Author Archive


“It still has some cement on it!”

Posted by alison on April 18th, 2008

Recently, the GlobalGiving blog has been moonlighting over at eBay’s What Gives!? blog.  So when my friend, Roman from eBay, emailed me yesterday with a link asking me to write a post about it, I could hardly say no.  Frequent readers of this blog will know that I never pass up a legitimate excuse to blog about the Red Sox.

A quick recap of JerseyGate 08 for anyone not as thoroughly engaged with New England sports: The Yankees are building a new stadium, and one of the workers on the concrete crew – a diehard Red Sox fan – decided to “curse the new stadium by burying David Ortiz’s jersey in the brand new foundation of the new park. This is humorous at the very least, but after an 86-year World Series drought in Boston, AL East fans take even the vaguest semblence of a curse seriously (even if they won’t admit it). So seriously, in fact, they dug up the jersey.

But there’s a point beyond good old Red Sox/Yankees trivia.

The jersey is being auctioned off on eBay. They’re using this latest incident in the long-time Red Sox/Yankees rivalry to raise money for cancer research.

The jersey is being auctioned in its current condition (“It still has some cement on it!”, the auction page boasts) as part of a larger package that includes tickets to an upcoming Red Sox game at Fenway Park. All proceeds (over $30,000 at the time of publication) are going to the Jimmy Fund, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

I’ve written here before about this concept: Sometimes the best approach isn’t to try to get people excited about what you’re doing, but find out what they’re already excited about and get involved.

What started off as a funny prank and baseball folklore for years to come has ended up as a generous windfall for the Jimmy Fund and cancer research. (Construction) hats off to you, Gino Castignoli, Randy Levine, Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber.

Boston Green Sox

Posted by alison on April 11th, 2008

Green is in vogue right now at Fenway – and not just on the 37 foot high Green Monster in left field.

It’s not a huge secret that I love the (2007 World Series Champion) Boston Red Sox.  As a native of Massachusetts, the Red Sox are a lifestyle, more than a team for me.

Two weeks ago, the Red Sox season started against Oakland in Japan.  And after what seemed like an endless roadtrip, opening two more parks, the Red Sox finally came home to Boston on Tuesday for Opening Day at Fenway.  Rings were presented, Bill Buckner was forgiven and there was general merriment throughout the land (well, at least in Boston).

So what’s with the green?  Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported that Fenway Park would be going Green.  The 96 year-old ball park will install enough solar panels to heat 1/3 of the hot water needed in the park and reduce the park’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by 18 tons.  As part of a $600,000 initiative, named Solar Boston, that was designed to increase the city’s solar engery output 50-fold by 2015.

The ultimate goal of Solar Boston is to increase the city’s solar output from 1/2 megawatt to 25 megawatts – enough to power over 3,000 Boston households.  The initiative will identify other south-facing rooftops – ideal for the panels – and market the initialtive to more business and homes.  Additional plans include installing the panels on many municipal buildings, including Brighton High School, The Strand Theatre, Tobin Community Center and West Roxbury Branch Library.

From a GlobalGiving perspective, this is a great little earth-changing (or earth-greening) idea.  Kudos, city of Boston and Fenway Park.

Feeling Webby?

Posted by alison on April 10th, 2008

We are.

No, not that Webby.

GlobalGiving’s How It Works video has been nominated for a Webby Award!  We are up for Best Use of Animation/Motion Graphics in the Online Film and Video category.

Click here to vote for us.  Voting ends May 1, so tell your friends!

 [Update: Thanks to IP Pixel and Leo Burnett for developing this.]


Beauty Queens and Landmines

Posted by alison on April 2nd, 2008

I like people who surprise me.

Not jump-out-of-a-dark-corner-and-shout-boo surprise me, but people who do the unexpected.  It’s a refreshing reminder about the power of humanity and the power of an individual.  Donna told a great story at our staff meeting this morning about kindness and reciprocity, which inspired this blog post.

My friend Molly emailed this article to me yesterday.  I read it, thought it was nice and went about my day.  But something about it stuck with me.  It may be the musical association I attributed to it.  I’m a big music fan, and an even bigger U2 fan; there’s a continual sountrack of life running in my head generally, and after I read that article, I had U2’s “Miss Sarajevo” floating around for a while.

“Miss Sarajevo” was added to the soundtrack of a documentary film with the same name.  Director and humanitarian Bill Carter filmed amidst a war-torn Yugoslavia in the winter of 1993.  Both the documentary and the song captured the story of a beauty pageant held during this time of war and chaos.  The song, whose video is included below, is beautiful and only improved by Luciano Pavarotti singing the bridge.

Those are the kinds of surprises I like.  So when I read more about Miss Landmine Angola 2008, it caught my attention.  For one night, the 10 women will put aside their own discomfort or self-consciousness and challenge the established concepts of beauty, raise awareness about global and local landmines and embody the idea of female pride and empowerment.

The concept of non traditional beauty pageants may not be entirely new, but empowering these women with pride and beauty is definitely a little earth-changing idea that makes you take notice.

Voting is still open, and Miss Landmine Angola will be crowned tonight.  All contentants will receive government help to go back to school or start a small business, and the winner will also receive a new custom-made prosthetic limb.


(Re?) Connecting with Roots

Posted by alison on March 17th, 2008

I just returned from Japan, having participated in a Japanese-American Leadership Delegation trip sponsored by Japan’s Foreign Ministry, the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, and the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles (highly recommended if you’re ever in LA). The purpose of the trip was to improve understanding and strengthen relationships between Japanese-Americans and Japan by meeting and exchanging information with leaders in politics, government, business, and culture. This is of particular importance given the history between the two countries, especially during World II when many Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in remote concentration camps in the US.

Despite the fact that my grandparents came from Japan, I had never visited, and to do so in a way that allowed such exposure and access was pretty amazing – we met with VIPs ranging from Prime Minister Fukuda to Princess Takamado to young (really young, like 30-year-old!) members of Parliament, and a host of others. My first few days were spent in a sort of “Lost in Translation“-style, jet lag-induced haze, and the packed schedule (7 official meetings on Monday alone) didn’t allow much time for acclimation, so I’m still processing everything we experienced. NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting network, also followed and filmed us, and since I was the one “newbie” in the group of 13 delegates from around the US, they were always interested in what I thought, which made me a bit self conscious.

And what did I think? On one level, having lived in and visited other “great cities” of the world, Tokyo seemed like, well, another great city, albeit one where most people looked like me (although my inability to communicate was slightly disconcerting). But on another level, the opportunity to visit ancestral “roots” touched me in an entirely different way. Things seemed familiar, even though they were new to me, but I was also struck that the Japan I thought I knew was actually the Japan my grandparents brought with them when they emigrated to the US-I realized that I needed to update my perceptions about today’s Japan.

All of the people we met talked about connections-the need to build, nurture, and continuously renew ties between governments, institutions, and most of all, people. In the abstract, I couldn’t agree more. But it wasn’t until we visited the southern city of Fukuoka, where my maternal grandmother was born, and I caught a glimpse of the harbor where she first embarked on her journey to the US nearly a hundred years ago, that the idea of connection suddenly felt more important, emotional, and real.

GlobalGiving was founded on the notion that everyone in the world is interconnected. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to create this connection with my own family’s history, and to get a greater perspective on my place in the world.

The New York Times Magazine focuses on philanthropy

Posted by alison on March 10th, 2008

This weekend’s edition of the New York TImes Magazine focused on philanthropy.  There are a number of worthwhile analyses – a great read all around.

Thank you for holding; your call is important to us.

Posted by alison on March 7th, 2008

I’m a card carrying member of iGeneration; much of my life exists online.  Still, occasionally, the need arises for me to need to interact with a human being.  What this means is that I usually wind up on hold, with the constant assurance that my call is indeed important, and desperately pressing buttons until I get to speak to a person.

We’ve all been there, enough times that we’re able to pass judgment on the quality of the on hold experience.  Once, I waited on hold with a music loop that played nothing but Van Morisson’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” for 30 consecutive minutes.  My call was eventually answered, but when I was placed on hold again to transfer departments, I was right back to “Sha-la-la-ing.”

Donna was on hold with her cell phone company this morning, which she generously shared with the office via speakerphone.  Per usual, their on hold entertainment consisted of some drowsy elevator music interspersed with promotional and “helpful” messages.  “How would that work for us?” I jokingly suggested.

“Your donation is important to us, please hold on the line until a representative can assist you.”

“Did you know you can free a girl from bonded labor?  Just visit our website at”

“All of our projects are busy assisting people in other countries, if you have a project, please press 2.”

What?!  Imagine if this was the customer service model for nonprofits.  Ridiculous, but it’s worth considering that there are certain questions that frequently recur.  How do you approach those without sounding robotic (or adding an accompanying soundtrack?).  Here are some ideas:

  1. Send personalized responses.  I know it’s easier to have answer templates for the questions that happen over and over, but donors are more likely to read the response and follow the directions if it appears tailored to their personal question.  Maybe the template is the model for your response, but add in an element of individuality.
  2. Do what they’re doing.  We’re all so familiar with the processes of our organizations, but everyone else isn’t.  How annoying is it when a customer or technical service agent rushes you through steps with a tone of voice that is dripping with disdain and then can’t understand how you could possibly be overlooking the obvious solution?  Wicked annoying.  So when possible, go through the process in question and see what they’re seeing.
  3. Ask questions.  Most of the time, customers are capable and willinging to do something on their own – with the right guidance.  Therefore, it is important to assess what the problem really is.  Does the customer not understand the whole idea, or just one piece.  Often it is easier to ask them about how they came around to the problem.  Knowing this can help you resolve their exact issue.

How else can nonprofits avoid the on-hold-robot syndrome?  What other impersonal pitfalls should we be on the lookout for?

29 Ways to Make the Most of the Extra Day

Posted by alison on February 29th, 2008

It’s Leap Day – the extra day that comes around once every four years to catch us up on time lost, or as Monica Hesse from the Washington Post describes it: “in all its quadrennial springiness, like a cartoon Slinky boinging into the wall calendar.” Preposterous, according to some.

“It’s like a prolonged version of the languidness found on daylight savings days,” Hesse says, “where no one really knows what time it is and everyone uses that to their advantage…Leap Days are like this, but longer, and grander in their utter lack of ambition.  Nobody makes plans for Feb. 29, because nobody remembers when there is a Feb. 29.  And so the day arrives like a snow day, an empty calendar slot with no obligations and no expectations.”

We’re not entirely sure about the whole “nobody makes plans” part of that at the GlobalGiving office, where in a twist of events, we’re about 1/3 in-house staffed today – but the point is well made, nonetheless.  In honor of this “extra day”, we’re offering a list of 29 ways to make the most of your day.

  1. Understand the history and science behind Leap Years
  2. Tell your family you love them
  3. Go to the library and come home with a book (or bring back delinquent overdue books)
  4. Update your music collection
  5. Get in touch with old friends
  6. Find out how the candidates stand on the issues
  7. Play an extra Set Game
  8. Make dinner reservations to benefit the Tap Project
  9. Take a walk (and bring your dog!)
  10. Indulge your guilty pleasure
  11. Send yourself an email on next Leap Day (February 29, 2012) to remind yourself how great things were this year
  12. Replace your toothbrush (you know you’re overdue!)
  13. Twitter
  14. Eat that piece of cheesecake
  15. Wear the skinny jeans (maybe do this one before #14)
  16. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors
  17. Play Chain Factor
  18. Join a Facebook group about Leap Day, only to leave it tomorrow.
  19. Find out where the candidates stand on issues important to you
  20. Learn a new word
  21. Finish a puzzle (that isn’t on the computer)
  22. Throw out all those old pens that don’t have any more ink but get put back in the drawer/pencil cup anyway
  23. Buy Girl Scout Cookies from your local Girl Scout troop.
  24. Clean out the Goldfish crackers from under the car seats
  25. Take a road trip
  26. Clear your calendar.  Hoo Boy!
  27. Leave a comment on your favorite blog (not necessarily shameless self-promotion) 
  28. Start your own Giving Circle
  29. Add to this list

Taking Over the World

Posted by alison on February 28th, 2008

For those of you interested in taking over the world (heads up, Dr. Evil, Lex Luthor, Joker, Lord Voldemort), things just got a little bit easier.  Forget the millitant game of Risk, we want real estate.  Monopoly is creating an international version of the classic game with favorite cities from around the world vying for space on the game board.

I only first heard about this on The Colbert Report last night, and I realize there are only a few hours left in the competition, but I was interested in the featured cities.  Many that you would expect: New York, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, Boston (Go Red Sox!).  However, I found that there were a handful of cities in the competition that are home to GlobalGiving projects: Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai and Bogotá, just to name a few.

 In addition to the places you might expect, Monopoly is leaving room for user nominated cities; among the leaders are other GlobalGiving locales: Johannesburg, San Francisco, Chennai.

 Go vote for some of your favorite cities, or the GlobalGiving locations before the polls close.  If you miss the opportunity, follow along to see who will be represented on this international stage.

Fundraising Their Way to the Top

Posted by alison on February 21st, 2008

With today’s official announcement of the America’s Giving Challenge champions, this large-scale experiment enters the annals of fundraising history – having inspired more than 48,000 people to give $1.2 million to their favorite causes and organizations, using social networking and Web 2.0 tools. But at the end, the Challenge was all about tenacity, networking, and good old-fashioned hard work.

Congrats to the GlobalGiving America’s Giving Challenge Champions, each of whom will receive $50,000 for their chosen cause in addition to the money they raised! Their tales of fundraising are amazing. See if you can match the description to the champion!

Michele Martin
, Philadelphia, PA (supported by Beth Kanter): Sharing Foundation/Route Out of Poverty for Cambodian Children (1,650 donations/$41,673 raised).

Erin Kelly, Fredericksburg, VA: Students Helping Honduras/Fuel Efficient stove for 300 Hondurans in need (1,639 donations/$28,796 raised).

Scott Beale
, Wilmington, DE: Atlas Service Corps/Invest in International Development Leaders (1,615 donations/$32,021 raised).

Suzanne Plopper, Chester, CA: Friends of Burkina Faso/Education for 900 Rural Girls in Burkina Faso (1,598
donations/$41,879 raised).

(A) This University of Mary Washington student entered the competition with only 9 days to go, championing a project that is tackling the fourth-most lethal killer in the developing world…

(B) She mobilized an enormous network of returned Peace Corps volunteers, one of whom even crafted this ditty: Awa had a little lamb / His fleece was filled with fleas / But every year Awa went to school / He paid her fees…

(C) She tirelessly poked, prodded, tweeted, blogged and wiki-ed her cause to the top – not sleeping for the last two days of the Challenge and even inspiring a room service waiter in a hotel she was staying at to give… (read more about her giving exploits).

(D) With his wife, he hosted a feverish, impromptu phone-a-thon on January 30th, generating 400 donations for their cause and pushing them firmly into the winner’s circle.

(answers – A/Erin, C/Michele and Beth; B/Suzanne; D/Scott)