December 2007 Posts

Let’s Not Mess Up the Endgame

It’s blockbuster season in Hollywood – there’re a whole bunch of great movies out there, including “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which I saw last night. It’s a fantastic-but-true story of the Texas Congressman, played by Tom Hanks, who influenced Congress to support Afghan freedom fighters in their battle against Soviet invaders in the 1980s. Working with a renegade CIA agent (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and an anti-Communist Texas socialite (Julia Roberts), Wilson managed to increase the appropriations for this “covert” war from $5 million to $500 million over a few years – arming the mujahideen who were ultimately victorious against the Soviets.

Despite this triumph over communism, the end of the movie depicts Wilson’s unsuccessful attempt to push the U.S. government to invest in the post-armed-conflict Afghan infrastructure, in the form of education and rebuilding schools. So that didn’t happen, and the weakened state of the country post-war contributed to the subsequent rise of the Taliban – and we all know how that’s turned out (ironically, this movie touches upon “who was responsible for the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,” father of Benazir, who was assassinated in Pakistan yesterday).

Of course, it’s the movies, and we hope for Hollywood endings. But to me, Charlie’s quote in the epilogue, about  “changing the world but messing up the endgame,” highlights how these critical elements of civil society – education, health care, a decent economy – can make a huge difference in the overall stability and ultimate prosperity of a country and its people.

Good movie. Thumbs up for Charlie Wilson’s War from this reviewer.

See the work GlobalGiving is supporting in Afghanistan.

Help DonorsChoose win a Crunchie

Our buddies over at DonorsChoose are the best at rallying people to help them win awards. They won the BIG A$# Amazon award in 2005, have been on Oprah, and now are finalists for the Tech Crunch “Crunchie” Awards.

Not to dis the other great finalists…but DonorsChoose is a special friend to us. In fact, just this week we received a sizeable grant due to an introduction made by Charles.

So, if you have a moment, click here and vote for DonorsChoose.

The kindness of strangers–and the power of video

So when Dennis and I left the World Bank to start GlobalGiving, we left a pretty impressive infrastructure of support. And by infrastructure I mean not just IT and administrative support, I also mean access to an in-house printing shop, large format printers, in-house photographers, video equipment … But what has been amazing here at GlobalGiving is that we sometimes have access to world-class resources because of the kindness of strangers.

The two strangers are Petra Dilthey, and Uli Schwarz, who virtually showed up at our doorstep on a day in October this year via an email after reading Bill Easterly‘s book White Man’s Burden. Here’s what they said:

From our point of view the projects, you are supporting and promoting are worth while to be shown to as much viewers as possible. We are a German filmmaker couple which dedicates their life to poor children and would like to discuss fields of possible collaboration with you.

I got this email 3 days before my colleague Donna and I were headed out to Los Angeles to try and somehow get our minds around how to get more video integrated into the GlobalGiving experience, thinking about getting more video footage from our project leaders, developing footage for a public service announcement, and seeking advice from our advisory board member Carole Bayer Sager. And here are their first videos, from Andhra Pradesh. They are beautiful and moving, and come a lot closer to our original vision for GlobalGiving–bringing the daily drama and excitement of succeeding against all the odds in all the disadvantaged communities around the world straight to the screen. And an opportunity to help.


The 50 Brides of Prajwala: Shattered Dreams Reborn


Providing Education for 100 girls in Andhra


Are you ready for a challenge?

America’s Giving Challenge is on!

Here is the video I made a couple of nights ago with my good friend Nathan on the steps of the Capitol. Share the video, and start a fundraiser.

Thanks to for the killer soundtrack.


Women’s Funding Network – Compatriots in Delivering “The Real Deal”

This past week I received a newsletter from our friends at the Women’s Funding Network. Here’s what the lead story said:

Looking for the Real Deal this holiday season? Most of us are. We want something real, something valuable, beautiful, and we want the money we spend and the gifts we give to matter. Women’s Funding Network delivers the Real Deal.

Women’s funds democratize philanthropy. In the U.S., philanthropy was created as a tax incentive so those with means could receive tax deductions for helping those in need. Despite that ideal, 70-90% of tax-deductible gifts in the U.S. end up helping the middle class and the wealthy. Women’s Funding Network is the exact opposite because 80% of our members’ grants go to women living in poverty and those most affected by homelessness, violence and human rights abuses.

These investments result in empowerment for women who build out that progress in stronger families, better communities and hope for the world. That’s genuine philanthropy. We deliver the Real Deal.

It reminded me of a piece published by former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, a couple of months ago. In his blog post (which appeared also as an article in the LA Times, on NPR Marketplace, etc), he pretty much said that it would be more appropriate if only those charitable donations that address the issues connected to poverty received tax-deductibility benefits from the US government. He also goes on to discuss the importance of government funding for programs that give tools to lift people out of poverty…If you read the comments on the blog post you’ll see that he inspired quiet a lot of response – for and against.

Seems most realistic to work under the assumption that the issues that perpetuate poverty – in the US or anywhere in the world – can truly only be addressed with investment both from the “top down” (aka government, multi-lateral organizations, et. al) and from the “bottom up” (e.g., GlobalGiving, DonorsChoose, Kiva, Women’s Funding Network). Neither approach can do it alone, neither is unequivocally better or worse as far as efficacy. Here at GlobalGiving we’ve chosen to build a bottom-up tool, but the recent announcement that funding to the World Bank has increased substantially this round is great news too. (shout out to my former colleague Bob Zoellick!)

Sometimes it’s those art programs that lift a child out of poverty. They could be In NYC or in Rio. To quote a current candidate for whom Mr. Reich worked indirectly, “It takes a village.”

Regardless… Hats off to our partners at WFN, and other GlobalGiving partners around the world, who are “keepin it real.”