Uncategorized Posts

10 Lessons Learned Over 10 Years: Launching GlobalGiving in the UK

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving in the United States. 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 writer will speak candidly about their experience with GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. This month’s writer, Rachel Smith, is the Programme and Operations Director at GlobalGiving UK, the London-based sister platform of globalgiving.org.  Rachel was part of the founding team at the organization. Below, she reflects on  her experience working in a small start-up organisation and how they were able to “achieve a lot with a little.”

As a young start up organisation, learning lessons is a constant activity for our team at GlobalGiving UK. The first few years are defined by figuring out how we work best and learning what doesn’t work so well. I often think that we must experience similar challenges and rewards that many of our grassroots non-profit partners experience. I hope this lesson will resonate and inspire others to ‘think big’ and bravely try creative solutions to bring a vision to fruition.

GlobalGiving UK has landed
Almost four years ago to the day, GlobalGiving.co.uk launched to the world. I’d never been involved in a tech start-up before so I really wasn’t sure what to expect from ‘launching a website.’ Lots of preparations in advance and then at the point of launch…not much happens. At the switch of a button and we were live and online. It almost seems like nothing had changed from three seconds earlier.

Of course, there was more to ‘launch day’ than that. The GlobalGiving seed of something new had just spouted and on that day:

  • GlobalGiving’s online giving platform had launched for the first time in a new currency and market bringing additional benefits to GlobalGiving donors and non-profit partners around the world;
  • Our small team (then just two of us!) brought together more than 50 founding supporters and friends to begin our journey to engage the UK public and development sector (the highlight being a keynote speech from the then Secretary of State for International Development); and, also, not so conveniently…
  • Lehman Brothers collapsed sending the world in a turbulent global recession.

These were potentially not the most fertile of circumstances to launch an online giving platform! Although as we were starting from zero, the only way was up! We had to learn how to grow and respond to the environment we faced and take creative approaches to meeting our aims.

Lesson: achieve a lot with very little by being creative and open
Over the past four years, through testing and piloting, listening and learning, and developing partnerships and collaborations, we have (amongst other successes):

  • helped non-profit partners gain access to over £1.5m to fund projects around the world
  • supported more than 500 organisations with their online fundraising
  • provided a fundraising and communications training course to more than 100 organisations
  • and launched a skills-sharing platform – GlobalGivingTIME – providing grassroots organisations with access to skilled professionals such as those at Aegis Media.

Aegis Media’s online volunteering platform, GlobalGivingTIME

Success rests on many factors but I believe that one of the key factors for success for us has been leveraging everything and anything to make things happen. That is not to say that everything we tried worked, however! (A failed pro-bono partnership helped us learn to be realistic about what could be achieved, scaling our extremely ambitious plan back to something more manageable.) Some of our other keys to success have been:

  • Leveraging networks. We developed collaborations between more organisations, investing in team creativity, and forming win-win partnerships. These were ways to get things done that didn’t require us to throw money around.
  • Promoting GlobalGiving.co.uk for ‘free.’  We have never spent any actual money on advertising the website. We have developed pro-bono relationships with Google and 77academy to help us spread the word, for example.
  • Bringing professional skills to non-profit partners anywhere. Spurred on by our vision to provide access to funds and resources to under-resourced grassroots organisations, we developed a long term collaborative partnership with Aegis Media and Sparked.com and launched GlobalGivingTIME connecting 1000s of professional online volunteers with our charity partners around the world (this project was honoured by the Guardian Sustainability Awards).
  • The power of the team.  Everyone in the team is valued and everyone can contribute to the ideas generation, planning, delivery and review and lesson learning. We bring the whole team together to ‘get creative’. We know this has also worked for non-profit partners too – PEPAIDS cited the value of their team in raising over £10,000 for their project: “Sharing the responsibility gives you confidence, momentum and helps you aim high”.
  • Partnerships that make the right connections. Our partnership with JustGiving.com – the UK fundraiser platform (think online sponsorship forms) – has generated over £500k from 1000s of people for GlobalGiving projects. Highlighting just some examples shows how working together with others from inside and outside the organisation and being creative (thinking ‘out of the box’) can yield marvelous things! You don’t need a lot of money: just a willingness to develop relationships, listen, try things out, be brave and accept when things don’t work out (and celebrate when they do!)

GlobalGiving UK remains a very small team but our partnerships, collaborations and team energy, creativity, and passion means that we are far more than the sum of our immediate parts.

freedom starts at home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Independence Day in the United States.  On this day we celebrate our freedom from oppression, tyranny, and our equality, our freedom of speech and, among other things, right to pursue happiness.  Often these freedoms are framed in an historic and military context, dating back to 1776.   And they are framed with an eye toward meta- or country-level independence, freedoms and rights.

And while the USA  is a great country in many many ways, we still have a lot of work to do.   We have much to learn from other cultures and countries.  We are – and will always be – a work in progress.  And we have miles to go before these concepts are a reality for all of our citizens and residents.

So today, I share with you some fantastic organizations and projects working here in the United States of America, fighting every day to ensure that the ideals we celebrate on July 4th apply to all:

War Vets Heal with Help of Shelter Dogs

Protect 250 Women Immigrants fleeing violence

Stop Homophobic Bullying in Schools

Provide School-based Healthcare for Poor Kids

Happy 4th.

 

Stopping a crisis before it starts

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’

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

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!