celebrating 10 lessons learned over 10 years – love at first click

Posted by Kevin Conroy on May 16th, 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, our Director of User Experience and Product Development, Kevin Conroytalks about his learning while working at GlobalGiving…

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A little over five years ago I was working for a large, multinational consulting firm. I had a good job with a steady paycheck and incredible view from my 38th floor office. However, I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like I could be doing so much more with my skills. My wife suggested that I look for a nonprofit job.

I scoffed at her idea. The nonprofit world? I loved the idea of doing good, but didn’t think that my programming abilities would be of much use in the nonprofit world. You can’t code a new water well in Africa. Fixing bugs doesn’t help a poor child in India go to school. And planning a software project timeline certainly doesn’t address underlying societal and economic issues that created these conditions in the first place.

Despite these rational objections, my wife wouldn’t take no for an answer. She walked me to the computer and looked over my shoulder as I went to Idealist.org, typed “programming” into the box and skeptically clicked “search”.

The first result was for some nonprofit in Washington D.C. called the GlobalGiving Foundation. I clicked on the website and after about 30 seconds of browsing I turned to my wife and said: “This website is horrible. I have to work here.”

It was love at first click.

Kevin Conroy, Director of User Experience and Product Development

I could see from the website that GlobalGiving was doing amazing, innovative things to help small, grassroots nonprofits around the world. But they needed help. The outdated website used at the time needed to be better, faster, stronger. It needed to highlight  the incredible work that the grassroots projects were doing. It needed to let people easily search for a cause that the cared about. It needed to tell the heartwarming updates of change and deep social impact that was being made. And it needed to have a way for the people benefiting from the projects to have a voice and tell their stories.

I applied and when I went to the interview I was thrilled to discover that everyone at GlobalGiving already shared this vision. They saw GlobalGiving as more than just a website – it’s a platform for creating, discovering, and learning about social change. They wanted it to become a place for donors to find incredible projects and for people in communities anywhere in the world to join together to address the problems that they’re facing without waiting for the government to step in.

Needless to say, I accepted the job offer.

Five years later I’m pleased to say that with the help of my incredible co-workers we’ve fixed all of the problems on the site that I saw on that first click and have improved it in ways that I didn’t think were possible then. We’ve gone from helping a few hundred nonprofits at the time to helping more than 5,000 grassroots projects in 140+ countries.

My code may not build a well, but it can help the communities in Africa that need clean water get the funds that they need to build one. Fixing bugs won’t send a child to school, but it makes sure that tens of thousands of people can support projects that do. My project plans don’t even attempt to address the underlying, systemic problems of poverty, but we have planned and built tools that let people tell us the stories of the problems facing their communities, and from that, people have been able to create new programs and projects that address some of these underlying problems.

For me, the most important thing that I’ve learned these last five years isn’t stored in a source control tool, a binary executable, or even a database. It’s in the passion of my coworkers, our project partners, and our donors. No one is content to settle for the status quo. We are all passionate about improving our website, our projects, our organizations, and ultimately the world. No matter how much room for improvement we still have, it’s our ‘never settle’ attitude that created ‘love at first click’ for me, and is the most important thing that I’ve learned.

-Kevin Conroy

PS: If you’re a programmer looking for a way to make a bigger impact in the world with your skills, check out the nonprofit world. There’s a lot more going on than you’d think. If you’re interested, drop me a line. And if you’re interested in other opportunities, here are some amazing jobs from our friends at DonorsChoose and Kiva, plus many more on Idealist.org.

 

celebrating 10 lessons learned over 10 years – do what makes sense

Posted by Marc Maxson on April 11th, 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 asking current and former staff to speak candidly about what they have learned at GlobalGiving. Mari wrote our inaugural blog post in February, and this month Innovation Consultant Marc Maxson shares his one life-long lesson…

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I’ve been part of GlobalGiving for nearly 4 years. Last month I kept asking myself, “what is the one thing that GlobalGiving taught me that I will keep doing forever?”

Lesson: Do what makes sense.

This is easier said than done. Too often, doing “what makes sense” is not feasible for larger companies, organizations, and research labs because they are bound by a preexisting set of rules. But everything we’ve done has had a different flavor than everybody else because it has evolved out of what has made the most sense to us, rather than copying whatever others were doing.

When Dennis and Mari started GlobalGiving, they didn’t build it upon an established paradigm. They didn’t require that it function according to some preconceived worldview. They didn’t even require that it remain a fixed version of their own original vision – but rather it was free to evolve into what our clients needed most. They hired enthusiastic, thoughtful, curious people and told them to “do what makes sense.”

Being the only scientist they’ve ever hired, I think they took a risk on me. They gave me the freedom to do things in new ways because they made more sense than the old ways, so long as we had a clear reason for everything we did. (You’ll never find someone saying “…because that’s the way we’ve always done it…” at GlobalGiving)

Innovation = Listening

Marc Maxson, GlobalGiving Innovation Consultant (Nairobi, Kenya)

‘Fostering innovation’ is always talked about as if it is some kind of widget that falls off a well-oiled assembly line; but inside GlobalGiving, I see it as the product of long conversations and lots of listening to each other. Anyone, even the newest intern, can contribute an idea and be heard. If GlobalGiving was supposed to be a platform to let the world’s local community leaders pitch  their own ideas and get an audience with billions of potential donors, we had to start by listening to each other, right?

Well, here are some innovation milestones I’m proud to have been part of in the last three years:

  • Real capacity building : since 2008, we’ve held over 100 workshops in 20 of the poorest countries to prepare community organizations for social media fundraising. Thousands of people attended (because we teach stuff that “makes sense” for them to learn, of course).
  • Our open challenges work: Both as a means of testing what organizations have learned, and as a test of whether an organization truly means a lot to at least 50 people (“social vetting”).
  • Learning how to do community feedback on a massive scale: 36,000 stories collected in 2011 across Kenya and Uganda. Best of all, thousands of young people in these countries were directly involved in listening to each other and collecting these stories.
  • Organization background checks (due diligence): GlobalGiving is synonymous with the highest standard in fraud protection. Last month, we screened over 400 new organizations, entirely without printing a piece of paper.
  • Quick, error-free disbursements: We get all donations out the door, to more places, faster than any aid organization. And our partners can now see what’s coming in real-time.
  • Delivering excellence while reaching sustainability: Most of the public good done by the world’s nonprofits rely on subsidies from government and even larger funding agencies. GlobalGiving aspires to do it all sustainably, so that a lean funding year doesn’t wipe us out of existence.

Suffice it to say, I have the coolest job. They let me live in Nairobi, where I run a storytelling project that – when fully conceived – could transform the way that organizations listen and learn from what’s happening around them. Imagine if every day, instead of checking Facebook for the latest fad, every community leader could log into a site that gave them a report on yesterday’s community concerns. They could receive continuous evaluations about the root causes of complex social problems. They could tab over and read stories that relate to their projects. They could send a text message back to these storytellers to ask a follow-up question, or ping everyone in the village with an announcement about next week’s HIV clinic. By lunch, they could be planning next month’s community “baraza” (fundraiser) that would collect money directly by phone and show the total amount raised on their project page (as a form of community endorsement). And over time, what got done would align with what the community needed.

Together these four things: direct feedback (from communities to NGOs), instant SMS replies (from NGOs to the community), mobile money as a fundraising tool, and a global reputation system for NGOs – would transform the way that aid flows. I’m excited to get the ball rolling but we all need to chip in, because the “standard ways” of doing things aren’t good enough. They no longer make sense. We must take risks in pursuit of better, cheaper, and more democratic ways to serve the world’s people.

So what proof does a scientist like myself need to believe that we are making progress? When people are telling stories about it on a massive scale, without us even asking them about it.

-Marc Maxson

Below: Dennis Whittle at TEDxYSE explaining: “Do what makes sense.”

Landmine Clearance in Cambodia: A Tour of The HALO Trust’s Work

Posted by anadin on April 4th, 2012

Gearing up for the field

This is a guest post by Jacqueline Lee, an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving. Jacqueline is currently making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

Today, across the world, governments, organizations, and individuals are commemorating International Mine Awareness Day. It is an important opportunity for victims of landmines to speak out, and for all of us to build awareness about the effects of landmines long after conflicts have ended. Here at GlobalGiving, we are proud to work with numerous organizations that are clearing minefields around the world, including The HALO Trust, an organization working to clear landmines in 13 countries around the world.

There are still hundreds of thousands of landmines in Cambodia; not only were they laid by the Khmer Rouge, a brutal regime that ruled Cambodia in the late 1970s, but also the Vietnamese army, in its efforts to contain Khmer Rouge forces, and later, the new Cambodian army. Since 1979, there have been more than 63,000 landmine casualties in the country.

My Visit to The HALO Trust

"Lifesticks"

Recently, my colleague, Alexis Nadin, and I had the chance to receive a real-life tour of a minefield being cleared by The HALO Trust’s field team in Cambodia. We visited a minefield that is part of the infamous K5, a large swath of densely-mined land stretching across 21 northern border districts in Cambodia.

On our way out to the field, Alexis and I were surprised by the number of yellow sticks we passed on the sides of the road. Stanislav Damjanovic, HALO’s Deputy Programme Manager in Cambodia, explained that each stick represents a destroyed landmine. I deemed them “life sticks,” what could have been tombstones are now indicators of lives that have been spared.

Cambodian Deminer

By the time we arrived at the site, HALO’s field team had already found 6 landmines that day. As we walked towards the makeshift field office, the local field officer signaled for us to wait for a blast. We were taken aback by the loud BOOM of a landmine being exploded by HALO’s expert field team in the distance. It was at that moment that Alexis and I looked at one another, thinking about what we had gotten ourselves into.

Alexis and I geared up, having received in-depth security and safety briefings, and then were off to experience a day in the life of a de-miner. We followed HALO’s staff as they navigated the field, weaving between yellow sticks, and being careful not to cross any red sticks, which signaled uncleared land.

Destroying a landmine...

Well-trained deminers, hired from local communities, were carefully scanning grids with specially-designed metal detectors. And as the afternoon sun beat down on us in our Kevlar vests and massive helmets, we began to truly appreciate the dedication and resilience of HALO’s team.

Stanislav asked Alexis and I if we would like to destroy one of the mines – so we had the opportunity of a lifetime to press the button that would prevent a future tragedy.  It was an intense thirty seconds waiting for the explosion… then BOOM, a loud jolt went off that shook even my camera while I was filming. This was a small mine – I could not imagine standing next to it when it accidentally goes off or even when coming across a larger tank mine.

Later in the day, we traveled to one of the many fields that The HALO Trust has not been able to clear due to funding limitations. We stood in the backyard of a small family home and looked out into a minefield. It was here that the true implications of HALO’s work sunk in. Although The HALO Trust has cleared over 17,350 acres and destroyed more than 245,700 landmines, the risk is still high in rural Cambodia.

Standing in the backyard of a family home looking out into a minefield...

Children still play and walk to school on paths that wind through uncleared minefields. Parents and grandparents still take daily risks, farming on land that has never been cleared.

Our day with HALO was incredible. The work they are doing on the ground in Cambodia is crucial to the continued development of the country. Having witnessed for myself the harmful impact of minefields first hand, I would like to invite you to help clear another landmine in Cambodia this Mine Awareness Day. Consider making a donation to HALO Trust’s project in Cambodia.

Check out GlobalGiving’s other mine clearance projects:

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…

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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

 

Announcing GlobalGiving’s Video Contest Winners!

Posted by anadin on March 1st, 2012

We’re excited to announce the five winners of GlobalGiving’s first-ever video contest! We received 93 submissions from project leaders around the globe. Our judge at Green Living Project, Laura Knudson, was very impressed by all of the submissions; here’s what she had to say:

Judging the Global Giving video contest has truly been an honor.  There were so many great videos telling amazing and compelling stories with great vision and creativity.  Picking just 5 of the dozens of superb submissions was very hard to do, but in the end the top videos were chosen based on their quality, creativity, and the ability to engage and inspire.  Thank you to every one of you involved in these wonderful programs.  You inspire with your storytelling, and the important work you do. Congratulations to the winners, and to all of you for giving your hearts for a better world!

While making the decision was incredibly difficult, below are the five winners that she chose (they are listed in no particular order).  Click on any of the videos to watch – and enjoy!

Waste Ventures:

Waste Ventures aims to permanently raise 100 waste picker families out of poverty in the next year by providing them with a blueprint for environmentally processing garbage to increase incomes 3x and allow their children to go to school. Visit the Take 100 Waste Pickers in India out of Poverty project. 

Waves for Water:

Surfers travel. They chase waves and travel to interesting places. But, many of these places have little access to clean water. The Waves for Water Karma Kit provides a traveler an opportunity to help. It’s a simple kit containing a filtration system, canteen, fin key, surf wax and other needed items. The idea is simple…you help fund another person to give the gift of water next time he/she travels. Visit the Karma Kit: W4W & Clean Water Courier Missions project. 

More Than Me:

More Than Me Foundation helps get girls off the street and into school in one of the world’s most notorious slums in Liberia, West Africa. We work with community leaders to identify the girls who are at the highest risk of being sexually exploited to ensure that education and opportunity, not exploitation and poverty, shape their lives. We pay tuition and provide them school lunch. We work with the school and community to make it impossible for them to fail. Visit the 500 Girls Off The Street & Into School In Liberia projet.

Trees, Water and People:

Trees, Water & People (TWP) is driving development in Haiti through social enterprise. Over the past 16 months, TWP has been working to build a sustainable market for clean cookstoves in Port-au-Prince, creating much needed employment & allowing families to safely prepare food, purify water, and save money. The Zanmi Pye Bwa cookstove is designed to be built, repaired, and refurbished with locally available skills and resources, and is currently being distributed by vendors throughout the city. Visit the 1,500 Clean Cookstoves for Haitian Families project.

Meet Kate: 

The Meet Kate Foundation is building a primary school with sport and playground facilities in Ekwamkrom Ghana, providing quality education for 200 children in this small community. This school will have small classrooms and provide the children with computer classes. 20% of these children will be on a full scholarship. We have put several things in place to make this project sustainable, like a 6 acre cacao plantation and a poultry farm. This school will be self-reliant within 3-5 years. Visit the Primary Education For 200 Village Children – Ghana  project. 

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Each of the winners will have the opportunity be featured in the GlobalGiving and Green Living Project social media! There were some incredible videos submitted during this contest, and they’re all  featured on their respective project pages. If you’re a GlobalGiving project leader, get your camera ready for our third annual photo contest this July!

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!

Make February 14th Generosity Day

Posted by Alison Carlman on February 10th, 2012

By Shonali Banerjee, Unmarketing Intern

Valentine’s Day, one of the year’s more polarizing holidays, often elicits a whole spectrum of emotions.  The infamous day can leave you feeling loved and content, or sometimes wistful and lonely.  But what if Valentine’s Day could make you feel… generous?  We here at GlobalGiving think it should!  Last year, Sacha Dichter of Acumen Fund posted about rebooting Valentine’s Day and turning it into Generosity Day:

  “We’re rebooting Valentine’s Day as Generosity Day: one day of sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone, to see how it feels and to practice saying ‘Yes.’ Let’s make the day about love, action and human connection – because we can do better than smarmy greeting cards, overpriced roses, and stressed-out couples trying to create romantic meals on the fly.”

Generosity Day embraces many of GlobalGiving’s favorite values: passion for humanity, unabashed generosity and saying “Yes!” whenever possible.  We’re pretty besotted with this video brought to you by Sacha and his Generosity Day co-conspirators – we think you’ll love it, too.

This year, in addition to (or instead of?) the heart-shaped box of chocolates and pricey romantic dinner, give the gift of a not-so-random act of kindness.  Generosity Day should be a day for doing the small things that we always think about but never do– donating the clothes we haven’t worn in years to Goodwill or bringing in lunch for coworkers! You can sign the Generosity Day Pledge here, committing to spend February 14 exclaiming an enthusiastic “Yes!” to all requests for help.

But true GlobalGivers won’t stop there.  This Valentine’s Day, we’re also inviting you to make your Valentine a girl you don’t know. These lovely ladies don’t need jewelry or champagne, but they do need schooling, financial independence and the opportunity to prove how vital they are to their communities.  If you already have a special someone in mind, make a donation in his/her honor! This year, we think your Valentine will be happiest if you give a gift to someone else

Happy Generosity Day everyone – make this one count!

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.

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.