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:
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.