Author Archive


What Humans Crave

Posted by dennis on October 30th, 2008

JoAnna Schull from SYPartners sent me a link to some work by Jane McGonigal.

She pointed out (and I agree) that the following was particularly compelling:

What humans crave:

1. Satisfying work to do
2. The experience of being good at something
3. Time spent with people we like
4. The chance to be a part of something bigger.


Global UK Launches!

Posted by dennis on September 19th, 2008

Last Monday, GlobalGiving UK launched its brand new web site in London at a big gathering of NGO, private sector, and government leaders.  This is particularly exciting since UK donors are among the most generous and progressive in the world when it comes to supporting causes overseas.

The creation of GlobalGiving UK has been supported financially by the Charities Aid Foundation‘s Venturesome Fund and the Travel Foundation, with key advice and operational support from Google, Expedia UK, Paypal, and Isango.  Booz and Company hosted the launch on Monday and provided office space in the start up phase.  The GlobalGiving US team worked overtime to provide back-end services and adapt the front-end website to the UK context.

Minister Shahid Malik of DFID (the UK’s aid agency) gave the keynote speech and made the first donation through the site, which speaks volumes.  DFID is at the very top of official aid agencies in terms of innovation and leadership in key areas.

The GG UK team is outstanding.

It is headed up by Sharath Jeevan, who has the kind of eclectic background that makes him specially suited for the job.  Most recently, he ran eBay‘s charity division in the UK. Previously,  he has worked at the international NGO ActionAid, been a project leader at Booz Allen, and has even done a high-tech startup in Asia.  Having grown up near London, Sharath has an economics degree from Cambridge, an MBA from INSEAD in France, and graduate degree in creative writing from Oxford.

UK team members include Rachel Smith, who heads up relationships with NGOs and campaigns, Svetlana Gitman, Tanya Serov, Ann Dugan and Becky Hill – all of whom have played key roles in the launch.

We at GlobalGiving US are proud of our new cousins in London.  But we are a little nervous, too.  They have already introduced a couple of key innovations that we don’t have on our own site :)

One Financial Institution Doing Well, And Doing Good

Posted by dennis on September 15th, 2008

In 2001 I went to Budapest to attend a conference of excited people exploring new ways of doing philanthropy and international aid. The commercial dot-com boom had already gone bust, but the possibilities in the do-good sector were only just coming into view.For most of us, anyway. But not for Shari Berenbach, the President of the Calvert Foundation, which was by then five years old. The Foundation, which was launched by and housed in the for-profit Calvert mutual fund company, had long been experimenting with many of the ideas being proposed in Budapest.

So I was pleased to see the following last week in the Washington Business Journal:

Calvert Social Investment Foundation has doubled its assets to $200 million over three years. The Bethesda-based nonprofit, which lets investors provide affordable credit to impoverished communities, has sold $160 million of its community investment notes through over 50 financial industry intermediaries.
Now that’s exciting. Congrats, Shari, and congrats, Calvert…

Fighting Violence with Generosity – and Opportunity

Posted by dennis on September 11th, 2008

Each year as we mark the anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, people wonder what they, as individuals, can do to mitigate the consequences of terrorism.

Conventional thinking encourages us to rely on our government to respond to terrorism and extremist acts – though foreign policy, military action, bilateral talks. But when it comes to private citizens, the only guidance we have been given is “go shop”.

I prefer Gene Steuerle’s approach. Gene lost his wife when her plane was crashed into the Pentagon. He was humbled and moved by what he saw as an outpouring of goodwill toward families who had lost loved ones.

Based on that experience, Gene decided that he and other 9/11 families should send a message to the world: peaceful collaboration and opportunity are among our best antidotes to terrorism over the long term.

Whether it’s fast tracking education for Afghan women and girls, financing microlending in rural Afghanistan, or establishing health clinics in Pakistan, Americans who want to play a role in combating terrorism over the long term can make a donation and give people opportunity and hope.

Visionary philanthropy like Gene’s can help create the conditions that make it much harder for extremist networks to take root. And the good news is that it costs a lot less than guns and bombs.

So far, the US government has allocated more than $500 billion for the military “war on terror.” This is around $10,000 for each citizen of Iraq an Afghanistan.

By contrast, using Gene’s “Safer and More Campassionate World” approach, a mere $100 can provide 56 Afghan women with basic healthcare and health education. And that amount is within reach of nearly all of us.

World Bank “Menu” of Green Energy Opportunities?

Posted by dennis on September 5th, 2008

Yesterday the Center for Global Development (CGD) invited me to a conference to make some remarks on the World Bank’s forthcoming Climate Change Strategy.

The previous World Bank president nearly forbade the mention of the term “global warming.”  But Bob Zoellick is now encouraging the Bank to play a leadership role.

The meeting was well attended, which was encouraging.  In addition to senior World Bank and CGD staff, there were experts from the International Finance Corporation, Millennium Challenge Corporation,  US EPA, US Treasury, US Department of the Interior, World Resources Institute, NRDC, National Wildlife Foundation, NOAA, World Watch, Johns Hopkins, Deutsche Bank and others.

I made the following points:

1. This is a global emergency.

2. It will take everyone in the room to solve it – not  just the World Bank.

3. We cannot deal with it solely or even primarily by top-down mandates.

4. The issue is complex, but nothing will happen unless  we cut through the complexity with some simple, clear, and catalytic approaches.

5. I used a World Bank example in Indonesia (the posting  of signs in the town square saying what Bank funds were being used for), and  the example of our voluntary scoring system on GlobalGiving Green as examples of simple things that can catalyze big changes in behavior.

6. I suggested that the Bank find something analogous.   One option would be using a range of carbon shadow prices for their projects – and publishing the results.   This would show, for example, that even though coal-fired plants may be cheaper financially, solar installations would be more profitable if the cost of carbon emissions were taken into account. The difference in the financial costs of the two approaches (for example, coal and solar) would be highlighted, and other aid donors could have a look and fund that difference if they wanted to.  This approach would give other donors a “menu” of  projects that they could subsidize to help fight climate change, and would not force all subsidized decisions to go through a centralized World Bank mechanism.

7. This approach could help mute the resistance the Bank is facing  to mandatory use of carbon shadow prices in making actual project decisions.  Instead, the Bank would highlight the cost of the cleaner alternatives and allow other donors to fund the gap on a voluntary basis.  Different donors would fund different things according to their interests and resources.  Rapidly growing private donors could join the fray to supplement the resources of official agencies.  This approach may actually result in faster action, more funding, and more innovation than a mandatory, centralized approach that may never even get off the ground.

Knowledge and the $64,000 question

Posted by dennis on August 20th, 2008

The traditional philanthropic model revolves around money…Money is important, but it’s not everything… When I talk to friends and colleagues in the nonprofit sector, what I hear again and again is a desire for knowledge.There are a lot of reasons why nonprofit executives are hungry for knowledge. They work on particularly stubborn problems…This knowledge transfer is already happening, but not effectively. Face-to-face conferences are expensive and often logistically impossible…like all personal networks, they don’t scale efficiently…

That is from a nice post by Michael Idinopulos over at SocialText. I really like how he highlights the importance of knowledge as an equal partner of money in the equation. He goes on to say:

The absence of a strong market mechanism and regulating institutions allow bad management practices to endure.

The interesting thing about markets is that they involve transactions – someone provides something to someone else for something in return. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be status, a favor, or just a good feeling. But without this “something in return,” markets don’t function well.

Michael goes on to say:

It’s not hard to imagine a better way. I’m envisioning an online knowledge networking tool for nonprofits…

How can we make such an online knowledge tool into a well-functioning market so that it gets widely used? That is the $64,000 question.

Helping Myanmar for Mother’s Day

Posted by dennis on May 7th, 2008

A friend writes from Myanmar:

This is the worst disaster I have ever been in. The situation in Yangon is growing more desperate everyday as there is no electricity or water and food is getting very scarce. Just today, a women on our street came to us with here three young children. Her mother had been killed in the cyclone and the children had not eaten in two days.

We have made it to the only location in Yangon with an email connection tonight (tuesday).
We are save and fine… but the situation here is very, very grim. Tremendous devastation.

We have staff in practically all of the affected areas and are desperately trying to find out the condition of about 40 that are still unaccounted for.

Relief isn’t what we do, but we are being pressed into it given the circumstances.
If Global Giving could join an appeal that would be very much appreciated.

Will write as soon again as soon as we can. Thanks again for your concern.

I and many others are going to help Myanmar for Mothers Day. Nothing would make our own mothers happier. If you want to join us, please click here and do what you can.

I am an idiot.

Posted by dennis on April 25th, 2008

I am an idiot, according to my colleagues here at GlobalGiving. That is because I am clueless about a lot of popular celebrities who are in the news these days.

But my cluelessness reached a new low (high?) this past week at the excellent Fortune Magazine “Brainstorm Green” conference, which was all about global warming. During a break between panels, I turned to introduce myself to the guy sitting next to me. He had been listening closely to the speakers and had been taking a lot of notes. Obviously a scientist type or policy wonk.

Me: Hi, I am Dennis Whittle. Nice to meet you.

Him: Hi, I am Chuck Leavell. Nice to meet you.

Me: What do you do?

Him: Oh, I grow trees in Georgia. I also play the piano a little bit. What about you?

Me: I work at GlobalGiving, which is sort of a marketplace for goodness. What kind of trees do you grow?

Him: I have been trying to create an approach to sustainable tree farming using native American species.

Me: Oh, very cool. And what kind of music do you play?

Him: Oh, all kinds, really.

Me: Do you ever play in public?

Him: Sometimes.

Me: What’s the name of your band?

Him: Well, I’ve been in different bands, but since 1982 it has been the Rolling Stones.

Me: Oh, yes, I have heard of that band.
* * *
(Chuck’s bio is here for any of you other clueless readers out there.)

How to get a Prius cheap

Posted by dennis on April 22nd, 2008

Trimming the amount of meat Americans eat would not only help the planet – a mere 20 percent reduction is the equivalent of switching from a Camry to a Prius.

That is from The High Price of Beef in Sunday’s NY Times Magazine. By this measure, I have had a couple of Priuses in my garage since the late 1980s, when I reduced my beef consumption in half. I initially did this because the quality of beef was poor in Jakarta, where I lived for five years.

Around that time, a lot of research came out about the health effects of eating too much red meat, so when I returned to the US, I kept my red meat consumption low. I didn’t eliminate meat altogether (I like it too much), but I swapped quantity for quality – eating good cuts of meat fewer times per week.

More recently, I have begun eating mostly organic beef, again primarily for health reasons. I pay more for it, but eat even less of it. So my wallet wins, my health wins, and the global climate wins.

And I can tell my friends that I have not only one, but two Priuses… :)

Where we have come from and gone to…

Posted by dennis on April 15th, 2008

My post about Dana’s departure last week made me think about the exceptional people we have had here at GlobalGiving. An organization is ever evolving, including its team.We have been lucky to attract a mix of highly experienced professionals along with smart and committed recent college grads. I am especially proud that many of our younger staff have gone on to grad school and then to great careers.

So where have we come from and where have we gone? Here is a sample:

We came from….

* Fannie Mae
* Washington Area Women’s Foundation
* HP
* Carfax
* Hillcrest Labs
* Accenture
* Ashoka
* Advisory Board
* Safe Kids Worldwide
* Burson-Marsteller
* Akin Gump
* Soros Fund Management
* World Resources Institute
* Peace Corps
* Kinkos
* NuRide
* Business for Social Responsibility
* Stone Yamashita
* Netflix
* World Bank

And our alumni have gone to:

* Maine Women’s Fund
* McKinsey and Co.
* International Youth Foundation
* Gates Foundation
* Wing-Luke Museum (Seattle)
* Business for Social Responsibility
* Google
* Princeton Woodrow Wilson School
* Harvard Business School
* Duke Business School (Fuqua)
* MIT Business School (Sloan)
* UNC Medical School
* University of Capetown
* SunRocket
* Booz Allen
* Bearing Point
* OboPay