Archive for November, 2007


The Golden Gift Card

Posted by bill brower on November 29th, 2007

From earth to earth (I’ll explain), the idea of GlobalGiving’s new gift card is quite compelling – especially considering recent gift card criticisms from marketer, Seth Godin, and the magazine, Consumer Reports. Essentially, the cards are perceived as “convenient and popular, but…often loaded with fees, expiration dates, and other hassles.”

This, we know. And it was something we kept at the front of our minds as we planned the creation of GlobalGiving Gift Cards, a fun extension of our year-old Gift Certificate program.

Fun extension, you say?

Indeed, I do. The cards are corn-based plastic – as opposed to real plastic – that will biodegrade when exposed to nature’s elements.

No, the card will not decompose in your back pocket or purse, but it may after a few months in a fish tank (if you do this, email us pictures of your results and we’ll post them here on the GlobalGoodness blog. WARNING: do this only after redeeming the card).

So, what about “earth to earth?” Think about this card’s true physical lifecycle: it comes from a plant that grew up from the ground, is traded between hands of compassionate people, and returns to the earth, both directly and indirectly (especially through projects like this). Now that’s something worth giving.

A Trifecta

Posted by mari on November 29th, 2007

As most of my friends and colleagues know, one of my favorite columns of my favorite online publication is The Dismal Science column on Slate. And I muse often–and out loud–about how women do (or do not) behave differently at work than men, or whether they have greater chances at happiness today than before, because I’ve come to a feminist consciousness late in life and I feel like I need to make up for lost time. And I love the science of economics, despite not having chosen it in college or in graduate school–again, making up for lost time.

So this latest article from Slate started talking about how when legislative mandates forced more women into leadership positions in village councils, the delivery of public goods increased (and the quality of such goods stayed as high as when men were in leadership positions) but residents of villages headed by women were actually less satisfied with the public goods, I thought I’d hit the trifecta. [Icing on the cake: the Slate article cited the work of Esther Duflo, whse work at the Poverty Action Lab at MIT I have really admired over the years.]

My trivial little delight at finding an article that was as relevant as any Google ad served up to me in my Gmail account using entirely analog searching techniques aside, this finding really makes me pause. Because the implications are startling. Either we have really not understood the nature of public goods (and they aren’t really good for people), or we have hardwired biases against being able to perceive objective reality (which means those biases are extremely difficult to overcome, or …

It’s something I actually often wonder about international development. There’s a small group of people in the world (and I hang out with them all the time, so my own perspective is warped) who have the privilege of knowing about, and participating in, the adventure that development can be. How we can communicate the drama and the incredible high that comes from hard-won success to people who don’t know about it–and perhaps even have a bias against learning more about it?

But I’m a liberal at heart–I do believe human nature can change. After all, if I can gain feminist consciousness and an appreciation of the dismal science late in life, why not?

Coming Soon to a (Small) Screen Near You…

Posted by alison on November 27th, 2007

As GlobalGiving’s marketing director, I’m responsible for getting the word out about GlobalGiving. But with a tiny marketing budget – that can be a real challenge. We frequently hear from GlobalGivers who say “Hey, GlobalGiving is a great idea, but why don’t more people know who you are? Why aren’t you doing more marketing?” Etc.

Well, in a few weeks we’re trying something we haven’t done before that we hope will reach a whole lot of new people who will be inspired to check us out. We’re producing a public service announcement (PSA) that is scheduled to be shown on Lifetime TV and potentially a bunch of other outlets (let us know if you have airtime to offer up, or ideas about who might!)

Our friends (and pro bono partners) at Leo Burnett pulled out all the stops to create what we think will be an awesome PSA. These things usually cost a lot of money – we learned that TV commercials are, on a cost-per-second basis, the most expensive kind of production – but the Burnett folks, led by our producer Vincent Geraghty, did an amazing job of convincing a lot of people to donate their time and talents to help us out.

The result – Donna and I were in Hollywood last week (ok, it was actually a warehouse up in the San Fernando Valley) to see the whole thing come together and watch the PSA being filmed. It was a great experience. Industry veteran and award-winning director Jim Gartner (you’ve probably seen his work…) liked the storyboard developed by Burnett’s creative team of Sarah Block and Eric Routenberg so much that he agreed to direct the PSA pro bono. We got to meet the “talent” – all card-carrying SAG members who showed up enthusiastic and energetic despite the late-Friday-night call time and LA traffic. Roger the producer’s friendly golden retriever even made a cameo appearance. And the crew of ~40+ others – including our very own team of “grips” and “gaffers” – transformed an otherwise nondescript warehouse into what became, for that one night, a manifestation of the GlobalGiving “marketplace for good.”
Our PSA is now in post-production mode and should hit the airwaves early in 2008. We’re pretty excited. And hopefully the TV-watching masses (and potential GlobalGivers) will be, too.

From California, it’s a wrap…for now. – More Goodness Online

Posted by Donna Callejon on November 24th, 2007

Check out what the guys at are doing. Here’s their mission:

Quantum Shift TV is a 21st Century storyteller renewing the cultural values of community, care and interconnectedness through the use of leading edge technology and citizen journalism. Here’s the kind of stories you’ll see there – ones of:

  • Human cooperation and survival
  • Solutions to combat global warming
  • The positive impact of aid workers around the world
  • Perspectives and contributions of philanthropists
  • Corporate social responsibility progress
  • Environmental improvements and breakthroughs
  • And all other stories about those making a positive difference on this planet.

A great companion to what we are trying to do here…and in the spirit of full disclosure, I just found them today when my Google Alerts let me know that they had posted this cool video about GlobalGiving gift cards as an alternative to “stuff:”


The second part of the video is about Google + Specialized’s “Innovate or Die” contest. Also very cool. They are giving away money and bikes to pedal-generated ideas for good.

Here’s a project that links the two pieces of this story together:
Get great free widgets at <a href="">Widgetbox</a>!

Like we said, guaranteed goodness.

Giving Thanks

Posted by alison on November 22nd, 2007

We wish everyone happy and safe holiday.

In keeping with tradition…

This year, I am thankful for: Mike Lowell (just kidding). 

In all seriousness, I am thankful for my family, my health, unending generosity, unexpected opportunity, unfaltering (and sometimes undeserved) patience, and unlimited possibility.

GlobalGivers, if you're out there today, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Thanksgiving from us to you.

Over the river and through the woods…

Posted by dana on November 21st, 2007

As Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t get these holiday carol lyrics out of my head. Working on the project team at GlobalGiving, I have the privilege to work with the amazing project leaders and innovative organizations that list their work for funding on our website. This also means I get an up close and personal look at the challenges our partners face on a daily basis. Here is one description of the journey to send an e-mail in Malawi:

“Well, first I leave the school and hop on my bicycle. After riding my bike for two hours over dusty, bumpy roads, I arrive at the internet café. Then I write out my e-mail carefully by hand and give it to the owner. Assuming the internet isn’t broken that day, he logs on to the only computer in the village and sends the e-mail for me.”

Rather than braving the river and woods to get to grandmother’s house, each day our project partners face challenges ranging from lack of electricity or internet connectivity, natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, health crises including malaria and HIV/AIDS, non-existent transportation infrastructure, or unstable political environments. Tasks that seem like no big deal to those of us in the U.S.—sending an email, turning on the lights, making a phone call—can be time consuming and difficult.

With all of these challenging circumstances it’s a wonder that anything gets done at all! But the most exciting part of my job is that not only is stuff getting done, our partners are tackling the most difficult challenges our world faces right now and achieving great results. It’s a testament to the determination, creativity, passion, and insight of the projects listed on GlobalGiving that each day I get to read updates from the field like this:

“The Roteang Village children have nearly completed the immunizations…” from "Provide 570 Children with Lifesaving Vaccines" in Cambodia.

“One of our a pioneer teachers at Nyaka told me last year that because of his job at Nyaka, he has been able to buy land, take care of his twin sons and daughter, and take care of his aging mom and dad…” from "Nyaka School for Children Orphaned due to HIV/AIDS" in Uganda.

“Through these two projects, we secure transportation and safe passage for women who are fleeing their homes to reach the shelters or other refuge…” from "Safe Houses for Iraqi Women" in Iraq.

Whether arriving via the back of a bicycle, the dusty Indian mail service, carrier pigeon, or solar-powered dial-up email, project updates keep donors informed about all things (good and bad) going on with the project on the ground. Clicking “submit” isn’t the end of a donation to a GlobalGiving project—it’s the beginning of an adventure!

Check (This) Out: A New Giving Cart

Posted by Donna Callejon on November 20th, 2007

After six intense weeks of development and thirty cups of Thanksgiving Coffee, we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just released a major upgrade to our giving cart. The new version sports a user-friendly design, provides better feedback, runs faster, and most importantly, allows you to make a donation without creating an account on GlobalGiving.

Why did we do all of this? Over the last year we’ve gotten feedback from a variety of users that while they have enjoyed donating to projects on GlobalGiving they wished that they didn’t have to create yet another account on a web site with yet another password for them to remember or write down just to donate $10. We agreed with them.

About three months ago, we kicked off our giving cart redesign project. As one of two web developers here at GlobalGiving, I was tasked with spearheading the project. So, rather than reinventing the e-commerce wheel, I did an in-depth study of what other people are doing with checkout. I looked some of the big names like,, but also at some smaller shops like and Additionally, I studied some of the other sites in our space, like the American Heart Association. We read about the latest research on e-commerce over at and consulted a variety of interface design resources.

Then, we went to the drawing board, coming up with over eight different designs and over 200 pages of paper prototypes. We obsessed about every aspect of the design, trying to make everything as easy to use as possible.

For instance, one of the best things about the new giving cart is the error feedback. Before our redesign, if you had an error, we just wrote a small error message at the top of the screen and you had to figure out how to fix the error. Now, we clearly state what the error is, what you need to do to correct it, and highlight the field that has the problem.

We think it’s a much better user experience and hope that you find it easier to make a donation to your favorite grassroots charity.

So give to your favorite project today (mine is Rescuing Young Girls From Bonded Labor in Nepal) and let us know what you think! We’ll do everything that we can to make the checkout process as easy as possible so that you can stop filling out forms and start spreading the good.

Kudos to our buddies at DonorsChoose

Posted by Donna Callejon on November 19th, 2007

Last week our good friends at DonorsChoose announced what we knew had been coming for a while – their nation-wide expansion.

Here’s one for the good guys!  DonorsChoose, led by an amazing school teacher-turned-social entrepreneur, Charles Best (see pic below), has successfully facilitated about $15 million to classrooms in several regions of the US over the past five years.  Having received expansion capital in the form of grants from our common supporter, the Omidyar Network, and others, DC is off and running to reach every public school classroom teacher who needs a little extra support to offer innovative and engaging programs.

If education is your passion, check them out.  And BEST of luck to the DonorsChoose team.

Guaranteed – Period.

Posted by dennis on November 16th, 2007

If I buy shoes from and they don’t fit, I can send them back for a full refund — no questions asked. They even refund shipping costs! If I buy a coat from Nordstrom’s and my wife doesn’t like it, I can take it back to the store — no questions asked.

But what would happen if you asked your favorite nonprofit or charity group for a refund? Margaret Su, one of our colleagues here at GlobalGiving, asked this question earlier this year. “We claim that GlobalGiving is a ‘whole new way to give.’ We place a premium on showing donors exactly where their money goes -– and the impact it makes. Why shouldn’t we provide a refund if a donor is not happy?”

I told Margaret, as gently as I could, that she was naive: “That is crazy, Margaret. Philanthropy doesn’t work that way. We can’t do that.” I had a thousand reasons to blow her off.

But her idea nagged at me, and I couldn’t shake it. I brought it up at the management team and then at the board. The response was always the same: “That’s crazy, we can’t do it, it’s impossible, etc. etc.”

Over time, though, we started to think that the idea might be not only possible -– but critical. And not just to donors, but also to the organization. A guarantee could compel us to put front and center questions of how to amplify the impact of our work, hold ourselves accountable to our partners, and ensure donor trust. Each and every day.

Today we’re putting our money where our mouth is with the announcement of GlobalGiving Guaranteed. Starting today, if a donor is not happy for any reason with his or her experience on GlobalGiving, he or she can get a refund. The refund comes in the form of a voucher the donor can use to give to any other project he or she wishes. (If the IRS allowed it, we would even refund donor’s money in cash.) The guarantee will cover up to $10,000 per donor, per year, at the beginning, but we may increase this ceiling if it makes sense in the future.

We see GlobalGiving Guaranteed as a new way to demonstrate the confidence we have in our project leaders, who are good people making a big difference with a relatively small amount of funding. But the guarantee also brings direct market discipline to bear on us. We make promises about the speed at which donors’ money will get to the field, and we promise donors that they will get regular updates from the field from project leaders. Starting now, the guarantee creates a feedback loop with teeth.

We also believe that donors deserve to be treated at least as well as consumers. After all, they are trying to help improve the world with their dollars. They have the right to know how their money is being used — and to redirect that money to a different purpose if they are not satisfied.

You may be thinking this is a real financial risk for a small organization to be taking — and you are correct. But we believe that ultimately the benefits far outweigh the risks. Study after study has shown that the positives outweigh the drawbacks for providers of guarantees.

Does the guarantee mean that all projects listed on GlobalGiving will succeed in terms of their objectives? Of course not. Most projects on GlobalGiving succeed in improving hundreds or even thousands of lives. But, like anything else in life and business, sometimes development initiatives fall short, for all kinds of reasons. We will, however, guarantee that from here on out, donors can play an active role in the conversation.

Months ago, I told Margaret that a donation guarantee was a crazy idea. That isn’t how philanthropy works, I said. But today, I believe that it is. What do you think?

Note:  This post can also be found on the Philanthropy News Digest Blog

GlobalGoodness: Welcome to the new GlobalGiving blog!

Posted by mari on November 16th, 2007

I’m both excited and impatient about making this inaugural post–it falls into the category of things we’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. On the one hand, I’m looking forward to having another way to communicate with anyone in the GlobalGiving community, and can’t wait to start hearing back from people, and on the other hand I know blogs take time to become a good–and reliable–channel of communication. Patience is not really one of my virtues.

So what will we do on this blog? Here, we will announce new features, reveal our peccadilloes, highlight our community, explain what we were thinking (or not), and look to get feedback from you.

And speaking of getting feedback, this blog was named by friends of GlobalGiving. The community’s top choice was actually “What Gives?” but through our polling we discovered that someone in our community has already called dibs on it. GlobalGoodness came in second–so here goes. Let’s get started!