Archive for September, 2009

 

Reminded Why We Do This Thing Called GlobalGiving

Posted by Donna Callejon on September 29th, 2009

Last Friday the GlobalGiving office looked like a college freshman boy’s dorm room, albeit with fewer beer bottles around. We were in this stacking, dumping, pizza-box mode as we prepared for a move to our new office space.  We are moving because we have outgrown our existing space – thanks to increasing donation volume, support from our capital funders, and because we have been able to attract an amazing number of free or almost-free “interns” who are in transition.

And into this chaos stepped Dennis Gaboury, one of the top finalists in our recent Global Open Challenge, and founder of ZimKids.

ZimKids is not a 501(c)3, and had never done any formal fundraising before last month.  Dennis is a sculptor whose wife was on a Fulbright in Zimbabwe when he started volunteering his time working with orphaned and sick kids…and morphed into an amazing social entrepreneur.    When they started the Challenge they just hoped they could find 50 people and $4,000 worth of donations and get on the site permanently.  What they ended up with was more than $30,000 and over 120 donors, and third place in the Challenge.

But the real gift of Dennis’ visit was not hearing about how they succeeded in the Challenge.  It was in hearing about his experience in Zimbabwe, and his love for the kids he works with.  Rather than being in constant survival mode these 160 kids now have a radically transformed day-to-day existence, lengthened life expectancies, and more chances for economic self-sufficiency.

Dennis is the type of social entrepreneur that motivated Mari and Dennis to start GlobalGiving, especially representing those who have no other way of raising tax-efficient charitable funds in the U.S., and his visit was a welcome break in the packing.  More importantly, it reminded us why we do what we do – whether in our old crowded dorm room space, or our new, slightly nicer home.

Per capita, Pitcairn Island is GlobalGiving’s #1 recipient in the world

Posted by Marc Maxson on September 24th, 2009

As the metrics guy, oddities sometimes appear in the GlobalGiving database. For example, today I learned Pitcairn Island received $158 per resident through GlobalGiving project #996: Boat-Shed Construction at Pitcairn Island. When there are 50 people on one island, $7,301 has a major impact.

Pitcairn Island facts:

  1. These guys are the decendents of the Mutiny on the Bounty crew, and their Tahitian wives
  2. All are Seventh-Day Adventists
  3. They have their own Internet domain, “.pn”
  4. They now have a boat shed, built by GlobalGivers!

If you are interested, the top 6 countries supported through GlobalGiving per capita are:

  1. Pitcairn Islands (pop. 46)
  2. Liberia (pop. 3,317,176)
  3. St. Vincent and the Grenadines (pop. 116,812)
  4. Rwanda (pop. 7,810,056)
  5. Haiti (pop. 7,527,817)
  6. Kenya (pop. 31,639,091)

Sadly, support to the other countries comes to a mere 2 to 7 cents per citizen.

What it all means: The Global Open Challenge Leaderboard

Posted by Marc Maxson on September 17th, 2009


Earlier today, Dennis Whittle was looking at the Global Open Challenge leaderboard over John’s shoulder.
“Can you believe it? This page is getting more traffic than our homepage!” John said.
“Naturally. This is where the action is,” I said.

Meanwhile, our accountant James has been clicking the refresh screen every 2 minutes. “Look, an organization just overtook the #5 spot!”
What does it all mean?” Dennis asked. “This is the most dynamic thing on our site. I was at a conference, and someone mentioned his experience getting on the site and this leaderboard in the same breath.”

I am realizing that it all adds up to something different than we ever expected.

Now, I think our impact comes by transforming nonprofits to be more effective, more responsive, and more successful in turning those million little earth changing ideas into a better world.

This transformation comes in the first 30 days, if it comes at all. We train organizations on social media. Some adopt the best practices. Then we test everyone.

Those who fail still gain, sometimes even more, because the staff come back with a new hunger for learning. That hunger is what the official aid guys have been struggling to create for decades. And we get it for free, because everyone wants to be noticed and validated on the leaderboard.

It takes failure before some realize that we mean it when we say that they own their success. The work they do determines the funds they raise, not some granting foundation. Regular people empower the organization, especially when the people see they are part of something meaningful, a community with a cause. This dynamic is why the leaderboard matters.

As a PhD neuroscientist and a teacher, I fully believe testing and failure is how we make progress. Scientific research is about learning through failure. The Open Challenge is a test of whether nonprofits have a sustaining community of supporters.

Winners like Critical Exposure who built that community during the open challenge can attest to being transformed in three weeks (from Jared Schwartz of Frogloop.com, a nonprofit online marketing blog):

  • “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.”
  • “They actually wanted more updates from us!”

What it means:

A community based organization in Zimbabwe can now compete with a 501(c)3 nonprofit in New York City, if enough people care about them. What matters is how passionate their supporters are in advocating on behalf of the great work the organization is doing.

New Read: Half the Sky

Posted by caroline little on September 16th, 2009

This week at GlobalGiving many of us are reading the new book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Pulitzer- Prize winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

While exposing the horrors women in the developing world face on a daily basis—gender-based violence like honor killings and genital mutilation, the sex trade, and high rates of easily preventable maternal mortality—the book also shows how changing the circumstances of just one woman can have a powerful ripple effect on her family and the community at-large. Through the work of our GlobalGiving project leaders, we’re lucky enough to see the effects of empowering disadvantaged women first hand.

Consider this update posted earlier this year from a women’s collective in Bihar, India who is looking to raise funds to help support their sewing centers that provide a community space and help women learn a valuable trade: “I was married two years ago and I am lucky because my husband is kind to me and gives me permission to go to the market and sewing centre. But some other members are not so lucky, but under pressure from all of us we get their husbands not to object to their wives coming to the centre. Here we are learning a useful skill but this is the only place we can meet as women in friendship and in mutual support. We are now stopping drunken behavior from the men, we have patrolled the village with 35 of us forcing the local drinking shop to close, now drunken beatings are a thing of the past and our village is more peaceful and we feel more secure.”

We’re so pleased that Kristof and WuDunn have brought this important issue to the forefront, and are humbled to be included in the book under “Four Steps You Can Take in the Next Ten Minutes.” Right now we’re featuring a great promotion; donate $100 to any GlobalGiving project and receive a copy of Half the Sky for free. Check out our Half the Sky page for some pre-selected projects that relate to the book.

If you’ve already had a chance to read the book, please share your thoughts! What story did you find the most compelling? Where do you think change needs to happen most urgently, and through what means?

We are listening: real-time feedback loops

Posted by Marc Maxson on September 16th, 2009

feedback loopIn the GlobalGiving office, people usually introduce me by saying “…and Marc does evaluations.” That’s not accurate. A truer story would be, “Marc facilitates feedback loops.” And over my first year here, we’ve been able to do more of that.

A feedback loop isn’t anything fancy. This is where someone tells you something, and you pass it on to the person who most needs to know, then you take what that second person says in response and feed it back to the first person. *I* don’t need to evaluate anything to ensure that people are hearing from each other. But these conversations are much more powerful than the most sophisticated super computer or all the analysis a team of experts can provide.

As a neuroscientist, I studied feedback loops in the brain, and feedback alone (copied 10 trillion times over) within a network is enough to provide humans with sentient intelligence.  Pubmed it if ye doubt the claim.

Today I am happy to announce that Mari Kuraishi, GlobalGiving’s president, is presenting a case study on the power of feedback, titled “Real-time technology aided feedback loops in international philanthropy” at the Skoll skollINTERNATIONAL SOCIAL INNOVATION RESEARCH CONFERENCE (ISIRC)

This case study follows one Kenyan organization that struggled to provide promised services to the atheletes’ satisfaction. How did we find out? First, I visited the organization and handed out bumper stickers that read, “What does your community need? Tell us: GlobalGiving.org/ideas.” We wanted the community to know that GlobalGiving is listening to them.

ideas sticker

I didn’t know at the time that a bumper sticker would start a chain reaction that would get people in the community involved with giving the organization greater direction. This dialogue between the organization and the people it aimed to serve took many turns and ultimately caused the founder to leave the city and a new organization under the leadership of the youth athletes themselves to emerge. After months of hard work, including 3 visitors who send in visitor postcards and 3 other people who were full time volunteers working with this organization, we can at least breathe a sigh of relief. Not because the problems are gone, but at least the youth have had their voices heard and are now trying to help themselves.

We don’t know if this new organization, the Manyatta Youth Resource Center will ultimately succeed, or whether the old organization, Sacrena, will re-emerge as a stronger organization, more responsive to the community. You can’t predict when or how social change will take place. All you can do is keep listening, and keep sending these messages back and fourth so that the people with the cash hear from the people in the grass of every grassroots project.

Speaking of which, the new Manyatta Youth Resource Center is temporarily being supported through one of our Global Open Challenge projects, the Amani Na Upendo Dev Youth Group, who I am afraid is currently unable to attract any donations online by itself. Such is the paradox of grassroots philanthropy. Many of the most responsive local village-based organizations lack the social connections and international exposure needed to raise money. We know about this problem, and struggle with it daily.

But if you read this case study and want to help – tell us. We’ll send your message back to them and start another feedback loop. Another way you can help is to give the Upendo group a donation.

I’ll summarize in another post the aspects of this paper that relate to how new technology makes it possible for the people to advise donors and implenters about progress with continuous feedback.

Note: You can read all visitor postcards on our site: http://www.globalgiving.com/projects/youth-sport-in-kenya/updates/ but I think the full paper summarizes the series of events more concisely, also available from the youth-sport-in-kenya (DOC FILE LINK) page.

I love hearing about community supported organizations

Posted by Marc Maxson on September 11th, 2009

I think the best sign that a nonprofit organization is worth your time is hearing stories of what the people it has helped are willing to do to help it. Perla Ni’s organization, GreatNonprofits.org is doing this. Yale professor of political science and economics, Chris Blattman, today brought Meeting Point, an AIDS hospice run by his friend Ketty Opoka, to my attention:

From the Times‘ Freakonomics blog:

When floods struck Meeting Point’s headquarters in 2007 …[they had to]… move to higher ground or risk further flooding, Meeting Point secured a plot of land from the local Catholic Church.

Opoka asked her clients to help clear the land. So many volunteers showed up that Meeting Point’s staff had to implement a rotating shift schedule for the land clearing. The local hospital’s doctors told Opoka that while the land was being cleared, Meeting Point clients showed up early for their ARV [anti-retroviral drug treatment] regimes, toting hoes and shovels and begging doctors to wait on them first so they could head to Meeting Point for their shifts.

You’ll Chris Blattmanbe hard pressed to find a worthier cause,” – Chris Blattman added.

We want to do our part, and there are ways Chris Blattman or anyone can help. He could have nominated this organization to join GlobalGiving at our open page, using the 3rd party nomination form. GlobalGiving will follow-up and hopefully get them into a new project challenge that will increase the chance someone reads about the organization and gives.

Learning how to fish.

Posted by margaret on September 11th, 2009

The Giving USA 2009 Report on Philanthropy tells us that giving is down for the first time in more than a decade (and for only the second time since 1956) and that 82% of giving comes from individuals.  Bummer or opportunity?   At GlobalGiving we see opportunity. If we can help individual project leaders learn how to use new tools and how to fundraise from a larger pool of individuals then sustained growth is possible.  (Teaching people how to fish and all of that.)

This summer GlobalGiving held our first American Open Challenge targeted to give training and tools to US grass roots projects.  The hope was that we could help small non profits raise funds that they had not counted on, attract donors they did not know and survive another year.  Did it work?

From a macro view-it certainly was successful. 73 new organizations to GlobalGIving raised $331,000 in 3 weeks.  Terrific but was this a one hit wonder or was there learning, adoption and motivation for sustained changes in fundraising and donor expansion?

We have been digging deeper to understand how our new partners view the experience. Following is what we heard about their fishing expeditions.

  • They developed intense 3 week plans to communicate, coerce and convince their friends, relatives, acquaintances and donors to spread the word and take action.
  • They used all media available to them (GlobalGiving showed them how)Face book, Twitter, Linked In, email–although there was labor time the out of pocket costs were insignificant. And they did not worry too much about burn out–they keep the messages and touch point flowing.
  • The ask was simple–give if you canand if not—–tell your friends and colleagues–building the extended network is critical.
  • They reached out to local media outlets using GlobalGiving tools and found that the press will report on the little guys who are making a difference.
  • They were clear about what was at stake and the urgency of the request.

So, will the fishing continue? The answer has been a resounding,’ YES’!  The projects we have interviewed tell us that between 70 and 90% of the donors were new to their organization.  Whole new groups of donors to explore and engage for the future. To that end GlobalGiving is constructing a fourth quarter promotion to help our current partners maximize giving from current donors and to attract new donors and fans.

GlobalGIving will also run our second American Open in October of this year to support more new fishermen/women.  We hope to help many more project leaders enjoy the feast!

https://www.globalgiving.com/contactus/project2.html

Social Media and Crowd Sourcing for Successful Fundraising Online

Posted by kerry on September 10th, 2009

Frogloop, Care2’s awesome blog, has a great post by Jared Schwartz  that features Critical Exposure’s success in GlobalGiving’s first American Open Challenge as an example of how Social Networking and Crowd Sourcing can help organizations raise funds and motivate their supporters.

Here at GlobalGiving, we’ve been providing social networking and crowd sourcing training to our nonprofit project leaders in the U.S. and abroad. We’ve found organizations that use techniques like the ones Critical Exposure  employed for the American Open Challenge have been most successful not only during GlobalGiving’s fundraising challenges but in online fundraising  and supporter activation efforts in general.

Definitely read the entire post.  But if you don’t have time I’ve outlined in my own words 3 key takeaways for successful crowdsourcing:

1. Ask your network of supporters to help you fundraise by telling everyone they know about your cause and current efforts.
2. Keep your supporters updated on your organization’s progress and let them know they are part of something special.
3. Have a clear message, with a clear call to action that you repeat over and over again using all of your communication channels (aka message saturation).

Oh, and if your organization is interested in participating in the next American Open Challenge, you can find more information on the registration page. Critical Exposure raised $15,000 and won an additional $5,000 for being a top fundraiser in the last challenge.

4 Stars – and Proud of It!

Posted by alison on September 7th, 2009

It’s with pride, and a virtual bang of the gong (banging on a real gong is the way we celebrate achievements and good news in the GlobalGiving office) that we announce some exciting news:  GlobalGiving has been awarded a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator!

Charity Navigator currently “rates” over 5,000 501(c)3 organizations in the US by examining a charity’s financial health, and then awarding an overall rating – between 0 and 4 stars.  While sometimes criticized for focusing too narrowly on financial ratios that do not evaluate the “big picture” and outcomes of an organization’s work, Charity Navigator remains the most-utilized evaluator of charities, and many donors factor these ratings into their giving decisions.

In 2008, the first time GlobalGiving was eligible to be evaluated (4 years of IRS Form 990s are required to be considered), we scored a respectable 3 stars. This year, based on updated financial information, we were excited to learn that we have earned the 4-star rating based on (in Charity Navigator’s words) “(its) ability to efficiently manage and grow its finances.  Approximately a quarter  of the charities we evaluate have received our highest rating, indicating that GlobalGiving executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way, and outperforms most other charities in America.  This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator differentiates GlobalGiving from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.”

GlobalGiving is committed to extremely high standards around accountability, fiscal responsibility, and transparency, and we are proud of what this rating represents.  Especially during these tough economic times, we know that donors are giving extra thought to how they spend their donation dollars – and we hope this external validation gives them even greater confidence that they are making smart choices when they give to a project on GlobalGiving.

We appreciate your continued support!

Tracking what matters in online fundraising

Posted by Marc Maxson on September 1st, 2009

John List at the University of Chicago studies fundraising strategies. In a recent article he said, “Especially in difficult times, it’s very important to learn what works and doesn’t work. I’m trying to change a sector that’s run on anecdotes into a sector that’s run based on scientific research.”

The down economy has resulted in some peculiar findings. List finds that phone marketing is more effective than direct mail, and door-to-door fundraisers get more people to open doors but with fewer donations:

 In one test, instead of knocking, they left fliers stating they’d be back during a specific time frame the next day. Before the economic meltdown, most people weren’t home or didn’t answer the door that second day. By early fall, however, people were more likely to answer the door, yet less likely to give. He concluded that most giving — more than 75% — is indeed driven by social pressure. It’s just that the economy provides a way out while still saving face. “Before the meltdown, if you answered the door, it was very difficult to say no,” Mr. List says. “But now people have a built-in excuse.” Source: www.chicagobusiness.com

One way we’ve tried to get beyond anecdote-driven fundraising strategies is by systematically collecting information about what works in online nonprofit fundraising and sharing that with our organizations. Take a look at our Global Open challenge.  It takes a different approach to raise money from a lot of people – a social media based strategy – and we are eager to join the conversation about what works. One way is to periodically link to other places and people whom we think you ought to know about, if you are trying to pursue funding for your little earth changing idea in a crowd-sourced way.

The other is to ask you what you think. Please submit comments!