Archive for February, 2008


Know Your Donors: What Motivates Them?

Posted by alison on February 13th, 2008

Last week, I wrote a post about creating a relationship with your donors: creating an experience and relevancy.  Today, A Small Change wrote a post about what motivates donors at all different levels: first-time, renewed and upgrading.

When a donor is already invested in your organization you can no longer use compassion as an appeal for more money.  You need to know that your volunteers, monthly donors, long-term major givers already have a strong compassion for your cause.  These people want to know what more of their money will mean for the non-profit.

Read the whole post here.


Posted by alison on February 12th, 2008

Election season is in full swing, and today the spotlight is on the Potomac Primaries in Maryland, DC and Virginia.  Yesterday, Wired News published an article about the emergence of nonprofits as a vehicle for campaigning.  Today the Chronicle of Philanthropy published the transcript of a live chat that it sponsored about the effects this election will have on charities and how they can (if they want) play a role in the election.  The Chronicle‘s guests included Kay Guinane, the director of nonprofit speech rights for OMB Watch in Washington, DC and Laurette Edelmann, assistant director of the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits.Says the Wired article:

…a new type of Web 2.0-enhanced nonprofit advocacy group is streamlining the process like never before, producing and distributing slick, effective videos in internet time.  Thanks to converging developments in campaign finance law, the improving technology of digital cameras and the rise of online social networking, voters’ inboxes this election season will be filled at strategic moments with forwarded web addresses for issue-oriented ads…

Brave New Films, the production company whose ads sparked the article, is a registered 501(c)4 – a “social welfare organization.”   These groups are allowed to participate in political campaigning, as long as that isn’t their primary objective.  Because political campaigning is not, theoretically, their main activity, they are not required to disclose their donor lists, unlike the the “issue advocacy” 527s, which were popular during the 2004 election.

In the Chronicle interview, Kay Guinane comments on the role played by 501(c)4 organizations in the election:

IRS rules do not limit how much lobbying 501(c)(4)s can do, but their electoral work cannot be their major purpose. (A nonprofit whose major purpose is to influence elections is tax exempt under Section 527 of the tax code.) The sticky question for 501(c)(4)s is how much electoral work they can do before it becomes their major purpose. The IRS has not cleary defined this. It is also important that the electoral work be related to the 501(c)(4) group’s overall mission.

She also argues that it is important for nonprofits, even 501(c)3 organizations to get involved in the political process by educating voters, but there is still a danger of diluting the mission and becoming targets of political fundraising if they get too deeply involved.

So how involved is too involved?  Where should the line be drawn for 501(c)4 organizations that are flooding the airwaves with political ads?  Should a line be drawn?  Do nonprofits need to be more involved? Are unregulated 501(c)4 organizations setting a bad precedent for other nonprofits, including 501(c)3 organizations?

They Come in the Name of Helping

Posted by alison on February 8th, 2008

Peter Brock, a student at Skidmore College produced this documentary, They Come in the Name of Helping.  It’s a different perspective on international philanthropy – mainly from the people who are supposed to benefit.  This came to my attention through Peter Deitz’s blog where he also posted a great interview with Peter Brock.  Click here to watch the film.


Is Your Relationship with Your Charity Going Nowhere Fast?

Posted by alison on February 7th, 2008

“We need to talk.  I feel like all I do is give and give and give, but never get anything in return.  I can’t keep this up.  I’m sorry…it’s over.”

Does that sound familiar?  Maybe you’ve used that line before.  Maybe you were just watching Sex and the City reruns last night.  Or maybe you were talking to your (formerly) favorite charity.

When people donate to an organization, they feel like they will forever be solicited by spam email and countless donation requests in their mailbox.  This can sometimes deter them from donating again, or even from making a donation in the first place.

I like to call my personal donation strategy, “People I Know and Places I Go.”

People I Know:

  • New Spirit: I know founders Pat Sears and Barry Kingston and believe in the work they’re doing.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston: Here, my connection is not with the Hospital, but my brother is running the Boston Marathon for the Hospital this year, so I choose to support them through him.

Places I Go:

  • Church: Admittedly I’m not the most regular church-goer, but I put money in the basket every time I attend mass.
  • Alma Maters: I give to both my high school and undergraduate university. I haven’t yet, but will likely give to my graduate program as well.
  • GlobalGiving:  Well, I do come to work here every day.

But the difference between these causes and others is that my relationship with them was already solidified.  I will keep giving to these organizations and institutions because I have a personal connection to them.  It doesn’t matter to me how much or how little I am solicited because they no longer need to convince me to give.  I’ve been fully converted.

But how do you develop a relationship without seeming too eager?  What’s the charitable equivalent of waiting at least three days before you call to ask about a second date?  How can someone develop a lasting relationship with a charity if it isn’t a “place they go” or “person they know”?  How is that loyalty developed?  I have a couple ideas:

  1. Get Involved:  Sometimes the best approach isn’t to try to get people excited about you, but find out what they’re already excited about and get involved.  It’s not a coincidence that Red Sox fans go crazy for Jimmy Fund Telethon Day at Fenway.
  2. Relevancy:  Find out what you can mean to a donor; what “void” you are filling in their life.  Associate yourself with that – as long as you keep fulfilling the need, they’re likely to come back to you.
  3. Be an Experience:  Donating shouldn’t be like a toll booth; a one way stop for depositing money.  Make donors like what they’re doing enough to want to do it again.
  4. Accountability:  This has 2 steps; a) follow through on what you say you’re going to do, and b) exceed expectations.

We’re Looking for a Few Good Ninjas

Posted by Donna Callejon on February 6th, 2008

Are you an incredible web developer, Java programmer, or user interface ninja? If so, we’d love talk to you. GlobalGiving is growing fast and we’re looking to expand our team. We’ve got openings in web development, marketing, and business development. So even if HTML isn’t your kung fu, we’ve got lots of opportunities for you to check out. For those techies out there, here’s the web developer job description:

Java Web Developer Ninja

Do you love to use your kung-fu skills to design and program engaging web sites? Do you have a black belt in creating beautiful code as well as interfaces? Do you want to work on a site that actually makes an impact on people’s lives?, an online marketplace for international grassroots charities, is looking for a black belt Java web developer. We’re looking for someone who loves to take charge of a project and see it all the way from a few loosely defined requirements to interface design, implementation, launch, and maintenance. Day-to-day tasks involve Java programming, user interface design, graphic development, and some server administration.

Although we’re small, we’ve got our fingers in a lot of cookie jars. You’ll have the opportunity to work with a lot of cutting edge technologies. We have a fast paced yet casual environment and are located in the U Street area of Washington, DC. We seek socially responsible team members who have an interest in leveraging their skills to improve the world and make an amazing dot-org web site.

Benefits include flexible work hours, a fully loaded MacBook Pro with secondary monitor, a convenient downtown DC location, and a meaningful job where you can go home at night and say “today, my work helped rescue 97 girls from bonded labor in India.” (One of many true stories.) And don’t worry – we’ve also got the usual benefits like 401K, health care, and paid vacation.

If you’re up for the challenge and are passionate about our cause, please send resume and cover letter to “jobs at globalgiving dot com” with the subject line “Java Web Developer”. Principals only. Salary range dependent on skill and experience.

Required Kung Fu Level Skills

  • Java programming (Java 5+ EE) that actually uses sound OO principles (owning a copy Design Patterns or Head First isn’t enough)
  • Experience with MVC frameworks and persistency frameworks such as iBatis or Hibernate
  • Ability to write beautiful web pages using cross-browser compliant HTML, CSS 2.0, and a Javascript framework (e,g. jQuery, Prototype)
  • Solid graphic design skills are ideal, but we only require familiarity with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Enough knowledge of Linux, Apache/Tomcat, and MySql to be trusted with super user level access
  • Sense of humor, love of music, and desire to change the world

Harnessing the Millenials for Good

Posted by Donna Callejon on February 5th, 2008

A lot has already been written about the myriad “social networks for good” that sprouted up in 2007. Some stories overstate the impact so far, and many take a cynical view of the power of these networks to raise MONEY. It’s one thing, they argue, to get friends to become ‘fans” online, and another altogether different thing to get 20-somethings to give. This may be true, but in the last week there have been some pretty powerful signs that online giving – to political or charitable causes – is something the emerging generation will be well-poised to embrace.

Take for example, this Tech Crunch report on Barack Obama’s fundraising in January. $28 of $32 million! “…That means Obama raised more money in January online than Howard Dean raised in his entire 2003/2004 campaign (he raised a total of $27 million). Barack’s $28 million in online contributions came from more than 250,000 contributors. 90% were under $100. 40% were $25 or less, and 10,000 people gave $5 or $10 to the campaign.” It’s universally accepted that Obama is appealing disproportionately to younger voters – those who in the future will have larger sums to contribute.

A second encouraging sign is the success of the Case Foundation’s Facebook Giving Challenge (the companion to the Parade/Case America’s Giving that GG was part of as well). The top three fundraisers attracted a combined total of almost 11,000 unique donors.

Another experiment we’ll be really interested to watch is the United Way’s Text-for-Good SuperBowl ad. It’s already been blogged by our friend Lucy B. We did some experimentation with text-to-give a year or so ago via PayPal, but it met with a deafening silence of uptake. Of course, we weren’t advertising during the Super Bowl.

All of these examples point to the level of engagement of a “younger skewed” audience. They are more likely to transact online and one day they will have a bunch more money…

We don’t have it in stock, but they do.

Posted by dennis on February 5th, 2008

In the financial markets, there are rules that if a particular exchange is unable to execute an order, they must route that order to a competing exchange immediately.

This is from a nice blog post by Sean Stannard-Stockton. He points out that in the nascent philanthropic financial markets, there is no obligation to re-route donors to another philanthropic exchange under similar circumstances.

At GlobalGiving, we have informal agreements with a number of other exchanges, and we do refer donors to partners when it makes sense. This helps us meet our pledge to donors that they will be satisfied with their experience at GlobalGiving. It also helps our partners grow, and it generates goodwill for all involved, which pays off over the long term.

Together with a loose coalition of other philanthropic exchanges from around the world, we have been exploring whether it makes sense to develop a formal inter-operability framework. This framework might include common standards and the ability to automatically fulfill donations referred by other exchanges.

Sean is right: making the non-profit social capital market more effective means that this type of collaboration needs to be accelerated.

The Expectations Game (i.e. the Failure of 18-1)

Posted by alison on February 4th, 2008

I thought the day after arguably one of the biggest upsets in sports history would be a good opportunity to talk about expectations – why we have them,  where they get us and how we can manage them.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were expected, by most, to win Super Bowl XLII – and why not? They had played 18 games this season without losing.  Reasonable expectation, no?

The result of last night’s underwhelming-until-the-last-four-minutes game produced nationwide headlines of “Giant Upset” and “Shocker” – playing up the expectations of the Patriots to win – while the Boston publications, like the Globe and the Herald, furiously backpedaled.  “Pressure Got to Them,” “Finish Wasn’t as Shocking as It Seemed” and “Nobody’s Perfect” were prominent headlines – downplaying previous expectations.

But we’re not here to talk sports.  We’re talking expectations.

1.  Why do we have them?  When we invest in something, – whether it’s our time or money (or in the case of some sports fans, our souls) – we want something in return – monetary repayment, merchandise, affection, a good feeling, just one more win.  It’s a natural occurance; exchanging of currency, in whatever its form, should result in a product equal in value.

2.  Where do they get us?  Sometimes our expectations get us what we want.  Without them, we’d be aimless.  How would we know how much to invest, if we didn’t know what we wanted in return?  How would we know something’s value if we didn’t know what it was worth to us?  But there are other times when our expectations do lead to disappointment and anger – and not just at opposing sports teams.  So…

3.  How do we manage them?  Sometimes what we want and what we get are not the same.  And sometimes an identical investment by two separate people yields different results as well.  So how do we value our returns?  This comes down to communication – on both sides.

When you order at a restaurant, you have to tell the waiter what you want to eat.  In return, you expect to be served what you requested.  You can’t walk into a restaurant, put a specific amount of money on the table and reasonably expect to be served what you wanted without asking for it.  Similarly, after ordering, a waiter can’t bring you something completely different and reasonably expect you to be happy with it (or leave a good tip).

When you make any investment, – or donation – it is important to be clear about what you expect in return.  But at the same time, organizations – including nonprofits – are responsible for articulating what an investor or donor can expect to receive in return – whether it’s a product, a receipt or an update.  Clear communication reduces the occurence of missed expectations.  The tricky part happens when what we think the investor/donor wants isn’t the same as what they actually want.  This disconnect can cause disappointment.

Today Seth Godin analyzed similar marketing motivators: fear, hope and love., citing that one of these three things influences all of our actions.  If that’s true, then our expectations are derived from the same place.  If we act out of fear, then our expectation is that by acting, we can stop being afriad.  If we act out of hope, then our expectations is that by acting, our desire will be fulfilled.

Are we doing enough to meet donors’ expectations?  Do we know what the donor really wants?  How can we reduce the disconnect between what we think the donor should want and what they are actually expecting from us?