search of food or safety.   The United Nations claims that the current situation has left 600,000 children under the age of 5 threatened by severe malnutrition.

“The children are staying at my father’s house, the same house that I grew up in.”  The partnership with Google and GlobalGiving allows Sidibe to work towards what she’s long dreamed: a five-acre lot that can house up to one-hundred children and provide a medical facility, a school for grades one through nine, a library, and sports facilities.  “All of this will help support the larger local community as well.  People currently have to walk two kilometers to get to the closest medical facility.”

ACFA has already received a disbursement of US$4,750 through Google employee gift cards, a small fraction of total Google employee giving.  This amount represents two months of ACFA’s operating budget and more than the annual nutrition needs for the current twelve children.

The Google Hunger Relief Campaign concluded at the end of 2012 and the result is absolutely amazing.  Google employees donated nearly US$160,000 to provide more than 800,000 meals to communities around the world.

10 lessons in 10 years: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Posted by Alison Carlman on December 21st, 2012

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving in the United States. In honor of the past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each writer has spoken speak candidly about his or her experience with GlobalGiving and something that they learned. Dennis finishes off the year-long series with this post. 

Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle, Co-Founders of GlobalGiving

The other day a friend asked me to look back at my professional career and tell her what I was most proud of.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you did all those multi-hundred million dollar projects at the World Bank in the 1980s and 1990s.  And then you were instrumental in creating the original Innovation and Development Marketplaces there.

“And now GlobalGiving has helped over 7,000 projects around the globe get $100+ million in funding from 300,000 donors and some of the most innovative companies in the world.  Plus, GlobalGiving is one of the few online giving platforms that has attained financial self-sustainability.  So which of those things are you most proud of?” she asked.

I paused, but only briefly.

“What I am most proud of is the team that we have built.  Every time I walk in the office I have an almost overwhelming sense of pride in the people there.  If you come visit some day, you will feel a hum in the large, wide-open space. People will be concentrating intensely, but periodically the room will be punctuated by laughter or by a bang on the office gong, signaling some milestone or breakthrough.

“If you keep watching, you will see that someone has hit a road block or has a question, and he will walk over to a colleague’s desk to ask for help.  The two of them will confer quietly. Someone else will look up from their work and come over to join the conversation. If you get closer, you will hear that the task at hand involves something that most teams would consider impossible.  And yet the problem gets solved, and the impossible is achieved – if not the same day, then the next day, or in any case soon.

“In the area where we have our weekly all-hands meetings, you will see what some team members have inscribed in big letters high on the wall:

ALWAYS OPEN

NEVER SETTLE

COMMITTED TO WOW

LISTEN=> ACT=> LEARN=> REPEAT

“Those are not just words – they really are the tenets that guide our actions and decisions day in and day out.

“They are the values that explain why the team can do exceptional things when others are stymied.

“They are the principles that explain why forty people can run and continually improve a platform that supports thousands of heroic project leaders and hundreds of thousands of donors in over one hundred countries.

“They are the reason why you ain’t seen nothing yet.  GlobalGiving has achieved a lot in its first ten years.  But just wait until you see what GlobalGiving does in the next decade.”

That’s what I told my friend.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen. Well-executed ideas are rare, and there is no team that can execute like the gang at GlobalGiving.  My deepest appreciation goes to everyone who has been on our team since we first opened our doors ten years ago. Thank you all for making me so proud.

10 Lessons in 10 Years: Don’t give in; Don’t settle; Love what you do.

Posted by Alison Carlman on November 15th, 2012

10 Year Anniversary of GlobalGivingTen years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving in the United States. In honor of these past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each writer will speak candidly about their experience with GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. This month’s writer, Steve Rogers, demonstrates how life lessons sometimes imitate baseball. 

____

Seven years ago, when I joined GlobalGiving, I had just finished my (unsuccessful) stint at a technology start up during the dot.com bubble and bust.  I rode it out until I had nothing left to give, but the company had been acquired and taken over.  I started looking for new employment, knowing now that stock options were not the key to success or happiness.  I found GlobalGiving. They were a non-profit, but operating like a startup.  They had a small team and needed some technology leadership. Sweet!

When I walked in my first day, I found two dedicated individuals keeping the site running: Neal and Sombit.  They could write html, but knew very little of the inner workings of the site and infrastructure.  I felt my heart sink a little.  Turns out that I was an “emergency” hire. The previous leadership had left unexpectedly, as well as the Java coders responsible for the current state of the site. Sour!

I did not give in. I love a challenge. So, I opened my MacBook Pro (first one at GlobalGiving), and figured out where the code was (CVS), how it was deployed (OMG), and where a test server was, and how it got to production.  I set up a local environment, since Mac OSX runs on Linux. I started learning. That first year was almost all learning – the hard way.  I got a system (Project Entry) “working” – this was the site that was under reconstruction when the previous Java team left.  But I learned to figure things out, ask for help where I could, and I started to find the pain points and sketch a path to making things better.

Over the years, as I have been in charge of systems, websites, Information Technology (IT) and phones, we have moved offices twice, changed Internet Service Providers, changed our phone system, and moved our remote data center.  All this has been a challenge, but it was due to growth and improvement – and never settling.  Along the way, our staff has tripled (at least), and I have had the privilege to work with (and be challenged by) many super smart and dedicated people. I would not trade it.

As many of us who have crossed from the private sector for-profit world to the non-profit technology sector, I love the mission and while often being under-funded, under-staffed, and over-achieving, any frustration dissipates at the end of the day when I think of all the great social entrepreneurs and grassroots organizations that benefit from what GlobalGiving provides.

I have learned (and live) these lessons:

  • You can’t hit a grand slam if you don’t get some runners on base.
  • You can still score (and win) with several well placed “bunts.”
  • Incremental and iterative growth (a good leadoff) and change can lead to a “game changer” (stolen base).
  • Always be open to new ideas – encourage discussion; be inclusive. Take a seventh inning stretch to reflect and listen!
  • Never settle for, or give in to, the status quo. Don’t worry if that fly ball gets “lost in the lights”, track it, chase it down and make the play!

10 Lessons in 10 Years: Commit to Bliss

Posted by Alison Carlman on October 24th, 2012

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving in the United States. In honor of these past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each writer will speak candidly about their experience with GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. This month’s writer, KC Ellis Sledd, shares two of the most important lessons she’s learned. 

__

“Donor Relations Specialist?” I asked.

“No, no, get more creative,” Kevin Conroy, Director of User Experience and Product Innovation, pushed me as I was creating a title for my new customer service position on the Unmarketing team at GlobalGiving.

I churned, wondering what kind of a title I could possibly invent that A) made sense for my never-existed-before job, B) wouldn’t look too silly on a business card, and C) made Kevin happy.

I studied my job description and parsed through the goals of my position. I recognized that I wanted my title to reflect our value of being committed to WOW. The other values are important, of course, but a commitment to WOW resonated with me most of all. A brand new position pioneering a devout love for customers felt like it needed to embody this value most ferociously out of the four that GlobalGiving holds dear.

Knowing that Kevin would never settle (value #3) for anything less than a fantastic job title, I iterated again and again on a series of possibilities, when suddenly, I remembered something he had told me in a conversation about his own role: “I’m like the Lorax; I speak for the users.”

With this in mind, I decided that I wanted to speak for our customers, too. I would fight for their needs and fight to make them happy. After all, without our donors, GlobalGiving couldn’t exist, and our partners wouldn’t be able to fundraise for the projects that help make our world a better place.

And then it hit me. I could be more than a fighter, I could be a champion: a Champion for Customer Bliss (and yes, that is what is on my business card).

So, every day, I try to delight the crew of GlobalGivers who support projects on our site. It’s not always easy, but our donors (and even the folks who decide they don’t want to give through us) make each interaction worth it. They are our reason to be, and I am so grateful that I get to learn their stories, answer their questions, and help them give. Our donors are a pretty awesome group of people!

My lessons learned were twofold:
1.     Never doubt Kevin Conroy, and
2.     Unconditionally love your customer.

I have learned that if you truly dedicate yourself to your customers, your customers will love you back. Our donors and supporters humble and inspire me daily with their benevolence, their generosity, and their compassion.

To our customers reading this, I’d like to say, with unwavering appreciation, thank you. This whole operation hinges on you, and I am grateful that you give us the opportunity to help you find your little earth-changing idea. Thank you for letting me be your Champion.

Devotedly yours,
KC Ellis Sledd
Champion for Customer Bliss

10 Lessons Learned Over 10 Years: Launching GlobalGiving in the UK

Posted by Alison Carlman on September 17th, 2012

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving in the United States. In honor of these past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each writer will speak candidly about their experience with GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. This month’s writer, Rachel Smith, is the Programme and Operations Director at GlobalGiving UK, the London-based sister platform of globalgiving.org.  Rachel was part of the founding team at the organization. Below, she reflects on  her experience working in a small start-up organisation and how they were able to “achieve a lot with a little.”

As a young start up organisation, learning lessons is a constant activity for our team at GlobalGiving UK. The first few years are defined by figuring out how we work best and learning what doesn’t work so well. I often think that we must experience similar challenges and rewards that many of our grassroots non-profit partners experience. I hope this lesson will resonate and inspire others to ‘think big’ and bravely try creative solutions to bring a vision to fruition.

GlobalGiving UK has landed
Almost four years ago to the day, GlobalGiving.co.uk launched to the world. I’d never been involved in a tech start-up before so I really wasn’t sure what to expect from ‘launching a website.’ Lots of preparations in advance and then at the point of launch…not much happens. At the switch of a button and we were live and online. It almost seems like nothing had changed from three seconds earlier.

Of course, there was more to ‘launch day’ than that. The GlobalGiving seed of something new had just spouted and on that day:

  • GlobalGiving’s online giving platform had launched for the first time in a new currency and market bringing additional benefits to GlobalGiving donors and non-profit partners around the world;
  • Our small team (then just two of us!) brought together more than 50 founding supporters and friends to begin our journey to engage the UK public and development sector (the highlight being a keynote speech from the then Secretary of State for International Development); and, also, not so conveniently…
  • Lehman Brothers collapsed sending the world in a turbulent global recession.

These were potentially not the most fertile of circumstances to launch an online giving platform! Although as we were starting from zero, the only way was up! We had to learn how to grow and respond to the environment we faced and take creative approaches to meeting our aims.

Lesson: achieve a lot with very little by being creative and open
Over the past four years, through testing and piloting, listening and learning, and developing partnerships and collaborations, we have (amongst other successes):

  • helped non-profit partners gain access to over £1.5m to fund projects around the world
  • supported more than 500 organisations with their online fundraising
  • provided a fundraising and communications training course to more than 100 organisations
  • and launched a skills-sharing platform – GlobalGivingTIME – providing grassroots organisations with access to skilled professionals such as those at Aegis Media.

Aegis Media’s online volunteering platform, GlobalGivingTIME

Success rests on many factors but I believe that one of the key factors for success for us has been leveraging everything and anything to make things happen. That is not to say that everything we tried worked, however! (A failed pro-bono partnership helped us learn to be realistic about what could be achieved, scaling our extremely ambitious plan back to something more manageable.) Some of our other keys to success have been:

  • Leveraging networks. We developed collaborations between more organisations, investing in team creativity, and forming win-win partnerships. These were ways to get things done that didn’t require us to throw money around.
  • Promoting GlobalGiving.co.uk for ‘free.’  We have never spent any actual money on advertising the website. We have developed pro-bono relationships with Google and 77academy to help us spread the word, for example.
  • Bringing professional skills to non-profit partners anywhere. Spurred on by our vision to provide access to funds and resources to under-resourced grassroots organisations, we developed a long term collaborative partnership with Aegis Media and Sparked.com and launched GlobalGivingTIME connecting 1000s of professional online volunteers with our charity partners around the world (this project was honoured by the Guardian Sustainability Awards).
  • The power of the team.  Everyone in the team is valued and everyone can contribute to the ideas generation, planning, delivery and review and lesson learning. We bring the whole team together to ‘get creative’. We know this has also worked for non-profit partners too – PEPAIDS cited the value of their team in raising over £10,000 for their project: “Sharing the responsibility gives you confidence, momentum and helps you aim high”.
  • Partnerships that make the right connections. Our partnership with JustGiving.com – the UK fundraiser platform (think online sponsorship forms) – has generated over £500k from 1000s of people for GlobalGiving projects. Highlighting just some examples shows how working together with others from inside and outside the organisation and being creative (thinking ‘out of the box’) can yield marvelous things! You don’t need a lot of money: just a willingness to develop relationships, listen, try things out, be brave and accept when things don’t work out (and celebrate when they do!)

GlobalGiving UK remains a very small team but our partnerships, collaborations and team energy, creativity, and passion means that we are far more than the sum of our immediate parts.

10 Lessons Learned in 10 Years: Redefining the Status Quo

Posted by Alison Carlman on August 30th, 2012

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving. In honor of these past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each writer will speak candidly about their experience with GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. This month Alexis Nadin, Senior Program Associate, shares three lessons she learned during her transition from an intern to a full-time team member.

Lesson 1: Ideas really can come from anyone, anywhere, at anytime. (Even GlobalGiving interns!)

If you ask any of my colleagues about my personality, they’ll probably tell you that I’m opinionated and demanding. I know that GlobalGiving can make an incredible difference in the world and I want to make sure that our organization is doing the best possible job in supporting our non-profit partners and communities around the world. So I try to set the bar high, for myself and everyone I interact with here at GlobalGiving.

What my colleagues probably don’t remember is that when I first started at GlobalGiving in 2008 as a Project Team Intern, I was not the demanding, opinionated Alexis that they know (and hopefully love) today. When I started at GlobalGiving 4 years ago, I was passionate about the organization’s mission but I was fully prepared to be a fly on the wall. After all, as your average over-achieving university student in Washington, DC, I had had plenty of internships at other organizations and government agencies. I knew my place as an intern—I was a phone answering, stapler wielding, memo editing drone. Right?

Wrong! It was clear after my first few days at GlobalGiving that I was not going to be playing the role of a glorified photocopier machine.  The Project Team was interested in my thoughts, opinions, and ideas. I was invited to take ownership of projects and give feedback on the team’s direction. I don’t remember much about that first semester I worked with GlobalGiving (after all, I was attending school full time and nannying on the side) but I do recall the feeling of having my thoughts and opinions matter. I remember feeling like a part of the team, even though I was “just” an intern. After that first semester, anytime someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I always answered “work for GlobalGiving.”

Lesson 2: Don’t ever underestimate what passionate social entrepreneurs can accomplish.

I was lucky to start interning with the Project Team at an exciting time. GlobalGiving would soon be hosting the first-ever Open Challenge, in which organizations would aim to raise $3,000 from 75 donors to remain on GlobalGiving’s site. But, like many others, I was skeptical. I mean, come on, small, grassroots organizations in developing countries around the world could never really mobilize 75 people to give them $3,000. Right?

Wrong again! That first Open Challenge was a huge success. Twenty organizations from places like Nepal, Madagascar, Philippines, and Sierra Leone raised more than $3,000 and secured a spot on GlobalGiving. Since then, GlobalGiving has hosted more than 30 Challenges and over 500 organizations have secured a spot on GlobalGiving through this process. (I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Manmeet!)

Today, I am a huge advocate for our Open Challenge process. (Check out this blog post I wrote about the rationale for the Open Challenge.) Over the past few years I have learned that social entrepreneurs are a powerful and capable force. Time and time again we have seen organizations beat the odds and accomplish truly incredible things with a little bit of faith, love, and support.

Lesson 3: It’s all about building relationships.

During that fateful first semester I interned at GlobalGiving, Marc (now GlobalGiving’s Innovation Consultant) announced that he would be testing out a new concept for monitoring projects.  He planned to identify select travelers to visit and verify GlobalGiving projects overseas. At the time I thought, “How silly of GlobalGiving, don’t they know that travelers aren’t qualified to visit their projects? That takes a degree and years of field experience.”

Despite my hesitations, I volunteered myself and my boyfriend, Brian to visit organizations in East Africa that summer. In two months, Brian and I visited 20 organizations in four countries. We met rats that are sniffing out landmines, paraded through the streets with 200 female microloan recipients, hung out with university scholarship recipients in Rwanda, and so much more.

During that summer, I learned the value of meeting face to face, of getting to know our partners’ stories and passions and concerns. I got to tell our partners that their feedback matters and that GlobalGiving wants to provide a platform that is meaningful and valuable (and of course, easy to use). And although I didn’t have a degree in M&E, I was still able to tell our partners that GlobalGiving is there for them–that there is a group of people in Washington, DC who care about their struggles and who want to help them and their communities.

Today, I am proud to manage GlobalGiving’s In the Field Program, which trains and sends well-qualified volunteers and interns into the field to visit our non-profit partners. Although the program has evolved since Brian and I were in the field 3 years ago, we continue to emphasize the value of relationship building. This is still one of the number one ways that GlobalGiving maintains close relationships with almost 2,000 partner organizations.