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Global Giveback Funding Challenge

Posted by john hecklinger on February 2nd, 2012

This week we launched the final phase of a collaboration between GlobalGiving, InnoCentive, and the Rockefeller Foundation that began over two years ago as a way to connect our project leaders with technical know-how usually devoted to solving technical problems for for-profit entities.  As part of its Advancing Innovation Processes to Solve Social Problems initiative, the Rockefeller Foundation funded GlobalGiving to identify needed solutions to developing world problems that InnoCentive’s community of solvers could help make a reality.  Project leaders working in India, Uganda, Colombia, and Bolivia came up with technical challenges that were impeding their ability to provide solutions to community problems.

Here’s an example.  Fundacion SODIS has been promoting solar water disinfection in Bolivia.  It’s a great idea using readily available resources – water, sunshine, and plastic bottles.  If you leave a clear bottle full of water in the sunlight long enough, the UV rays will purify the water.  But, how do you know when enough sunlight has hit the bottle?  How do you convince people that this method works and give them an easy way to drink the water with confidence?  Fundacion SODIS thought a re-usable electronic device that changes color when the water has been purified would improve adoption and facilitate training.  Fundacion SODIS, in collaboration with InnoCentive and GlobalGiving, posted this challenge on InnoCentive’s platform, and dozens of possible solutions poured in.  Fundacion SODIS chose the solution that seemed most workable, but also invited two other teams that submitted solutions to send their pilot products for field testing.  The designs have since been developed even further, and these solutions are becoming a reality.

After initial lab testing, one of the five solutions to the challenges posted on InnoCentive was found to be nonviable, so the field testing of that pilot will not go forward.  Such is the nature of innovation – not everything works out as planned.  The four remaining projects are now up for crowdfunding on GlobalGiving.  The Rockefeller Foundation generously provided matching funds to help our partner NGOs raise the resources needed to fully test these solutions.  We’re calling it the Global Giveback Funding Challenge.  In this way, we crowdsourced the challenges, the solutions, and the funding needed to implement them.

We’re extremely excited to see these projects go forward.  GlobalGiving’s mission is to catalyze a marketplace for ideas, information, and money that democratizes aid and philanthropy.  This project advances all aspects of what we’re trying to achieve.  We’ve empowered individual technical experts to share knowledge with grassroots NGOs to make these NGO’s ideas a reality.  Individual and institutional donors are now collaborating to fund the solutions.  We did not know in advance what challenges would surface or if solutions would be found, but by catalyzing a free flow of ideas, information, and money, good things are happening.

Interested in learning more? Antony Bugg-Levine is managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s initiative on Advancing Innovation Processes to Solve Social Problems – he answers five questions about the Challenge here

GlobalGiving’s Disaster Response Approach

Posted by john hecklinger on February 2nd, 2012

GlobalGiving was not originally established with disaster relief funding in mind. When the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hit, everyone at GlobalGiving was surprised when the website lit up, the phones started ringing, and donors began asking GlobalGiving to identify local organizations responding to the disaster. Since then, GlobalGiving has connected donors with specific relief and recovery efforts after natural disasters and humanitarian crises in China, Pakistan, Haiti, Australia, Chile, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, New Zealand, India, the USA, among others.

When we first learn about a natural disaster, we assess whether or not GlobalGiving is in a position to respond. In some situations, GlobalGiving project partners assess the situation, formulate a response, and spontaneously post relief projects. When this happens, GlobalGiving’s job is to connect them with donors, so we launch social media and corporate partner outreach.

Sometimes, project leaders do not immediately post projects, but it’s clear that help is needed, donors are willing to give, and NGOs are ready to respond. In these cases, GlobalGiving posts a disaster-specific relief fund to collect donations while we assemble a portfolio of specific projects.

In making the decision to mobilize, we consider the strength of our network in the affected area, the scale of the disaster, the number of people affected, the intensity of news coverage, and social media activity. In extreme situations like the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, the decision is easy. In other cases like Australian wildfires, and Missouri tornadoes, we’re less sure about matching needs with donors, so we wait until we see donor interest or an NGO response before launching.

Our response to more slowly-evolving humanitarian crises like the famine in East Africa is more gradual and organic. Projects from existing partners appear as our partners see emerging needs. Well before media coverage of the East Africa famine ramped up, we saw projects from partners already responding to the crisis. We also received inquiries from NGOs wanting to post projects on GlobalGiving for the first time. When it’s clear that the situation has reached a crisis stage, GlobalGiving mobilizes a response exactly like a sudden natural disaster.

As we make decisions about adding projects and making allocations from a disaster-specific relief fund, our priority is to support the work that the affected community believes to be most important. Generally, we believe local organizations are best-positioned to assess and to respond to needs, so we listen carefully to what they deem to be most critical. Our view is that locally-run organizations can nimbly and effectively provide for immediate and ongoing community needs. Getting funds to them benefits communities directly and quickly.

GlobalGiving has worked with thousands of NGOs in over 120 countries over the years. When a disaster strikes, some of these NGOs naturally begin responding, as was the case after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. We did not have a rich network in Japan prior to the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, but we quickly identified key local NGOs through personal and professional connections. Japanese NGOs found out about GlobalGiving and reached out to us for help in connecting with resources. Ultimately, we were able to begin supporting local NGOs within two weeks of the disaster.

Large, international NGOs that specialize in disaster response frequently provide a necessary backbone and are in many cases best-equipped to provide initial support in affected areas. As we assemble a portfolio of disaster relief and recovery projects, we seek to balance efforts and to ensure a transition from large international NGO projects to local NGOs. Early on, most of the funding goes to projects related to relief efforts. Ongoing funds support more recovery and reconstruction work.

When making allocations from disaster-specific funds to specific projects, GlobalGiving acts more like a traditional foundation than we typically do. We’re accustomed to managing a marketplace of ideas, information and money, not an endowment. When placed in this decision-making role by a large outpouring of generosity, we use the principles articulated here as a guide. We prioritize funding local NGOs that demonstrate clear community ties and an ability to provide specific reports back to donors.

In early phases of a disaster, we disburse funds very quickly – ensuring that donor funds are on the ground, usually within a week of being received. Later, we disburse funds as needs develop, taking a more cautious approach, learning more about the situation, and carefully allocating funds to organizations demonstrating a clear purpose and a willingness to report back to donors on specific results.

After the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, we began disbursing funds weekly, until it became clear that immediate funding needs were being met by the international community. We could have quickly disbursed all of the funding we received, but we waited until local NGOs were able to identify specific recovery efforts. In this way we ensure that our donors’ funds support initiatives that local organizations feel are most important. Since then, we have been disbursing collected funds for specific projects emerging from our partners as recovery continues. We require every NGO receiving funds to report on activities at least quarterly, and we typically conduct site visits to check on the work being done.

For donors, GlobalGiving provides a way to help quickly and effectively without having to do a lot of research. Donors can support a specific relief or recovery project, or they can trust GlobalGiving by giving to the disaster-specific fund. All donors receive specific updates, so they know where their funds have gone and what has been accomplished. Many companies use GlobalGiving to track and match employee donations to disaster relief efforts, amplifying employee impact and driving further support directly where it’s needed.

Donor response in these situations varies widely. After the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, donor reaction was immediate and huge through GlobalGiving and other channels. Sudden, catastrophic natural disasters tend to capture donor interest more than slowly rising floods or gradually worsening famines. Sometimes, a diaspora community mobilizes in a big way, as we saw after the 2011 Van Earthquake in Turkey. The disaster received relatively little media coverage, but a committed group mobilized a lot of support through GlobalGiving.

In the future, as disasters and crises emerge, GlobalGiving will continue to prioritize working with local NGOs to respond to emergencies in their communities. In developed and developing countries, NGOs play a key role in initial relief and ongoing recovery efforts. We’ll make it easy for donors to give by posting disaster-specific funds while providing very specific options for donors interested in supporting unique projects.

GlobalGiving’s second disbursement for Japan relief

Posted by john hecklinger on March 25th, 2011

Last week, I posted a blog detailing our disbursement strategy for donations to GlobalGiving’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.  We announced our decision to disburse  $725,000 from the fund to International Medical Corps, Save the Children, Architecture for Humanity, Peace Winds, Japan Platform, and Lifeline Energy.  Including disbursements connected with specific projects, we announced a total of $814,820 in disbursements one week after the earthquake struck.

In the coming weeks we expect corporate donations, fundraisers, and auctions to become the main flow of resources to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. It has been incredibly gratifying to see how creative both individuals and organizations have been in contributing not only money, but their time, skills, and networks.  As of this writing, donors have given over $2,000,000 to the fund and over $450,000 to specific projects posted by International Medical Corps, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, Architecture for Humanity, and Lifeline Energy.

As I wrote last week, we intended to disburse a larger portion of the ongoing funds gathered in the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund to local, Japanese NGOs responding to the crisis, and this week we will do just that.  Britt Lake’s update contains more detail, but overall we are going to disburse a total of $825,000 to Japan PlatformPeace WindsJapanese Emergency NGOs (JEN)Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA)Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR)Civic Force, and Basic Human Needs (BHN).  We are not including International Medical Corps, Save the Children, Architecture for Humanity, Lifeline Energy, Mercy Corps, and ShelterBox in this disbursement, as they are successfully raising funds through specific projects on our platform and through other sources, but we will disburse all funds we have gathered on their behalf.  In total, we are set to disburse $934,988.  Over the coming days, we anticipate that some of these Japanese organizations will post specific projects on GlobalGiving, but for now, our Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund is the way to support these local efforts.

Our team has been in touch with each of these organizations directly, we have defined how the funds will be used, we’ve agreed on reporting requirements, and we are ensuring that each organization meets international grantmaking criteria.  Our conversations confirm that there is indeed a need for an NGO response to the disaster.  These organizations are coordinating response among agencies, supplying medical volunteers, delivering basic supplies to shelters, producing English-language radio broadcasts, and generally responding to emerging needs.

What we are doing with funds collected for Japan

Posted by john hecklinger on March 18th, 2011

In the days since the earthquake in Japan, GlobalGiving has experienced an unprecedented outpouring of generosity from individual and corporate donors.  While overall giving has not been as swift or as large as the support to Haiti last year, giving through GlobalGiving is more than double what it was in the same time period after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Very early in the crisis we launched a general fund to collect donations, and we set a funding goal of $90,000, confident that one or more of our partners would assist on the ground.  After a major disaster, we typically set up a general fund, as it provides a convenient spot for first-responder donors, various partners, social media advocates, and traditional media outlets to send donors.  We disburse those funds among specific projects that emerge over the following days and weeks.

Over this week we have seen the donation flow accelerate, and after talking with our partners on the ground, we raised our funding goal to $4,000,000. International Medical Corps confirmed they were filling gaps in local infrastructure and supplies, and they posted the first specific project. Save the Children, Architecture for Humanity, and Mercy Corps were next, posting projects specific to their roles in the relief effort.  As of this writing, donors have given over $1,400,000, and we expect at least a million more from corporate partner campaigns.

We now have an enormous responsibility to the people of Japan and to the donors trusting us to allocate the more than $1,300,000 collected in GlobalGiving’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund as of 3/17/2011.  Donors use GlobalGiving because we disburse funds quickly, and we find local organizations that would otherwise be difficult to fund.   The situation in Japan has been uniquely challenging for us, as we do not have an extensive NGO network like we have in the developing world.   Yet, in less than a week, and in a difficult communications environment, we are working with several local responders.  Their work will be available for funding alongside the international NGOs.

So, here is our strategy for allocating the funds collected in our Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.  On March 18th – one week after the first tremors –  we will disburse $725,000 from the fund to International Medical Corps, Save the Children, Architecture for Humanity, Peace Winds, Japan Platform, and Lifeline Energy.  Including donations to specific projects posted by several of the above organizations, as well as Mercy Corps, we will disburse $814,820.  These organizations are helping on the ground right now, coordinating local NGO response and providing direct relief and supplies.  We are not disbursing all of the funds we’ve collected, because the situation at the nuclear plant may further complicate matters, and we want funds to go to organizations best positioned to help, striking a balance between speed and caution.  We will continue to disburse funds weekly, and each donor will receive disbursement updates and progress reports from the field.  Over time, we expect in-country Japanese organizations to receive a larger portion of ongoing disbursements.  We welcome feedback on our approach, and we are committed to complete transparency.  We designed our web site to spark dialog about the work being done, so please provide feedback to GlobalGiving and the organizations implementing the projects in Japan.

It’s clear to GlobalGiving that NGOs have a role in relief and recovery in Japan, and it’s clear that donors are willing to support these efforts.  Japan is the nation most prepared to deal with this type of disaster, but the situation is unprecedented and evolving.  Just as the US government was not fully equipped to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and NGOs continue five years later to play a role in recovery, all indications are that the scale and complexity of the situation in Japan demands a citizen-led response to complement government efforts.  We are honored to be part of that response.

Update: You can also view the project report that we posted on this at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/japan-earthquake-tsunami-relief/updates/

Why 15% Makes Sense

Posted by john hecklinger on February 17th, 2011

People sometimes ask me why we charge a 15% transaction fee.  My cheeky answer is, “So I can be sitting here having this conversation with you.”  As Chief Program Officer at GlobalGiving, my job is to make GlobalGiving more valuable to more organizations around the world.  We work with thousands of organizations, qualifying them, supporting them, disbursing funds to them, monitoring their activities, and maintaining an online platform for them to connect with donors.  Work at this scale would be impossible with an all-volunteer team.  Without great people and robust systems working full-time, GlobalGiving does not work.

Could we find a large donor to fund operations, making the ongoing transactions free?  Maybe, but we believe a transaction-based fee is a better idea.  Funders like Skoll Foundation, Omidyar Network, Hewlett Foundation, Packard Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and Kellogg Foundation have invested in our effort to make the transaction-based model work, and we’re almost there.  The model gives GlobalGiving a strong incentive to invest in the performance of our marketplace, which aligns nicely with our partner organizations’ goals and the needs of donors – the more funds flowing, the greater the social impact.  We are motivated to build better tools for donors and project leaders, we aggressively court corporate partners, we attract donors through a strong social media presence, we offer free training and development opportunities to our project leaders, and we find innovative ways to demonstrate results.  We strive to earn our 15%, and GlobalGiving only works if we deliver the value.

So, why do organizations decide that 15% is good value?  We connect them with new donors, we provide donor management tools, and for some organizations we save the expense of maintaining a transactional web platform.  For international organizations, the ability receive tax-deductible contributions in a secure, transparent platform is worth the 15%.  We do not charge organizations an up front fee to participate in GlobalGiving, so fees only exist when donations flow, and we’re careful to explain the fee to all prospective organizations.  Donors should feel good giving to organizations on GlobalGiving, because each organization calculates that our platform is worth 15%.  Donors always have the option of covering that 15%, and over 50% do just that.  Donors should expect to receive quarterly updates and can exercise the GlobalGiving Guarantee if the experience doesn’t meet expectations.  We just finished our best year yet, delivering more funding to more organizations than ever before.

That said, our 15% does not work for many organizations.  For organizations that maintain a web site with transaction processing, or have a staff dedicated to donor management, or do not like to accept project-specific funding, GlobalGiving is probably not a good fit, and that’s fine.  If a donor simply wants to fund general operations of a US nonprofit, that donor should give through that organization’s web site or a portal like Network for Good, both of which have lower fees.

Our commitment to this model holds us directly accountable to the donors and organizations connecting on our platform.  Organizations and donors do not have to use GlobalGiving  If we are not worth our 15%, people will stop transacting, and GlobalGiving will not survive.  If we are worth our 15%, more transactions will happen, we will continue to improve the platform, and we might just improve the efficiency of giving to the most effective organizations worldwide.

Crowdsourcing Social Innovation, or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Open Up GlobalGiving

Posted by john hecklinger on December 23rd, 2010

At GlobalGiving, we’ve been effectively crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and crowdevaluating social innovation for years.  From early experiments with prediction markets, to collaboration with The Case Foundation and Network for Good on America’s Giving Challenge, to working with GOOD and Pepsi on design and implementation of the Pepsi Refresh Project, we’ve woven experiences into the core mission of GlobalGiving – creating open access to philanthropic markets for small and large organizations worldwide.

We just wrapped up our largest Global Open Challenge ever, an initiative started in 2008 which has become the primary way we find and qualify new organizations for the GlobalGiving marketplace.  Over 230 organizations headquartered in 38 countries serving beneficiaries in 55 countries participated and collectively raised $569,536.  Each organization, in order to secure a spot in the GlobalGiving marketplace, was required to raise $4,000 from at least 50 donors during the month-long challenge.   Over 75 organizations achieved this goal by mobilizing supporters to vouch for them with their donations.

This is not a public voting contest to determine which organization receives a grant, though every donation is a vote.  This is not simply crowdfunding a specific project, though specific projects get funded.  This is not a matching campaign, though there are modest financial incentives.  Using a design thinking approach, we fuse elements of voting, crowdfunding, and matching to identify and qualify organizations for participation in the GlobalGiving marketplace.  We’re using components of all four crowdsourcing models Beth Kanter describes in her recent post:  Creating Collective Knowledge or Wisdom, Crowd Creation, Crowd Voting, and Crowd Funding.

Why would organizations put themselves through this?  Every day, we receive online requests to be part of GlobalGiving, and our goal is to accept as many as can qualify.  We don’t want to turn away innovative, but unproven organizations.  Many of these applications are from individuals or organizations with questionable motivation and capacity.  Many of these applications are from great organizations that need exactly the kinds of tools and services that GlobalGiving provides – a safe, transparent and tax deductible way for donors to give, a set of donor management tools, ongoing trainings, and the possibility of connecting with new donors.  From the applications, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Intead of sorting through applications and having our team decide which organizations gain access, we throw the decision out to the crowd.  We invite every organization that passes our rigorous due diligence process to participate in a Global Open Challenge.  If an organization can mobilize enough funding from enough donors, it’s a good indication that they can use our platform productively and that their idea has support.  It’s hard to get 50 people to give money to a really bad or fraudulent idea.  We’ve gotten pretty good at predicting which organizations will succeed, but there are always big surprises.

This model has the added benefit of sustaining itself.  The transaction fees generated during this process support the large amount of due diligence, training, support, outreach, and disbursement work that goes into throwing a challenge of this magnitude.  We do not charge organizations a fee to participate.  We feel strongly that any organization working towards social change should have a shot at articulating its work and raising philanthropic funds to support its growth.  Manmeet Mehta heads up this initiative at GlobalGiving and has continually enhanced the strategy, the incentives, the processes, and the support to make this an effective and sustainable program for GlobalGiving.

How do organizations hear about GlobalGiving in the first place? A quick Wordle of all responses to the question, “How did you hear about GlobalGiving?” reveals the interplay of offline and online networks that drive participation.  “Friend” and “Internet” figure most prominently:

Wordle: How did you hear about GlobalGiving?

Organization responses to the question, "How did you hear about GlobalGiving?"

I’m proud of the continuous experimentation that has resulted in this method of opening GlobalGiving’s doors as widely as possible.  We’ve tripled the number of organizations using GlobalGiving, and we’ve kept disbursements per organization steady.  Our marketplace is becoming richer in feedback and more self-sustaining.  2010 is already GlobalGiving’s biggest year ever, with over $10,400,000 in donations.

GlobalGiving’s Storytelling Project

Posted by john hecklinger on December 13th, 2010

GlobalGiving has a modest budget and team of around 25 people, all in one room in Washington, DC, but we face challenges similar to those of the largest of institutions involved in philanthropy and international development.  One of the biggest is assessing the impact of what we are doing.  With over 1,000 organizations implementing small projects in over 100 countries, it is impractical for our team to study each project’s impact in scientific detail.

Beyond easy measures of donation flow and reporting compliance, how do we know whether the marketplace we’ve built actually accomplishes something of substance in the world?  Which organizations are doing great, and which are struggling?  How can we celebrate the former and assist the latter?  Does all the work we do in cooperation with our on-the-ground partners all add up to something?  Are we sparking and fostering innovation?  Are the organizations participating in the GlobalGiving marketplace different from other organizations in positive ways?

In cooperation with Rockefeller Foundation, Cognitive Edge, and independent consultant Irene Guijt, GlobalGiving has found an promising way to tackle this problem.  In Kenya, we launched the GlobalGiving Storytelling Project, which asked people to tell stories about community projects and the individuals, organizations, and government entities working to make change happen.   We gathered 2,700 usable stories from individuals primarily in Nairobi and the Rift Valley.

Using the SenseMaker® methodology of capturing people’s stories and asking those people to “tag” their own stories, we are able to see how thousands of stories relate to each other.   We can visualize patterns in the stories that help us understand how people see organizations working in their communities.  Our next step is to make this method available more widely, providing a toolkit that helps our project leaders learn more about how people see them by launching their own storytelling projects.  We want this to be a useful way for GlobalGiving, our partner organizations, and beneficiaries to .

This pilot has huge promise, not just for GlobalGiving but for the philanthropic and development sectors as a whole.  Much has been written about how the lack of quick feedback hinders development work.  See Owen Barder’s recent blog post.  Like marketers of soda or electronic gadgets, how can funders of development initiatives quickly measure performance and make real-time adjustments to meet real needs in efficient ways?  Our pilot is a promising way of establishing meaningful feedback to power this type of real-time learning .

Marc Maxson, GlobalGiving’s chief feedback loop instigator and impact assessment innovator, has pulled together online resources that show how our pilot worked and what we’ve learned.  We will add further resources as our approach evolves.  Our next step is to expand our work in Kenya and to begin working with organizations in Uganda and Tanzania.

Are you looking for a way to learn more about how people view your work?   Are you struggling to find an effective and inexpensive way to evaluate your impact?  Please contact Marc (mmaxson@globalgiving.org) to learn more about getting involved.

Clean Water for Loonwa

Posted by john hecklinger on May 12th, 2009

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3JbEDGU3uQ[/youtube]Last month I had the rare and very moving opportunity to visit a village that had recently received a clean water plant with funds from The Eleos Foundation, implemented by the Naandi Foundation, with GlobalGiving acting as the matchmaker/intermediary.  I visited Loonwa, a town of 10,000, in India’s beautiful and historic, but environmentally harsh, Rajasthan state.  Loonwa, and many other communities in Rajasthan, have a three-fold water problem.  First, there just isn’t much water – imagine farming in Phoenix or Las Vegas.  Second, water contained in stagnant ponds during the rainy season is likely to be contaminated with bacteria and worse.  Third, due to an unfortunate geological situation, the groundwater is high in fluoride and other chemicals that leach into otherwise pure water from wells.  Just enough fluoride helps teeth grow strong, so they put it in our water and in our toothpaste.  Too much fluoride makes teeth turn very white, then they fall out, and it seriously hurts skeletal development of children.  Here’s a scientific discussion of the subject. Enter Eleos Foundation and Naandi Foundation.  Eleos wants to help the poorest of the poor get healthier around the world, and they want to do it through market-based solutions.  Naandi helps communities in India finance clean water plants, and then trains local folks to operate the plant and sell the water at affordable prices.  Through UV and reverse osmosis purification, the water is pathogen and chemical free.  And it’s available for about $18/year for a family.  Over time, the community buys the clean water plant with the proceeds and everyone is healthier.  GlobalGiving helped Eleos connect with Naandi, and now this community has a potential solution to this unique problem. As I pulled into Loonwa with Amit and the Naandi team, I wondered if there was a political rally going on.  It was election time in India.  No, it was a welcoming party for us.  I cut the ribbon on the door of the water plant, saw how the plant works, attended a community meeting where we were all welcomed very warmly by the leaders of the village, then toured a Jain temple.  I was overwhelmed by the sincere excitement about having access to pure water, and I was humbled and a bit embarrassed by the very, very festive welcome I received.  You’ll see my sheepish grin in this video. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2fN8U7cVvU[/youtube]

Nothing like a cool diaper bag.

Posted by john hecklinger on April 30th, 2008

Cake all over your face?  Not a problem. I have to say I love the diaper bag I got for my first Fathers Day. It’s a gray messenger style bag with a pocket for all essentials – sippy cup, emergency rations of Spaghetti-O’s and goldfish, wipes, diapers, changing pad, butt cream, and purel. It’s got room to spare for a change of clothes and a few books.

For gear heads, parenthood opens up a whole new world of possibilities – from the mundane details of which baby bottle works best for your infant, to the very important performance characteristics of a stroller, you can really go overboard on things. Still, with my Diaper Dude bag and my Bugaboo stroller (both provided through the unbelievable generosity of friends and family), my son and I are ready for just about anything.

Poop in a museum? No problem.

Haircut trauma? Got a music cube and lollipop for that.

Like a guy I used to wait tables with in grad school used to say, “Failing to prepare is like preparing to fail.”

I’ve been working closely with the great folks at JOHNSON’S® on the “Celebrity Hand-Me-Down Auction” that went live on eBay last night. Well known moms and a dad (Matt Damon) have donated baby gear for auction, with proceeds going to a selection of mom and baby-related projects on a GlobalGiving web site customized for JOHNSON’S®. The projects range from providing baby gear to families in the Bronx to helping teen moms in Kenya start small businesses.

Huge thanks to the celebrities who donated very nice gear, and a big thanks to JOHNSON’S® for choosing GlobalGiving as its charitable partner.

Snap Picks and Skin in the Game

Posted by john hecklinger on March 21st, 2008

This week I got interested in college hoops again. Since my Wahoos were a major disappointment, I haven’t been following things as much as I usually do, or more precisely, I haven’t watched a single game or read a single article about a single team (save the bad news about the ‘Hoos) this season.

Still, I can’t resist participating in pools. I’m in the office pool and my book club pool for $10 each. I literally spent less than five minutes filling out both brackets with no research. After day one, I’m 14 for 16 on one bracket and 10 for 16 (ouch) on the other.

So, why bother? I guess I feel like my snap decisions are potentially as good as informed decisions. Unless you’re extremely well-informed, it’s tough to pick the surprises. But now, I have skin in the game and a reason to follow things.

For me the pleasure of the brackets is isolated. I don’t care that my decisions aren’t smart or the result of following players and trends and picking mismatches. I just like seeing how my brackets evolve, leaving things up to chance and ultimately caring about teams I would otherwise never have followed. Maybe I’ll even annoy my expert friends in the process.

I spoke with a donor this week who chose to fund two projects based on well-reasoned, but entirely self-defined criteria. Now that results are coming in, the donor is interested in seeing the funded projects in a larger context. How did the funding choices contribute to solving a problem in a specific part of the world? If funding were expanded how much greater would the impact be? Is there a chance to solve a problem for a whole community? A whole region?

The Wisdom of Crowds informs our thinking at GlobalGiving.  Individual decisions made with limited and imperfect information can add up to effective distribution of charitable funds – a compelling and hopeful idea. What donors might not be getting from us is satisfaction in knowing that donations are part of something bigger. A small donation can move a major problem closer to a solution, but it’s tough to communicate how that happens through this marketplace of different ideas and approaches around the world.

A challenge is to help donors see how $10 decisions contribute to the general good. Just like my $10 investment in the college hoops pool, now I care and want to see what happens in the end.