Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

 

Stopping a crisis before it starts

Posted by Alison Carlman on May 30th, 2012

By Shonali Banerjee and Mattie Ressler

Right around this time last year, you might have heard about the famine in the “Horn of Africa.” The Horn of Africa comprises much of northeastern Africa, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. In 2011, incredibly poor rainfall in the Horn and neighboring Kenya and Tanzania lead to small harvests that didn’t produce enough food for the local people. These climate conditions, combined with some man-made political and economic factors, drove the region into famine. The United Nations declares a famine when 20 percent of households face extreme difficulty in finding enough to eat, over 30 percent of people experience acute malnutrition (a life-threatening state), and two nutrition-related deaths occur per day per 100,000 people.

Last year, thousands of GlobalGivers contributed nearly $600,000 to GlobalGiving partner organizations in response to the Horn of Africa famine. People like you provided food, clean water, emergency supplies, and medical services. We have no doubt that your contributions saved countless lives, for which mothers, fathers, and children will be forever grateful. Read our Horn of Africa fund updates for photos and updates about  how those donations were used.

Unfortunately, as we head into the summer months in the northern hemisphere again this year, we’re hearing about struggles in the Sahel.  The Sahel encompasses sections of many countries bordering the famous Sahara desert, stretching like a belt across the widest part of Africa.  Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad and Senegal are all part of the Sahel–a brutally hot, drought-prone region.

This spring, the Sahel received insufficient rainfall: meaning that there is not enough water to sustain crops, livestock, and people. Although the Sahel often struggles with food insecurity, this year’s circumstances are far worse. Combined with other man-made factors, the Sahel has entered the early stages of what could be a terrible famine.  Sahel droughts endanger over 15 million people throughout various nations. That’s about three times more people than were impacted by the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined.  Many humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Association are sounding the alarm about the dangerous circumstances that are already beginning, due to the recent coup d’état in Mali and soaring global food prices.

UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake recently reached out to the international community at large, saying, “we are appealing, all of us, for an end to global indifference we have found so far.  I know there is a certain fatigue… but by acting vigorously and properly now, we can head off future crises.”

We here at GlobalGiving wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Lake and UNICEF’s belief that proactive measures are often better than reactive responses; prevention truly is better than a cure. For example, preparing water sources for 80,000 Ethiopians before a famine costs $900,000 and prevents death and suffering, but trucking water across the desert for 5 months costs $3 million, more than three times as much.

GlobalGiving partners with numerous organizations working to prevent disaster-like humanitarian conditions in the Sahel:

Famines are not high-profile emergencies like recent tsunamis, earthquakes or floods. The widespread concern with this type of humanitarian crisis is that it takes time to develop into a full-blown disaster, meaning that many fail to recognize the severity of the situation until thousands of lives are lost.

We’ve created a Sahel Relief Fund in order to provide support now before the situation becomes a full-blown disaster. It’s our hope that we, as the GlobalGiving community, will respond with our heads now to prevent suffering, rather than waiting for gut-wrenching images to move our hearts only after such suffering has taken place.

Thank you for being such a thoughtful, caring, and generous community. We are so grateful.

 

celebrating 10 lessons learned over 10 years – committed to ‘WOW’

Posted by ntavangar on March 15th, 2012

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving. In honor of these past ten years and in the spirit of one of our guiding core values, ‘Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat,’ we have launched a monthly blog series guest-written by former and current staff members. Each will speak candidly about their experience at GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. Mari wrote our inaugural blog post in February, and this month, former ‘GlobalGiver’ Eli Stefanski talks about her important learning while working at GlobalGiving…

—–

My key learning from working at GlobalGiving?

Call everyone back within 24 hours.

Maybe you were expecting something more exciting? Something about the democratization of philanthropy? Something about the birth and evolution of social capital markets? For sure, I learned a lot about those things. But, first, and most importantly, I learned to call everyone back within 24 hours. Which, of course, isn’t about a communications policy, it’s about empathy.

It was a Dennis lesson, a ‘Dennis thing.’ I learned fast to pay attention to it. It was not part of the culture I had been raised in. It was not the culture that Dennis and Mari had been raised in either. And, well, that is sort of the point.

Elizabeth "Eli" Stefanski, former Director of Operations at GlobalGiving

For a few short months, this is how it would work:

As GlobalGiving’s first Director of Operations (and first Chief Program Officer) I was busy: I was busy raising capital; I was busy developing the richest and most diverse portfolio of projects; and I was busy trying to figure out how to fund and vet 400+ projects without violating the Patriot Act (and therein getting Mari and I arrested). I was so busy, that I occasionally missed an email or phone call from the social entrepreneur that Dennis had met on a plane on the way home from somewhere – a social entrepreneur who had shared his passion and aspirations with Dennis, a social entrepreneur who Dennis promised I could help.

In reality, I didn’t really ‘miss’ the call. The truth is, I didn’t really know how to deal with that one lone social entrepreneur. If I had vetted him, I would have had to vet all of them. Systems needed to be built – systems that previously didn’t always accommodate the outlier. The lone entrepreneur didn’t ‘fit’ my model. And so, from time to time, I avoided the call.

I would pay the price for that, however. The entrepreneur would invariably send Dennis a “thanks, but I guess you can’t help me” email, Dennis would forward it to me and hold me accountable, and well, I would feel like a mountain of manure. Not only because I knew I was in the wrong, but also because GlobalGiving was better than that. We knew how hard it was to be a social entrepreneur. We knew how hard it was to build something new, something transformative that hadn’t been done before. We knew how hard it was to build believers, attract users, convince investors, and ignore the naysayers. And day after day, we got up and kept with it – because we knew in our heart of hearts that we were building something important.

So the lesson about calling everyone back within 24 hours wasn’t about anything other than empathy, and building an empathetic organization that puts the beneficiary at the center of the design process – building systems around their needs.

This is why we:

  • Built a feedback system that gave project leaders real time feedback about what was working and what was not.
  • Designed evaluation tools that, instead of requiring longitudinal studies, relied on storytelling – the tool our entrepreneurs have in spades.
  • Created open mechanisms allowing all social entrepreneurs to participate on our platform, because we knew first hand how inaccessible the modern funding streams were.
  • Bankrolled relief efforts after the 2005 tsunami in Thailand without requiring proposals, because we knew social entrepreneurs were responding with or without the funds (and this is why we’ve responded many times since).

…And we learned to return phone calls within 24 hours – even when we couldn’t directly help.

It’s a lesson that took me a short time to learn at GlobalGiving – but it is the lesson that makes GlobalGiving great, and it is probably the most important lesson that any individual or organization can learn in a lifetime.

-Eli Stefanski

 

Celebrating 10 Lessons Learned Over 10 Years

Posted by Alison Carlman on February 14th, 2012

GlobalGiving Co-Founder Mari Kuraishi speaks about what really mattered in the beginning…

Ten years ago today, we turned the switch ‘on’ at GlobalGiving. At the time it wasn’t even called GlobalGiving—it was called DevelopmentSpace—and as you can see from the screenshot below, we’ve come a long way.

Screenshots of DevelopmentSpace (2002) which became GlobalGiving (2012)

We’ve come this far due to the incredible devotion that all of the staff, interns, and volunteers have given to GlobalGiving—believing in the little dream that Dennis and I had about creating a ‘space’ where ‘development’could happen at its own pace, driven by the bravest and most passionate.

We’ve come this far thanks to the unwavering support that our project partners, donors, corporate partners, and funders gave us along the way. We’ve come this far because we have improved over the years how to convey with greater fidelity the amazing work that is undertaken every day, in every country we serve, by people who don’t just live with the status quo.

So in honor of these ten years, we are kicking off a year-long celebration here on our blog. It is a great opportunity for us to reflect on our learnings of the last ten years and to share it with you. So watch this space for a monthly series: Top 10 lessons learned from the last 10 years.

Mari and Dennis in 2011

To start it off, here’s my lesson:

Back when we first had the idea of starting GlobalGiving, Dennis and I took several months to think about it (in other words, we didn’t quit our day jobs immediately).  We thought through the pros and cons, and tried very hard to solidify the business plan. The truth is, that despite all of the cogitating, we didn’t really foresee the triumphs that would make our hearts sing, and the challenges that would test us to the limits and facilitate growth. It turns out that the vision that we had back then was far less momentous than any of the real successes we have had in the subsequent ten years.

That being said, the one thing I could imagine back then was embarking on this adventure with Dennis. That, basically, is all that mattered, ultimately.

And so our GlobalGiving family grew over the years—first Donna, then John, Steve, Kevin, Jen, Ingrid, Britt … well, you get the picture. But starting out with the right partner from the very beginning was a joy and a privilege, and I was lucky.

Happy Valentine’s Day Dennis!

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

Animals for Autism

Posted by GlobalGiving Foundation on January 27th, 2012

In 2010, Pepsi created the Pepsi Refresh Project to support projects that have a positive impact in local communities across America. Pepsi believes good ideas can come from anyone, anywhere and anytime and so they decided to be the catalyst for bringing them to reality. The projects were voted on and chosen by Americans and the result: more than 1.2 million people impacted across the country through more than 1,000 grants awarded in 345 cities and 45 states.

GlobalGiving is honored to be a part of this program. We work with agency partners and grantees to administer, disburse, and monitor these grants. All grantees undergo a due diligence process, whose terms are available as part of the official Application Guidelines at the following link:
http://www.refresheverything.com/official-application-guidelines

We also support grantees in a variety of ways by assisting them with various steps like project planning, budgeting, event coordination and securing local volunteers. GlobalGiving has visited many projects in various stages of implementation. We’ve seen amazing work being done all around the country, such as a turtle rescue project in Pittsburgh, new homes for foster children in Mississippi, a karate program for children with special needs in NYC, and a project to support the homeless in Washington DC.

Over the last few months we’ve heard the concerns raised regarding a $50,000 grant awarded to an individual, Lea Kaydus, in July 2010. The project is to provide ten trained dogs to families of autistic children free of charge. Activities funded under this grant include the construction of a new canine training facility and costs associated with the training of the dogs.

We do not take any expression of concern lightly, and we are committed to ensuring that grant activities are implemented as they were intended. We have been thoughtfully evaluating the situation specific to this grant, in addition to overseeing many other projects that are still actively pursuing their goals. As with all Pepsi Refresh Grants, GlobalGiving monitors project activities to ensure compliance with the terms of the grant agreement. We have been in regular contact with the grantee throughout the grant period (including a recent site visit), and she is in compliance with the terms of her grant agreement and is scheduled to deliver the dogs to the requesting families starting in Spring 2012.

We understand that for the families involved, the care of their children is their foremost concern. We stand firm in our commitment to do everything we can to support the grantee to help bring this project to fruition. We have also encouraged the grantee to be in more regular communication with the families going forward, to which she has agreed. We ask everyone involved to please refrain from personal attacks and understand that the grantee is doing all she can to accomplish her goals with this project.

GlobalGiving Gets More Money to the Ground with FXecute

Posted by Alison Carlman on November 1st, 2011

It’s a great week to be a GlobalGiving nonprofit partner (and donor!). We’re excited to share the news that we’ve launched a new system of payment disbursements that will save most of our international partners a significant amount of money. Hooray!

GlobalGiving is now implementing a new donation disbursement method for our international partners called FXecute. When compared to a traditional bank wire transfer, FXecute promises to save our international partners collectively hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in wire transfer fees and currency exchange premiums, getting more of our donors’ dollars to the ground.

FXecute delivers local currency to our partners’ international accounts via their country’s domestic ACH system (similar to a direct deposit) rather than using the typical international bank wire transfer system. Avoiding the intermediary bank and the beneficiary’s wire department, we are able avoid typical wire fees of $55, and in some cases as much as $95, per transfer.

In addition to saving on wire fees, GlobalGiving will be able to reduce the currency conversion premium on international disbursements from 3-11% (typical international wire transfer currency conversion rate) to 0.3-1% (FXecute’s conversion rate).

What does all of this mean? It means that a $1,000 disbursement to a partner in Kenya would have cost that organization $105 in bank fees and currency conversions before now, causing the organization to lose 10.5% of the donations on top of our 15% fee.  Today, that same $1,000 will be disbursed as $995, costing the Kenyan partner $5 in currency conversion fees – making the total cost of  the transfer less than one percent.

We’re doing the best to continually add benefits that make the GlobalGiving system more efficient and more valuable to our nonprofit partners every day. We’re pleased to roll out this new disbursement program this week, just in time for the holiday giving season!

 

Learning from one another – curating dialogue on Facebook

Posted by manmeet on October 19th, 2011

Do you remember asking a classmate to help you with your homework? Perhaps they owed you a favor because you’d helped them with something else? There are many intellectual, cultural and social reasons for asking friends and colleagues for help, but what is quite fascinating to me is the manner in which we respond to one another. When we engage with others’ success and failures, we learn. Development experts have a buzzword for this type of peer learning; they call it “collaboration.”

At GlobalGiving we crowdsource new partnerships with non-profit organizations that have expressed interest in working with us. Typically we work actively with 500-600 organizations over 2-4 months, through group trainings and individual consultations to help organizations map and grow their networks and building an online fundraising plan. We then invite them to post a project on the site and implement their online fundraising strategy raise funds for their projects. If an organization meets a threshold of raising $4000, from at least 50 donors they are invited to join the GlobalGiving platform. We call this an Open Challenge.

In addition to the trainings and individual consultations for Challenge participants who we call Project Leaders (PLs), we host sessions with fundraising experts and other social entrepreneurs who have successfully leveraged our tools (aha! The peers!).  Several years ago it suddenly struck us – what would happen if we made it easier for organizations to talk to one another?

Facebook turned out to be the lowest common social media denominator amongst Challenge participants, so we created a private Facebook group, first time in December 2010.At first we used it primarily to share fundraising resources, and encouraged people to ask questions about the design and other details of the Challenge.  It was gratifying to watch the conversation start to emerge – people asked and answered questions, others made suggestions  and shared fundraising ideas.

But it wasn’t quite vibrant. We tried something different for the next group we set up for the last Open Challenge we hosted. Here’s what we did differently:

  • Every day during the Challenge we posted relevant content– fundraising tips, links to resources and suggestions for raising funds
  • Regularly asked a variety of questions of the participants
  • Engaged participants that had shown interest by inviting them to share their opinions on a particular question
  • Responded to every single post by a member, with a relevant response
  • Celebrated accomplishments big and small

These tactics were driven by some of our core philosophies:

  • Intention: curating the conversation, and facilitating interaction
  • Relevance: sharing irrelevant information is a waste of time
  • Celebration: fundraising is hard work. 4 out of 10 participants had never raised funds online before, so we celebrated all types of victories
  • Recognition: by acknowledging contributions to the group we encouraged more participation. The emerging dialogue seemed to draw more comments.

Take a look at what happened. In comparison to a Facebook group organized for the previous Challenge in April, relevant posts (i.e. posts that were not just links to their projects, and websites) increased from 8% to 33%. The number of Facebook posts from participants increased from 6% to 24%.

In addition, the content of the conversation changed. The posts and comments covered a range of subjects from ideas for fundraising, potential solutions for questions posed, and reactions to fundraising resources that had been posted. Three out of four posts entered by the organizations resulted in two or more comments.

Wow.  People were talking with each other, and they seemed to find the conversation useful! It was exciting to watch people begin to collaborate instead of just compete. It is heartwarming to see the group celebrate milestones – projects submitted, funds raised, thresholds met.

We will continue to experiment with the way we facilitate these conversations by  making it fun and interesting for members to talk to each other with the upcoming Winter Global Open Challenge. This idea of creating a space for interaction to happen is central to GlobalGiving’s core philosophies. We believe that expertise should be decentralized, and that the possibility of learning from each other is immense.

If you have any experience in facilitating content-driven dialogue online, please do share your thoughts with us. We’re going to keep experimenting, and keep learning.

thank you – HP’s innovative pilot for employee recognition

Posted by nkukowski on September 23rd, 2011

Volunteering and giving have always been a large part of employee culture at Hewlett Packard, whether it be Global Impact Days or through the Office of Social Innovation’s technology and education programs.

Recently, HP launched a pilot program to use GG gift cards to simply say, thank you.

Ahead of the curve on recently emerging Harvard Business School research on what drives employee happiness and motivation, HP is using our e-gift cards to recognize employee volunteers who report their volunteer hours each month.  Every HP employee, worldwide, who reports their hours, receives a $25 gift card via email, which can be redeemed for any project on GlobalGiving.org.

The study notes, “when organizations give employees the opportunity to spend money on others – whether their co-workers or those in need – both the employees and the company benefit, with increased happiness and job satisfaction, and even improved team performance.”

Already the research is proving true for HP employees like Michael Penor, who provided the following feedback, “It was interesting to have a variety of causes to choose from for my donation. I feel like I found an organization that is important to me personally, and will go toward influencing a young person in a positive way.” Caroline Barlerin, Director of Community Involvement, in the Office of Global Social Innovation at HP agreed, stating, “Using GlobalGiving gift cards have provided us with a fast, easy way to reward our employees around the world for their commitment to their communities.”

It’s a win-win for HP: employees feel appreciated and recognized for their volunteerism, the team tracking HP’s corporate citizenship commitments engage employees in an innovative way, and HP acknowledges employees living HP values of community involvement by enabling employees to do even more good and support our global projects.

Thank you HP.

climbing up the hockey stick

Posted by Donna Callejon on August 29th, 2011

It really is hard to believe that it’s been nearly eight years since the day in Geneva when I met Dennis Whittle.   I went 4,073 miles to meet the guy who would turn the page to my career’s second chapter, when his office was just 3 miles from my house.  Three weeks later I met the other half of the founding duo – Mari Kuraishi.  Needless to say they were smart, direct, and impressive.  So not long after that I found myself toiling along with them and two handfuls of others in that sometimes smelly, often music-filled and always fun office above the thrift store down the street.

One of the first things they suggested I do was to read their business plan.  So I did.  It had, like legions of business plans before it, the classic hockey stick growth curve.  In our case, the unit being donation volume.  According to this plan, we would be at $40 million in annual donation volume, and “pay our own freight” by about 2005.  Um, we didn’t quite make that.  Many slightly less sloped hockey sticks followed.  When things didn’t take off like a rocket ship we tried new things, always led by our two fearless (and in this case that word really applies) leaders.  We tried plan b, plan c, and plan d, always with our eyes on the prize of working to make it possible for great organizations around the world to access funds and for donors of all shapes and sizes to support the causes that inspired them.

So here we are in 2011, celebrating two things.  First, our donor community just crossed $50 million in aggregate contributions.  Second, for the first six months of the year we more than “paid our own way,” covering 103% of our expenses on our own steam.  The business model is different from what was in the original plan.  The mix of donation activity is different from what was in the plan.  The mix of revenue comes from sources not in the original plan.  And we don’t yet feel like that 103% is a lock consistently, but we see the end of the tunnel.

Roles have evolved; Dennis has transitioned off the staff and onto the Board.  Mari runs the day to day with her quiet, determined leadership style.

Why did they persevere?  Ten days ago Dennis wrote a very poignant blog post, made moreso by his mom’s passing just a day later.  The post gives some insight into what motivates him.  Mari  has different, but equally inspiring, motivations as described in this Wharton Blog from earlier this year.

From the perspective of their team, we are glad they did press on.  Because they did, more than 50 million dollars have been contributed to social entrepreneurs and nonprofits around the world who are working to educate children, feed the hungry, build houses, train women (and men) with job skills, and catalyze hundreds of other important initiatives. This past week, a generous donor in Singapore gave the 50 millionth dollar through GlobalGiving to help with relief for the East African famine.  This was possible largely because Dennis and Mari have persevered to build a team and a platform that continue to live up to our mission of “unleashing the potential of people around the world to make positive change happen.”

From New Orleans to Miyagi-ken, with love

Posted by mari on July 20th, 2011


Tipitina’s Foundation
(yes, that Tipitina‘s) has a foundation dedicated to helping at-risk kids in New Orleans get access to musical instruments and education. They’ve been GlobalGiving members since November 2010. But in March of this year, they turned around and used the funds they had raised for their own program and chose to use them to purchase new instruments to send to programs in Japan working with youth in the tsunami affected areas to help them pick up their lives and instruments back up again.

Now this, I think, is philanthropy — love of man — at its best and brightest. The idea that people in New Orleans, who suffered as much as they did from Hurricane Katrina, would share the funds they had raised to buy their own instruments with the youth in Japan perfectly captures all of the things that make the act of giving so amazing. Perhaps better than anyone else, people in New Orleans knew the sense of loss and dislocation they had suffered. As Kim Katner, the Managing Director of Tipitina’s Foundation said, “I personally know that I would not have made it through the aftermath of Katrina if it wasn’t for music.” And they also didn’t think twice about whether the kids *needed* the donation of instruments. They just knew that getting the instruments replaced quickly would speed up a return to normalcy. And perhaps they knew that a connection to New Orleans would be particularly meaningful to these kids. As the music director of Bright Kids put it, “I did JAZZ and, through JAZZ, was able to receive the warm feeling of a lot of all of you. I thank Satchmo heartily.”

It’s a privilege getting to see these exchanges day in and day out, working at GlobalGiving.