Snap Picks and Skin in the Game

This week I got interested in college hoops again. Since my Wahoos were a major disappointment, I haven’t been following things as much as I usually do, or more precisely, I haven’t watched a single game or read a single article about a single team (save the bad news about the ‘Hoos) this season.

Still, I can’t resist participating in pools. I’m in the office pool and my book club pool for $10 each. I literally spent less than five minutes filling out both brackets with no research. After day one, I’m 14 for 16 on one bracket and 10 for 16 (ouch) on the other.

So, why bother? I guess I feel like my snap decisions are potentially as good as informed decisions. Unless you’re extremely well-informed, it’s tough to pick the surprises. But now, I have skin in the game and a reason to follow things.

For me the pleasure of the brackets is isolated. I don’t care that my decisions aren’t smart or the result of following players and trends and picking mismatches. I just like seeing how my brackets evolve, leaving things up to chance and ultimately caring about teams I would otherwise never have followed. Maybe I’ll even annoy my expert friends in the process.

I spoke with a donor this week who chose to fund two projects based on well-reasoned, but entirely self-defined criteria. Now that results are coming in, the donor is interested in seeing the funded projects in a larger context. How did the funding choices contribute to solving a problem in a specific part of the world? If funding were expanded how much greater would the impact be? Is there a chance to solve a problem for a whole community? A whole region?

The Wisdom of Crowds informs our thinking at GlobalGiving.  Individual decisions made with limited and imperfect information can add up to effective distribution of charitable funds – a compelling and hopeful idea. What donors might not be getting from us is satisfaction in knowing that donations are part of something bigger. A small donation can move a major problem closer to a solution, but it’s tough to communicate how that happens through this marketplace of different ideas and approaches around the world.

A challenge is to help donors see how $10 decisions contribute to the general good. Just like my $10 investment in the college hoops pool, now I care and want to see what happens in the end.

1 Comment

Kathleen Sparkes

about 7 years ago

I just returned from a visit to Morocco, where I served in the Peace Corps 40 years ago. There is a strong commitment by the government for rural development. When I read about the potable water project being sponsored by the High Atlas Foundation and GlobalGiving, I knew how significant the success of this would be for these villages. I also know how meaningful a small donation can be in the general economic framework of Morocco. The total donated to this project so far is still very low, so I encourage people to put in their ten dollars. It seems that the goal is far off, but with numerous ten dollar (or more, don't feel limited!) it can be reached.

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