Alison Carlman Posts

Crowdsourcing Compassion from a Global Community

“The war in Liberia and the Ebola situation we are going through are enough to tell us what those people are going through.”  — Nelly Cooper, President, West Point Women for Health and Development

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After the devastating April 2015 earthquakes, Nepali communities are working to rebuild, and the GlobalGiving community has stepped up to respond with tremendous compassion. We’ve seen people giving from 111 countries around the world, including young children, grandparents, Nepali citizens, climbers who have summited Mt. Everest, and leading companies and their employees. Among this outpouring of generosity, one $200 donation and its accompanying message stood out to the GlobalGiving staff:

“We’re donating this money because we know what it is like to be in a situation like the one the people of Nepal find themselves in.  Many of us were so devastated during the war in Liberia; we lost everything, even loved ones. Now looking at what we saw on TV and on the internet about Nepal, really motivated us to help with the little we are able to give right now.”

The donation was sent by the grassroots nonprofit West Point Women for Health and Development, a GlobalGiving partner working in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.  Over the past year, Nelly Cooper, the organization’s president, and the West Point Women have played a vital role in the frontline fight against Ebola. Many volunteered to lead community education and advocacy efforts during the epidemic’s height, even as their own families were affected by the disease. The West Point Women have helped Liberia become Ebola-free, and they have a unique understanding of how such crises impact communities in the near and long terms.

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The West Point Women for Health and Development volunteer team were at the front lines in the fight against Ebola

You, as part of the GlobalGiving community, have played an important role, too. The work of the West Point Women has been funded, in part, by donations to GlobalGiving’s Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund. We’re so touched by their own generosity and desire to ‘pay it forward’ to other GlobalGiving partners.

This isn’t the first time that nonprofits in the GlobalGiving community have supported one another from across the world during times of need: New Orleans-based Tipitina’s Foundation is dedicated to helping at-risk youth access musical instruments and education. In March 2011, Tipitina used funds they had raised for their own program to purchase instruments for programs working with Japanese youth impacted by the tsunami. Noted Kim Katner, Managing Director of Tipitina’s Foundation, “I personally know that I would not have made it through the aftermath of Katrina if it wasn’t for music.”

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After the 2011earthquake and tsunami in Japan, kids from Tipitina used money they’d raised to buy their own instruments to send Instruments to Bright Kids Music Club of the Tagajo-Higashi Elementary School

Most recently, a team of Japanese and Korean volunteers, affected by their own local crises (the 2011 tsunami and 2014 ferry disaster, respectively), traveled to Nepal to build temporary shelters with IsraAID. The volunteers are also providing psychosocial support to earthquake survivors and sharing their own personal experiences with recovery and rebuilding.

“When we created GlobalGiving, we knew that nonprofits in our community would benefit from sharing ideas, information, and connections. But we never imagined that we’d see the community come together in this way, with Ebola survivors in Liberia or tsunami survivors from Korea demonstrating such generosity to earthquake survivors a half a world away,” said Mari Kuraishi, GlobalGiving co-founder and president.  “With GlobalGiving, it’s possible for anyone in the world to make a meaningful, positive difference, especially after a tragedy.”

Special thanks to Menaka Chandurkar for her collaboration on this article. 

Using Data to Drive Donations: key findings from our work with DataKind

By Alison Carlman, in partnership with Miriam Young from DataKind

Recently we worked with DataKind to analyze project data from our website to learn what our nonprofit partners can do to maximize their potential for donations.

A project page on GlobalGiving.org

 

If you’ve ever visited more than a few pages on GlobalGiving, you’ll know that our project pages are the main hub of all fundraising activity on the web platform. Project pages are the pages where organizations describe their needs and give their best pitch to attract potential donors. We recently worked with a team of DataKind volunteers to analyze our data, helping us identify what impacts a nonprofit’s fundraising success.

How can organizations maximize their donations on GlobalGiving?

We already use data to drive our work (after all, our chief core value is Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat.), but we wanted to go deeper using data science (and some excellent data scientists) to uncover what leads to nonprofits successfully reaching their fundraising goals. We hope to use this information as we refine our search algorithm to help donors find projects they’re most interested in and also help nonprofits maximize their ability to attract donors.

Data science uses statistical and computational analysis to turn unwieldy amounts of data into actionable information to guide organizational decision making. Think of the many online services you use like LinkedIn, Netflix, or Amazon. These companies already use data generated by users on their sites to better serve their customers – making recommendations to help you use their services more effectively. We’re doing the same thing, using the same data science techniques that companies use to boost profits to advance our mission.

We first participated in a DataKind weekend DataDive, supported by Teradata, last October to do initial analysis of our project data to determine what factors led to projects being successfully funded. The team then handed off its findings to another team of DataKind volunteers – Jon Roberts, Ana Areias, Tim Rich, and Nate MacNamara – for a multi-month project to uncover insights about donor behavior that would help optimize our search ranking algorithm.

So what do nonprofits that fundraise successfully on GlobalGiving have in common? Many things: they get high traffic on their project page, they have a strong social media presence and a broad base of followers outside GlobalGiving. We wanted to hone in on the component it we could influence the most – the project page. Improving the project page itself with even minor tweaks, or providing nonprofits with tips backed by data can have a huge impact on fundraising success over time.

The DataKind volunteer team worked closely with our tech team to analyze which aspects of the project page led to higher conversion rates for donors. Looking at data from more than 4,000 project pages that had at least 100 visitors each, the volunteers looked for patterns and useful insights that could help us guide partners on best practices for maximizing donations.

Key learnings

The DataKind team looked at a variety of features of the project page, including project title, funding amount, number of donors, photos, length and content of project summaries. What impact, if any, did these things have on the project reaching its funding goal? The team found a few factors that had a clear influence on a project’s conversion or donation rate:

1. A “call-to-action” in the project summary 

There is a 14% higher conversion rate for projects that included a call-to-action in the project summary. Surprisingly, however, putting a call-to-action in the project title did not appear to make an impact on a project’s conversion rate. Titles may be important for getting traffic to a project, but it appears the project summary is king when it comes to inspiring people to give on GlobalGiving.

2. Longer project summaries (30-35 words)

Going against the traditional wisdom that short and sweet is always best, the team actually found that a project’s conversion rate increased with project summary length. To a point. But there is a sweet spot of 30-35 words, as summaries longer than 35 words encountered diminishing returns.

3. Specific language

At the DataDive, volunteers did text analysis of various project pages and found a correlation between specificity of language and a nonprofit’s project fundraising success. For example, nonprofits raised less money when they used generic words like funding for the “arts” versus a specific project like “a photography exhibit.”

4. Higher fundraising goals ($25,000-$50,000)
There seems to be a sweet spot of $25,000-$50,000 being correlated with increased conversion rates. This implies organizations should set their project goal in this range where possible and, if more funds are needed, launch a second project in the same range instead of simply increasing the original project’s requested amount.

Now, as any good stats student knows, correlation is not causation. All of these findings were based on inferential analysis of GlobalGiving’s existing data, which means we don’t know if these factors actually caused increased conversion rates. Nevertheless, the findings offer powerful information for our team to experiment with as we make recommendations for our partners going forward.

Start your journey

This project might also get you thinking about what hidden learnings are in your data. Data is everywhere. Your organization may have a web platform ours where you’re constantly generating data, or may have other sources like program intake forms, surveys or social media analytics. And don’t forget the wide range of publicly-available data provided by government agencies and others that can shed light into how your organization can maximize its impact.

If you’re interested in learning how your organization can tap the power of data science to improve your efforts, check out NTEN’s Data Community of Practice, Data Analysts for Social Good or reach out to the DataKind team at contact@datakind.org for advice on how to get started. If you think a data science project might help you scale your work, apply on the DataKind website for support!

All data science journeys begin with a question. What question will help your organization move the needle on the issue you care most about? DataKind love to help you answer it.

Guest Post: Why You Should Help the Nepalis, and How to Start

This post was written by Chris Wolz, GlobalGiving Board Member, and President/CEO Forum One.

When I heard Saturday morning, April 25, 2015, that there had been an earthquake in Nepal, I let out a gasp and uttered to myself “oh, no.” Oh no. Like many who have lived and worked in Nepal, I love the Nepali people and their beautiful, colorful, chaotic, friendly country. I also know that Kathmandu city is jammed full of 1+ million people, and narrow lanes lined with many shoddily built, and brittle, brick buildings. And I’ve walked through many villages in the surrounding hills, past the humble stone and mud walled homes of farm families, homes that probably won’t withstand an earthquake.

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Chris with the Bhajogun Village Water Committee in 1984

Nepal is a place close to our family. My wife Eugenie and I both worked there for four years right out of college. I worked for the Peace Corps and UNICEF and the Nepali Government building drinking water systems in the rural hills near Ilam, and Eugenie was nearby with the Dutch Development Agency (SNV) on a UNICEF women’s microcredit program. We eventually met, as Eugenie’s Nepali village friends had long urged (!), and, long story short, we started our adventure together as a couple and family.

While in Nepal for four years, we lived and worked side by side with Nepalis every day. We came to know them as almost universally friendly, helpful, and kind, in ways we had not seen, then, or since, in the US or Europe. Many of them face daily challenges and struggles that few of us have to experience, but do it while living lives full of joy, laughter, music, and wonder. They will invite you in to be their guest for the best lunch they can muster, and the chance to quiz you about your family and life back home — and laugh in wonder in hearing that a milk cow back home gives about eight gallons (!!) a day. I’m not the first to say this, but it’s really true that Nepal is one of the most special places on this planet, partly because of the mountains, but mostly because of the wonderful Nepali people.

Unfortunately, Nepal is also a country that has long had major challenges in economic growth, being an isolated landlocked country with stupendous hills and mountains. In addition, they’ve had domestic political strife and dysfunction for about the past 20 years. And so Nepal’s support systems, social services, health care, housing, power infrastructure, water and sanitation systems are strained and vulnerable in the best of times.

This earthquake has been long anticipated, and long dreaded. The area affected around Kathmandu and towards Pokhara is huge, and I expect that it will end up affecting many hundreds of thousands of people, and likely for years. In Kathmandu they will need to rebuild many buildings, water and sewer systems, schools, and more. And in the hills, they will need to rebuild homes and whole village economies.

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Children waiting patiently for the Wolz family at a school that Eugenie helped to fund 25 years before. 2009.

Nepal is about as far away from the US, and US minds, as you can get — some 10 time zones away and another world, culturally. I know it’s hard for people to relate to a disaster that is so distant and in such a foreign place. But, think of Nepal as full of warm people who would help you out in a pinch if they could, and thank you profusely for any help you could give them. (This kids in this picture had made marigold garlands that they lined up to give to Eugenie and our family in a show of gratitude for the school.)

And so, to help these people who are suffering and have limited support systems, and also, for the betterment of global humanity, we should do as much as we can to help the Nepalis rebuild now and in the coming years. I’d urge you to think about how much you typically give to support a humanitarian crisis like this, and then think further about whether you could double it. Or even add a zero. Good karma.

This crisis will continue for far longer than it is in the headlines of our papers here. Villagers out in places like Gorkha typically keep their food stocks, rice and lentils for 12 months, stored in bins in their homes, and which may now be under a pile of rubble. The same with any cash or gold they might have. They will not have much to eat nor much to rebuild from. And in villages and Kathmandu, the availability of clean water, and human waste sanitation, are always a challenge; now, those systems are broken, the monsoon is approaching in about a month, and thus cholera outbreaks a heightened risk.

GlobalGiving HomepageI’ve been on the Board of GlobalGiving for four years, and have seen how effective it is in supporting the work of charities in such a disaster. GlobalGiving already has a network of several dozen project partners on the ground in Nepal, working on various projects in education, health care, economic development. And in a disaster like this these groups will also be first to act to help in rescue and rebuilding. Thank you for giving what you can. I know that all donations to this GlobalGiving fund will bring a lot of value to the Nepali people.

Thanks, and Jai Nepal!

 

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How GlobalGiving Helps Nonprofits Become More Effective

This is our mission at GlobalGiving: catalyzing a global marketplace for money, information, and ideas.

In 2002 we began to build an online funding bridge between passionate individual donors—people whose gifts are often seen as too small to be meaningful—and smaller organizations whose impact has been all too easy to ignore because of their size or remoteness of their work.

Today that funding bridge has turned into a global marketplace where anyone in the world can support projects and organizations that they otherwise would never have known.

But democratizing fundraising was only the beginning.

Soon after we started GlobalGiving, we began providing feedback tools. The very same platform that revolutionized access to crowdfunding has also made it possible for us to collect and share information with our nonprofit partners. We soon found we could offer nonprofits the kind of feedback tools that would dramatically improve the quality of their fundraising.

For example, every nonprofit on GlobalGiving has a personalized dashboard that they see when they log in to the website. From the dashboard they can access details about their project page and fundraising progress:

 

We saw that our partners were hungry for this type of feedback, and they were eager to respond rapidly to new information if it helped them improve their work. Today, more than 2,000 of our nonprofit partners use our feedback tools to improve their fundraising.

The next step: introducing incentives

In 2011 we introduced the Partner Rewards system. Similar to an airline’s frequent flyer program, we give our nonprofit partners points for increasing their engagement with our platform and our feedback tools. Higher Rewards status (partner, leader, and superstar) translates to more visibility on the site (like being featured on our homepage, or our social media), and makes us more likely to refer an organization to our corporate partners. That extra visibility translates to more donations for projects.

In the same way that you might be motivated to purchase your next ticket from United because you’re only 1,000 miles away from Gold Status, we found that Partner Rewards levels motivated nonprofit partners to write that extra project update, or to rally a little harder for a campaign, because it would take them to the next level, ultimately driving more funds to their project.  

Our Partner Rewards Bonus Days are a great example of this. In June 2012 we introduced our first Partner Rewards Bonus Day where we offered different matching percentages for different rewards levels (donations to Partners were matched at 30%, Leaders at 40%, Superstars at 50%). One way for organizations to bump up their status is to submit a project report to fulfil the quarterly requirement. We saw a great increase in the number of partners submitting reports that month in order to qualify for the higher statuses. Clearly, the Partner Rewards System was a compelling incentive to drive behavior.

The cycle of progress: Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat.

As we began to study the links between feedback, learning, incentives and effectiveness, it became clear that our nonprofit partners informally follow the kind of Listen, Act, Learn and Repeat behavior that defines the most successful entrepreneurial businesses. Which made us realize we can do even more to help our partners:

Cycle of Progress

  • Listen: we can help nonprofits access feedback from the people they serve, share best practices, and discover new ways to improve performance.
  • Act: we can provide training and one-to-one consulting to help each partner experiment and try new ways of working.
  • Learn: as they try new ideas we can offer them feedback on how well it is working for the people and causes they serve.
  • Repeat: once they achieve the results they are hoping for, we can help them integrate the new way of working into their operations, so the improvement is sustainable.

While many of our nonprofit partners join GlobalGiving for the access to financial resources, they stay and thrive because we provide something that is just as vital to their mission: access to knowledge. We can use our web platform and powerful incentives (money!) to drive learning, and ultimately, higher performance.

That’s why we’ve created the Effectiveness Dashboard, a way to track the listening, acting, learning, and repeating that our nonprofits engage in both on and off the GlobalGiving platform.  We give our partner organizations points for listening to their stakeholders, testing out new ideas, learning from the results of their experiments, and for integrating learning into their daily work:EffectivenessDashboard

This dashboard is in MVP (minimum viable product) stage of the build-measure-learn product development cycle. Initially the majority of the opportunities to earn points  have focused on fundraising effectiveness, but in 2014 we integrated several external feedback tools into the dashboard, allowing our partners to earn points for listening, acting, learning, and repeating that cycle on the ground.

In 2015 we’re focused on integrating the elements of the Effectiveness Dashboard into our main Partner Rewards ranking and search algorithms on GlobalGiving. Our partners are motivated to improve their Partner Rewards status, because it translates to more funding for their work. We believe that it will also translate to higher performance on the ground that is informed by feedback and data about what works in their communities.

This is how the Effectiveness Dashboard is a powerful tool to help us align fundraising with performance, by  channeling more funds to the nonprofits that demonstrate the greatest commitment to improvement, and have the highest potential to do the most good.

DataKind and GlobalGiving Using Data Science to Drive Funding to Effective Organizations

A DataKind DataDive team hard at work answering questions with GlobalGiving data

This is a guest post written by Miram Young, DataKind’s Communications Specialist.

At DataKind, we harness the power of data science in the service of humanity by bringing together data science experts with mission-driven organizations like GlobalGiving to work on projects addressing critical humanitarian problems. We have the honor of working with inspiring organizations around the world looking to use data to transform their work and are thrilled to be working on our second project with GlobalGiving using data science to drive dollars to effective organizations.

There is much that binds DataKind and GlobalGiving together. For one, as we discovered at our recent DataDive weekend in Nashville, we both have a knack for doing cartwheels down hallways (GlobalGiving was much better than we were.) Perhaps more significantly, we are bound together by our missions similarly dedicated to giving social change organizations access to powerful resources to amplify their impact.

The GlobalGiving DataDive team

The GlobalGiving DataDive team

As all of you know, GlobalGiving is in itself a tremendous resource for organizations and individuals raising needed funds to address critical issues around the world. GlobalGiving has another powerful resource up its sleeve as well: data.  Because GlobalGiving’s website tracks each project’s fundraising progress and each click of a potential donor, they have gathered a tremendous amount of data that can, in turn, be used to help people more easily find organizations they would like to donate to and help organizations fundraise more effectively.

But what exactly is data science anyway? Simply put, we at DataKind think of data science as the art of wrangling data to provide actionable information, predict our future behavior, uncover patterns to help us prioritize, or otherwise draw meaning from vast data resources. While there’s still debate about defining this profession, we think of a data scientist as both a statistician and a computer scientist. This combination of skills puts data scientists in a sweet spot of knowing not only how to obtain and transform the necessary data for an organization, but also how to understand what the numbers are–and are not–saying.

Our project with GlobalGiving started at our October DataDive with an initial analysis of data from their past projects to determine what factors lead to projects being successfully funded. DataKind volunteers found interesting trends, such as the fact that more specificity within a project description tended to lead to more donations.

Our DataKind team is now in the stage of using these findings to optimize GlobalGiving’s search ranking algorithm. By the end of the project, GlobalGiving will have a better understanding of which factors motivate donors to give, which will in turn be used to help organizations fundraise more effectively.

Stay tuned for more updates on this project over the coming weeks. If you’ll be at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in March, Will Frechette from GlobalGiving will be speaking on a panel that our Programs Strategist, Shubha Bala, is hosting on how nonprofits can use data science to advance their work. We’d love to see you there (and maybe even do a cartwheel or two with you down the hall).