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Just What the Doctor Ordered

Posted by Donna Callejon on February 8th, 2009

Below is a very thoughtful and interesting review of our website done by Dr. Susan Weinschenk.  It’s almost as though she has been sitting in our User Experience conversations for the last 18 months.  We agree with Dr. Weinschenk’s observations and suggestions, and appreciate her insights.

This is why we are investing a tremendous amount of our 2009 firepower into redesigning the way in which project information gets onto our platform, so that the stories and media can more effectively be leveraged to help project leaders around the world raise needed funds.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhWJc-fKiXk&eurl=http://bestwebhostingservices.com/videos/neuro-web-design-review-of-the-global-giving-website/[/youtube]

A New Holiday Tradition

Posted by Donna Callejon on January 8th, 2009

Shared with us by friend and donor, Homa Tavangar.  Thank you Homa.

After the Thanksgiving meal with our big extended family we usually play games like Scattergories or watch a classic movie.  This year we tried something new.  Among various family members we’ve been talking with increasing concern about the state of the world, so with anyone who wanted to, we thought we’d “play” something more meaningful alongside our usuals.  We called it a “Giving Thanks Gathering.” This could just as easily take place on Boxing Day or New Year’s Day or another holiday the family all gathers.

About ten days before Thanksgiving I sent out an email to all the family members to see what they thought about doing a Giving Thanks Gathering, plugging in to the GlobalGiving.com website after our big turkey dinner, and choosing a cause to support as a group. I made it clear early on and throughout the ‘experience’ that no one would be pressured to play; this would not be a fundraiser, or a sort of pressure-to-give event, but more a learning experience and a chance for all of us as an extended family to talk about issues that we cared about and to share this with our kids.  The family responded with curiosity and enthusiasm.

Our plan was to plug in a laptop to the big TV and go on the GlobalGiving.com website all together.  We encountered a glitch when the new TV at my parents’ home wasn’t working correctly.  So instead, four of us happened to have our laptops there and we broke into four teams (simply based on where people happened to be sitting, with one laptop per team).  Each team logged on to the GlobalGiving website and started discussing what issue area they would like to support.  We knew this could take all day once the searching started, but we hadn’t had dessert yet and we needed to accommodate a wide range of ages, so we gave everyone fifteen minutes to come up with a recommendation that the entire group would then consider and vote on.  As the groups navigated the site, I heard the discussions around the computers get richer and more serious.  People were fascinated by the range of innovative programs and were drawn in by the desperate needs all over the world.  The biggest challenge in the process was to get people to decide on a project to recommend to the group for funding – they felt the needs were simply too big to narrow down their choices in a short time.  This itself was a great learning experience.  Finally, we decided on a program supporting girls’ education in Afghanistan.

Once we made the difficult choice to support a single project, we put a wooden box in the middle of the coffee table for whoever wanted to contribute an anonymous donation.  The youngest kids had been oriented in advance, so they brought their own money set aside from home, and then it was exciting to count the total from our group effort.  We emphasized that this wasn’t meant to replace personal philanthropic giving nor put anyone on the spot, and we wouldn’t pass around the collection box.  Our goal wasn’t to raise big money, but to give everyone a taste.  We raised $197, then, when we counted, my cousin’s 6-year old daughter ran to get her $3 and my bro-in-law gave his promised $0.27 worth to take us to a total of $200.27 (we also had lots of family jokes running through the process J).

The experience far surpassed my expectations.  One of the best surprises was the enthusiasm we had from the college-aged and younger adults in the family.  They were most stimulated by the exercise, appreciative that I had introduced it, enthusiastic to get everyone on board (and they are the best role models for the teens, tweens, and kids in our family).   Amidst homemade pecan, pumpkin, key lime, chocolate mousse, and chocolate pumpkin pies and my mom’s amazing chocolate-swirled cheesecake, conversations about the programs and the process continued across generations.  I noticed the next day one of the college students from our family had “… is GlobalGiving” as his Facebook status, and he told me he had continued to be inspired by the site and our little family activity – as were the rest of us.

Stuff is Not Salvation – reprint of Anna Quindlen’s Newsweek Post 12/22

Posted by Donna Callejon on December 22nd, 2008

What passes for the holiday season began before dawn the day after Thanksgiving, when a worker at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., was trampled to death by a mob of bargain hunters. Afterward, there were reports that some people, mesmerized by cheap consumer electronics and discounted toys, kept shopping even after announcements to clear the store.

These are dark days in the United States: the cataclysmic stock-market declines, the industries edging up on bankruptcy, the home foreclosures and the waves of layoffs. But the prospect of an end to plenty has uncovered what may ultimately be a more pernicious problem, an addiction to consumption so out of control that it qualifies as a sickness. The suffocation of a store employee by a stampede of shoppers was horrifying, but it wasn’t entirely surprising.

Americans have been on an acquisition binge for decades. I suspect television advertising, which made me want a Chatty Cathy doll so much as a kid that when I saw her under the tree my head almost exploded. By contrast, my father will be happy to tell you about the excitement of getting an orange in his stocking during the Depression. The depression before this one.

A critical difference between then and now is credit. The orange had to be paid for. The rite of passage for a child when I was young was a solemn visit to the local bank, there to exchange birthday money for a savings passbook. Every once in a while, like magic, a bit of extra money would appear. Interest. Yippee.

The passbook was replaced by plastic, so that today Americans are overwhelmed by debt and the national savings rate is calculated, like an algebra equation, in negatives. By 2010 Americans will be a trillion dollars in the hole on credit-card debt alone.

But let’s look, not at the numbers, but the atmospherics. Appliances, toys, clothes, gadgets. Junk. There’s the sad truth. Wall Street executives may have made investments that lost their value, but, in a much smaller way, so did the rest of us. “I looked into my closet the other day and thought, why did I buy all this stuff?” one friend said recently. A person in the United States replaces a cell phone every 16 months, not because the cell phone is old, but because it is oldish. My mother used to complain that the Christmas toys were grubby and forgotten by Easter. (I didn’t even really like dolls, especially dolls who introduced themselves to you over and over again when you pulled the ring in their necks.) Now much of the country is made up of people with the acquisition habits of a 7-year-old, desire untethered from need, or the ability to pay. The result is a booming business in those free-standing storage facilities, where junk goes to linger in a persistent vegetative state, somewhere between eBay and the dump.

Oh, there is still plenty of need. But it is for real things, things that matter: college tuition, prescription drugs, rent. Food pantries and soup kitchens all over the country have seen demand for their services soar. Homelessness, which had fallen in recent years, may rebound as people lose their jobs and their houses. For the first time this month, the number of people on food stamps will exceed the 30 million mark.

Hard times offer the opportunity to ask hard questions, and one of them is the one my friend asked, staring at sweaters and shoes: why did we buy all this stuff? Did anyone really need a flat-screen in the bedroom, or a designer handbag, or three cars? If the mall is our temple, then Marc Jacobs is God. There’s a scary thought.

The drumbeat that accompanied Black Friday this year was that the numbers had to redeem us, that if enough money was spent by shoppers it would indicate that things were not so bad after all. But what the economy required was at odds with a necessary epiphany. Because things are dire, many people have become hesitant to spend money on trifles. And in the process they began to realize that it’s all trifles.

Here I go, stating the obvious: stuff does not bring salvation. But if it’s so obvious, how come for so long people have not realized it? The happiest families I know aren’t the ones with the most square footage, living in one of those cavernous houses with enough garage space to start a homeless shelter. (There’s a holiday suggestion right there.) And of course they are not people who are in real want. Just because consumption is bankrupt doesn’t mean that poverty is ennobling.

But somewhere in between there is a family like one I know in rural Pennsylvania, raising bees for honey (and for the science, and the fun, of it), digging a pond out of the downhill flow of the stream, with three kids who somehow, incredibly, don’t spend six months of the year whining for the toy du jour. (The youngest once demurred when someone offered him another box on his birthday; “I already have a present,” he said.) The mother of the household says having less means her family appreciates possessions more. “I can give you a story about every item, really,” she says of what they own. In other words, what they have has meaning. And meaning, real meaning, is what we are always trying to possess. Ask people what they’d grab if their house were on fire, the way our national house is on fire right now. No one ever says it’s the tricked-up microwave they got at Wal-Mart.

Original post can be found here

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

Posted by Donna Callejon on December 4th, 2008

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks at GlobalGiving.  The success of last year’s launch of biodegradable gift cards inspired us to expand and improve our offering this holiday season.  Part of the improvement was to outsource the fulfillment of the cards.  Believe me, if you had been in our office around December 12th 2007, and seen the late night card-fulfilling process, you would get what I’m talking about. So we did a very thorough RFP and selected what we thought was a cutting edge vendor.  But things have not gone all that smoothly.  We launched the new “platform” a month later than we had hoped.  (Let me just say for the record our lead developer, Kevin, was on schedule).

After an 11th hour trip to the midwest for a “Come to Yahweh” meeting, we launched the new designs & fulfillment process just before midnight Friday November 21st.  We saw orders flowing through the system within hours.  Sounds great, right?  Wrong. Due to some issues on the vendor’s side, no  cards shipped for the first 12 days.  It’s a long story, but the bottom line is that many GlobalGiving customers have waited WAY TOO LONG to get their cards.  We’ve been upset, nervous and doing whatever we can to get things “unstuck.”  And we think we now have.  But the folks who ordered cards between November 21st and December 1st had an experience sort of like going to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

So yesterday we decided to actively communicate with those buyers.  We sent them an email that, among other things, said, “we understand that you expected to receive your order in a timely manner, we apologize,” we told them when to expect the cards, and we sent them a free $10 gift card.  We expected a bunch of understandably frustrated or angry replies.  We braced ourselves.  We held our breath. But we’ve received exactly none.  Instead, we’ve received these:

  • Thank you for the update! I appreciate the $10 gc toward a donation of my choice, which I just redeemed.  I’ll look for the cards in the next couple of days.
  • I have no problem with the delay.  Obstacles are to be expected.
  • Thank you for notifying me about this problem and for your kind offer of the $10 gift card as a compensation for the inconvenience. I was happy to donate it in honor of my daughter.  Blessings to you for creating this wonderful website and service!
  • Thank you for the notification.  I do not need the cards before the 8th.  Save any expenses you can!
  • Glad I started early with this, so it is not a problem.  Thanks for the $10; it will be put to good use.
  • I’m in no rush for the giftcards, if you want to send them slow, that’s fine with me.
  • you guys rock!!!

We are still learning and growing but we have very high expectations for ourselves.  These responses let more steam out of the pressure cooker than all the yelling in the world.  Wow do we feel lucky to have the kind of community that responds this way.

As a postscript, today I came across Jeff Brooks” post over at Donor Power Blog: Treat Your Donors To Some Unexpected Kindness, in which he lists 10 Treats Customers Love from the Return Customers blog.  The ones that caught my eye were about showing your customers empathy and explaining the details.  Our marketing team didn’t read his blog before sending out the emails, it just what they thought was the right thing to do.  And our customers seem to have validated that.

Now, where are my damn cards?

Vote for Children. Vote for PlayPumps.

Posted by Donna Callejon on October 29th, 2008

A former GlobalGiving summer intern has launched a great new children’s book initiative titled “Dream Village.” Dream Village uses a combination of picture books and an interactive web portal to educate children about important social, economic, and environmental issues. Best of all, as part of their experience on the Dream Village web portal, children choose how and where Dream Village allocates its proceeds (to which nonprofit organizations and for which causes). So with Dream Village kids learn, interact, and then catalyze real-life positive change.

One of the first books in the series will feature a popular GlobalGiving project, PlayPumps International which installs a merry-go-round water pump to provide clean, fresh water to communities in need. Told from a child’s perspective and complete with full color photographs and illustrations, the book will tell the story of Spontania, a township in Mozambique, which benefited greatly from the implementation of the PlayPump Water System.

Dream Village is a finalist on Ideablob (sponsored by Advanta), a monthly competition that awards $10,000 in seed funding to a project that receives the most votes. With that seed funding, Dream Village will be able to launch its beta site, produce its first set of books, and more importantly, secure the funding it needs for long-term sustainability. We encourage you to visit the Dream Village post, learn more about the project, and vote for Dream Village. Pass the link along…and let the dreaming begin.

Note from a GlobalGiving Donor

Posted by Donna Callejon on October 27th, 2008

We send personal notes to a lot of donors, and in them we ask how they found out about GlobalGiving, what inspired them to give, etc.  We love to hear their stories.  Here is one that came through to our colleague Wylia last week…every so often a member of our community articulates what we are about so beautifully it re-inspires us:

Hi Wylia!

I thought that I would answer a few of your questions. I heard about globalgiving.com by reading White Man’s Burden. The founders and the website were featured and because I was procrastinating writing a paper for one of my masters classes, I decided to take a look at the webpage. I was really excited to see the amount of homegrown effort around the world and thought that I should donate. I have been to Argentina and was heart broken to see the young children on the streets after the collapse of the Argentine economy. I looked around saw the program for education and health services for the Argentine children and thought that could be a way to help.

I was also drawn to the program in Brazil because I have read countless stories about the favelas and how children are impacted by the violence. The particular program I picked had not received too much funding but they were not asking for much either; just enough to pay for the arts and crafts for the children. I thought even if there is a little that I can do to put a smile on a child’s face I have to do it and thought that program was perfect.

Because I am in the military I have been able to travel around the world and see some amazing things. I went to Morocco a couple years ago and fell in love with the country. I saw the water program and was amazed how many Moroccan villagers would be impacted by something we take for granted.
Lastly, my heart went out to the young mothers in Kenya who have been tossed aside by society. I loved how this program is ran by a Kenyan woman who understands the issues these women have to face. I was drawn to her cause.

Overall, I have been very fortunate to have everything that I have. I know others have not been so lucky and I just wanted to donate what I could to help those who needed it. I am looking forward to hearing updates from the programs and will likely share them with my family and friends, many who I already informed them about globalgiving. Hope you have a nice day!

Who is this Marc Guy Who’s Been Posting on GlobalGoodness?

Posted by Donna Callejon on October 7th, 2008

He’s Marc Maxson, newest member of the GG team, residing in the “supply pod” (aka, the folks who source, vet, manage and monitor the projects and organizations who post them).  Marc is a brainiac. No kidding.  He’s got two Bachelors – in Chemistry and Biochemistry – and a PhD in Integrative Biosciences. He’s been published a bunch.  Here’s the title of his most recent work:   “Estrogen receptor dependent mediated calcium signaling in PC12 and GT1-7 cells.”

Typical GlobalGiver, right?  Well, did I mention he was a Fulbright Research Fellow (IT in West Africa) and did Post-Doc work?  He writes a blog.  He also was a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia.  As you can see, he rides a bike.  But not just any bike.  It’s a bright red beach cruiser.   He’s definitley got the chops, and the personality, to add to the diverse and eclectic family here at GG World Headquarters.  Welcome Marc!

More on Marc, plus the picture of the bike:  http://www.couchsurfing.com/people/marcmaxson

This isn’t about Bristol Palin, but it is about teenage girls

Posted by Donna Callejon on September 3rd, 2008

“There are 600 million teenage girls living in poverty in the developing world. This project benefits girls in one of the world’s poorest countries: Uganda. The project addresses the prevalent inequalities created by subordination, early marriage, frequent pregnancy, abandonment, divorce, domestic violence, marginalization and exclusion through financial and social interventions. The effect is a higher standard of living for families, villages, and the entire country.”

The excerpt above is a summary of the need in Uganda addressed by one of the projects available for funding and  posted by BRAC on GlobalGiving. Last week BRAC was awarded the 2008 Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Prize.  The annual $1.5 million award honors a charitable or non-governmental organization that has made extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering anywhere in the world.

Congratulations BRAC!

When i read this announcement last week i was reminded that  the 2006 winner – Women for Women International – is also a GG partner organization that works with women and girls in conflict areas.

And then I remembered that the 2005 winner was yet another member of the GG extended family – Partners In Health – who provides (among other things), reproductive health services to teenage girls in developing countries.

We adhere to the notion around here that you should surround  yourself by people/organizations you can learn from, and aspire to be like.  These are three great examples.

Backstage at Pandora (and a free beer)

Posted by Donna Callejon on July 21st, 2008

Last week I was out in the Bay Area (we natives DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, call it “Cali” or “Frisco” and shame on all of you who do). It was an eclectic trip – family, corporate partner visits, funder visits, project sponsor visits, and then BlogHer 08 (more on this last stop later).

While there were lots of fun stops along the week, one of the most unique was visiting with our friends at Pandora.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, Pandora is one of the best and most successful music sites on the web. We do a nice philanthropy program with them, and just last week they launched their second annual poster contest. People who give to one of the Pandora/GG music projects will get a free copy of the winning poster. The mood there was great – the new iPod has a Pandora app, and as of when I was there, they had something like 250,000 new stations created. WOW!

So not only were they a bunch of happy music lovers, but I lucked upon their second employee “Backstage” session. These are the brainchild of Michele Husak, who is a totally cool chick and Pandora’s Director of Communications. UPDATE/CORRECTION:  Brainchild of Tim, the founder, executed by the lovely Michele.
Every month or so they bring in local musicians who have music in the Genome, buy the team some beer (good beer, I might add) and munchies, and film the mini-concerts. Thursday’s performer was Josh Fix. I’d never heard of him, but he was fun. It’s not every day you get to experience something like that. Pandora’s the best.

Here’s a little video clip. The long version will be up on Pandora soon:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZjW6aZ6V6Y[/youtube]

PS If you don’t use Pandora, check it out. If you already do, check out Josh Fix’s stuff.

Dancing Around The World

Posted by Donna Callejon on July 7th, 2008

 The other day I was reading BoingBoing and found an incredible video that seemed perfect to share with the GlobalGiving community. 

“Matthew Harding spent 14 months visiting 42 countries in order to produce “Where the Hell is Matt?”, a four-and-a-half minute video featuring Harding (and anyone else he could rope into it) doing an incredibly silly, high-energy dance in some of the most breathtaking scenery around the world. This may be the best four minutes and twenty-eight seconds of your week.” 

Check it out: [vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/1211060[/vimeo] Matt’s web site provides the following background:

“Matt is a 31-year-old deadbeat from Connecticut who used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was make and play videogames. Matt achieved this goal pretty early and enjoyed it for a while, but eventually realized there might be other stuff he was missing out on. In February of 2003, he quit his job in Brisbane, Australia and used the money he’d saved to wander around Asia until it ran out. He made this site so he could keep his family and friends updated about where he is.  

“A few months into his trip, a travel buddy gave Matt an idea. They were standing around taking pictures in Hanoi, and his friend said “Hey, why don’t you stand over there and do that dance. I’ll record it.” He was referring to a particular dance Matt does. It’s actually the only dance Matt does. He does it badly. Anyway, this turned out to be a very good idea.

“A couple years later, someone found the video online and passed it to someone else, who passed it to someone else, and so on. Now Matt is quasi-famous as “That guy who dances on the internet. No, not that guy. The other one. No, not him either. I’ll send you the link. It’s funny.”

“The response to the first video brought Matt to the attention of the nice people at Stride gum. They asked Matt if he’d be interested in taking another trip around the world to make a new video. Matt asked if they’d be paying for it. They said yes. Matt thought this sounded like another very good idea”