DataKind and GlobalGiving Using Data Science to Drive Funding to Effective Organizations

A DataKind DataDive team hard at work answering questions with GlobalGiving data

This is a guest post written by Miram Young, DataKind’s Communications Specialist.

At DataKind, we harness the power of data science in the service of humanity by bringing together data science experts with mission-driven organizations like GlobalGiving to work on projects addressing critical humanitarian problems. We have the honor of working with inspiring organizations around the world looking to use data to transform their work and are thrilled to be working on our second project with GlobalGiving using data science to drive dollars to effective organizations.

There is much that binds DataKind and GlobalGiving together. For one, as we discovered at our recent DataDive weekend in Nashville, we both have a knack for doing cartwheels down hallways (GlobalGiving was much better than we were.) Perhaps more significantly, we are bound together by our missions similarly dedicated to giving social change organizations access to powerful resources to amplify their impact.

The GlobalGiving DataDive team

The GlobalGiving DataDive team

As all of you know, GlobalGiving is in itself a tremendous resource for organizations and individuals raising needed funds to address critical issues around the world. GlobalGiving has another powerful resource up its sleeve as well: data.  Because GlobalGiving’s website tracks each project’s fundraising progress and each click of a potential donor, they have gathered a tremendous amount of data that can, in turn, be used to help people more easily find organizations they would like to donate to and help organizations fundraise more effectively.

But what exactly is data science anyway? Simply put, we at DataKind think of data science as the art of wrangling data to provide actionable information, predict our future behavior, uncover patterns to help us prioritize, or otherwise draw meaning from vast data resources. While there’s still debate about defining this profession, we think of a data scientist as both a statistician and a computer scientist. This combination of skills puts data scientists in a sweet spot of knowing not only how to obtain and transform the necessary data for an organization, but also how to understand what the numbers are–and are not–saying.

Our project with GlobalGiving started at our October DataDive with an initial analysis of data from their past projects to determine what factors lead to projects being successfully funded. DataKind volunteers found interesting trends, such as the fact that more specificity within a project description tended to lead to more donations.

Our DataKind team is now in the stage of using these findings to optimize GlobalGiving’s search ranking algorithm. By the end of the project, GlobalGiving will have a better understanding of which factors motivate donors to give, which will in turn be used to help organizations fundraise more effectively.

Stay tuned for more updates on this project over the coming weeks. If you’ll be at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in March, Will Frechette from GlobalGiving will be speaking on a panel that our Programs Strategist, Shubha Bala, is hosting on how nonprofits can use data science to advance their work. We’d love to see you there (and maybe even do a cartwheel or two with you down the hall).

Disasters and Development: Reflections from the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan

Eva Jocelyn Ship in Tacloban CityAt the end of last year, I had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines and to visit GlobalGiving’s local partners that have been driving the Super Typhoon Haiyan recovery effort. (The storm was known locally as Typhoon Yolanda.) One year after the disaster, some of the most powerful remnants from the destruction have become benign landmarks and regular photo ops for visitors, like this 3,000 ton ship that washed into a community in Tacloban City. This juxtaposition of the terrifying and the mundane is a fitting metaphor for the complex road to recovery.

This short video brings to you to some of the people and issues I came across in the Philippines one year after Haiyan.(I’m narrating the video.)

Click to watch a short video about GlobalGiving's visit to the Philippines one year after Typhoon Haiyan

Click to watch a short video about GlobalGiving’s visit to the Philippines one year after Typhoon Haiyan

On my long flight home I reflected back on my many conversations in the Philippines; here are some observations that kept running through my mind:

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.57.51 PM1. There is a vital need for ongoing support after disasters fade from the headlines.  Since Haiyan struck the Philippines last year, donors on GlobalGiving have delivered nearly $2.4 million in support of 33 locally-driven nonprofits performing relief and recovery work. When images of the disaster were flooding the newsfeeds, it was relatively easy for us and our nonprofit partners to mobilize donor support. However, as Natalie from International Disaster Volunteers explains in the video, as the work turns from rescue and relief to long-term recovery, many communities are left without the resources they need to get back on their feet.

One the tools we have for addressing these longer-term needs in disaster-affected areas is the anniversary campaign. On the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan we held a matching campaign, offering $100,000 in matching funds for organizations still working in the Haiyan-affected areas. This recent campaign helped Filipino organizations raise an additional $103,773 from 405 donors for ongoing recovery work after Haiyan. The matching incentives motivate donors to give to support ongoing needs. These donations alone this won’t rebuild the Philippines, but they are an important part of reinforcing the links between local communities and the global community of donors.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.58.08 PM2. Disasters highlight underlying needs for development. When I asked Filipinos about the largest need one year after Haiyan, many people said “livelihoods.” But interestingly, they couldn’t agree on whether the livelihoods situation was better or worse than before the disaster (and the international aid response that followed). To me, this underscores the fact that underemployment is an ongoing issue in the Philippines, and it’s simply one that’s been exacerbated by the natural disasters—including Haiyan.

PBSP, represented by Jay in the video, is a large civil society organization that is funding cash-for-work programs for local villagers who want to re-plant their lost mangroves. This program not only addresses the livelihood issue, but also the deforestation and damage to local watersheds and ecosystems, problems that have existed for years and whose effects were only compounded by the disaster. Livelihood and ecosystem programs generally fall in the category of ongoing needs for ‘development,’ not just disaster relief, but they can spell the difference between a disaster setting back a community for decades or a community being able to cope and move on. That’s why our ‘disaster’ strategy starts and ends with supporting local development efforts.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.56.24 PM3. Disasters can be an opportunity to build local capacity. When disasters do happen, we work to get leaders like Elmer and his organization, WAND, the immediate funding they need to respond, and then we help them leverage those disasters as a way to build skills, expertise, and awareness of ongoing structural issues in their communities. I’ve emailed back and forth with Elmer nearly a dozen times since my visit, and I’ve seen how he’s developing the relationships with the many donors that WAND acquired while they were in disaster-response mode. On the one-year anniversary campaign, Elmer is testing new ways of engaging donors around deadlines and matching incentives, all while building his own networks and fundraising skills. In building his fundraising capacity he’s also building toward sustainability.

When I asked Filipinos if they feared another big storm, every one of them said yes. For many, it wasn’t a question of “if” another devastating typhoon would happen, but “when.” (In fact, in just the 2 months since I returned, the Philippines has already been hit by some very scary storms.) I’m glad to know that for Natalie, Jay, Elmer, and many other local leaders, GlobalGiving is a long-term partner in their growth, learning, and capacity, as they keep their eyes on development and resilience in the Philippines.


The Power of Crowdfunding to Fight Ebola

This article was originally posted on the Philanthropy News Digest PhilanTopic Blog.

In DecTIMEcoverember, TIME magazine named Ebola Fighters — doctors, nurses, caregivers, scientists, and medical directors “who answered the call,” often putting their own lives on the line — as its “Person of the Year.” We couldn’t agree more: local West Africans and long-time residents like our friend and partner Katie Meyler and her colleague Iris are courageous, vital, and worthy of support.

While much of the emergency funding from private donors and companies has been channeled to U.S. government partnerships and programs, we’ve been focused on helping donors reach the “last mile” with their donations. Aaron Debah is familiar with that last mile. Aaron, a Liberian nurse, has rallied his neighbors to go house-to-house to combat rumors and misinformation in a culturally relevant way. He’s also producing a local radio show about Ebola to spread the message more widely in the community. Through Internews, GlobalGiving donors are funding motorbikes for community activists, a scanner/copier/printer, and mobile phones, among other items. Through their actions, people like Aaron are making an enormous difference in the fight against the virus at a hyper-local level.

Radio producer and nurse Aaron Debah and his colleague Roosevelt Dolo (L) are coordinating community volunteers to fight Ebola in Liberia.

Radio producer and nurse Aaron Debah and his colleague Roosevelt Dolo (L) are coordinating community volunteers to fight Ebola in Liberia.

$3 Million and Counting for Locally Driven Ebola Solutions

At the end of 2014, we announced that we had helped raise more than $3 million for Ebola relief from donors in sixty-eight countries through the GlobalGiving community. We’re currently crowdfunding for more than 29 community organizations that are preventing and fighting the spread of the virus in West Africa. By giving to local nonprofits that are deeply rooted in the affected areas, donors are supporting organizations that were creating change in their own communities long before this Ebola outbreak — and will be there to drive the recovery of the region over the long term.

More than 3,800 individuals have given to over 30 Ebola relief projects on and, including GlobalGiving’s Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund. In November, a $200 donation to the fund came from a community of concerned people in Mozambique: “Though it may not seem like much, this is equivalent to two months minimum wage here. Thank you for connecting our hearts with fellow Africans who are suffering!” said Brian, the man whose family collected and sent the donations to GlobalGiving.

Private foundations have joined the thousands of individual donors to support locally driven organizations combating Ebola in West Africa through GlobalGiving. In August, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation gave $100,000 to the GlobalGiving Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund in the form of a matching grant, motivating more than seven hundred individual donors to give $100,000 over a span of just four days. In September, the Sall Family Foundation also gave $100,000 and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation contributed $400,000. And in November the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust gave $2.2 million to the fund.

Transparency around this funding is important to us. Each of the nonprofits on GlobalGiving has been vetted and has committed to providing donors regular updates about how donations are put to work. We’re also publishing donation data to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) on a daily basis.

A Marketplace That Creates Local Resilience

As 2014 was coming to a close, Jennifer Lentfer, a leading blogger on aid effectiveness, made this comment: “Grassroots groups fighting Ebola have formidable challenge. They must continually seek out and compete for new resources in a funding environment that favors short-term grants to larger, higher-profile groups and that is often led by global trends rather than persistent, ongoing challenges.”

Jennifer is right, and that’s exactly the reason the GlobalGiving marketplace exists. We work not only to connect small groups to major funding, but to help those organizations build their own capacity and funding networks so that their communities will be stronger and more resilient in the face of ongoing challenges and future crises.

For us at GlobalGiving, it’s about even more than just access to funding. We’re also making sure that local organizations have access to the information and ideas they need to be as effective as possible with the money they do have. We’re connecting organizations of all sizes to technology and information that would have otherwise only been available to major international NGOs.

More Than Just Funding: Access to Technology That Could Help Stop Ebola

In November, several of our nonprofit partners in West Africa highlighted a major challenge: they needed faster access to data from the field. We connected those nonprofits with Journey, a South African technology company with a history of success developing mobile health solutions in Africa. Journey is now working with GlobalGiving partners to create and distribute the Ebola Care app, helping health workers track individual patients, coordinate education events, follow up with at-risk children and orphans, and log data about survivors.

EbolaCareApp“In order to be effective during any crisis, being able to access real-time data is critical, as time is of the essence,” Sam Herring, data manager for More Than Me, one of our partners that is using the app in the slum of West Point, Liberia, explains. “Thanks to the Ebola Care app, data that once took weeks to get to us is now rolling in by the minute. This allows us to identify hot zones, have our ambulance transport suspected Ebola patients to Ebola treatment units immediately, send in our social mobilization team to provide psychosocial support, food, and cleaning items to affected homes, and enable our nursing team to educate residents about prevention.”

Together with Journey, we’ve mobilized smartphone donations for nonprofits that have the desire and capacity to use the app. And after developing it with input from some of our with local partners in Liberia, Journey is distributing the app on smartphones to other GlobalGiving partners who have expressed interest. Journey also continues to gather feedback and improve the app based on feedback from the field so that it will become even more effective in meeting the needs of health workers on the ground.

MariTEDxOur co-founder, Mari, gave a TEDx talk earlier this year in which she noted that “the power of crowdfunding isn’t in the funding, it’s in the crowd.” We’ve seen that idea come to life over the past several months as we invest in organizations networking to support the fight against Ebola. As long as there are unmet needs in local communities from Monrovia to Mumbai, Mexico to Minneapolis, GlobalGiving will continue to mobilize crowds to level the playing field for local change-makers.

You can learn more about the GlobalGiving partners responding to the Ebola outbreak here:


West Africans are not powerless against Ebola…and neither are we

This article was originally published on

Archie Gbessay, 28, is a fierce protector of his siblings, and a passionate young leader in a Liberian slum called West Point. After his mother died of cancer, Archie had a dream to become a surgeon. He works hard to save $20 each month so he can start a small business selling electronics. Archie hopes the business will earn him enough money to go to medical school some day. But when Ebola came to Liberia, Archie took the lead of a community task force to head off the disease. Archie’s dream to become a surgeon is now on hold; today he’s driving the Ebola-Free West Point Coalition, and he’s fighting to keep his community alive.

Equipped with information, a megaphone, buckets, chlorine, and community trust built over his lifetime, Archie is a one of the most crucial weapons against Ebola in Liberia.

Foreign agencies and our military are bringing beds and protective suits to treat the sick, but Archie has the skills to prevent his neighbors from contracting Ebola in the first place.

Photo courtesy of The Coalition To End Ebola via

There seems to be a narrative coming from the aid community that Americans don’t care about Ebola in West Africa, but I believe there is a solid core of generous people who would’ve been moved to act sooner if we, at aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), had told stories coming from locally-driven prevention and treatment efforts more urgently, realistically and effectively. As this blog points out,stories about the local response to Ebola are hard to find.

The biggest of all international disaster responders, the American Red Cross, held held off on mobilizing individual donors to respond to Ebola partly due to a lack of (donor) interest, according to an ABC story. They waited until this month to create an Ebola-specific donation campaign. This delay (or choice not to engage individual donors) certainly influenced other major funders and responders who are hanging on the sidelines waiting for their influential peers to act first. The result? As one NY Times story explains,Americans aren’t giving because they haven’t been asked.

I work for GlobalGiving, the first global crowdfunding marketplace, and we’ve matched more than 400,000 donors with more than 10,000 grassroots projects in the developing world over the last decade. I’ve read enough emails from GlobalGiving donors over the last few months to know that individuals from outside Africa do care. What we as aid agencies and non-governmental organizations need to do is a better job of demonstrating how one person’s donation can make a difference for individual people fighting Ebola in their own neighborhoods.

This health crisis has turned into a humanitarian crisis that will have devastating long-term psychological, social, and economic effects. In “Hotel Rwanda,” Joaquin Phoenix’s character predicts that when the public is confronted by footage of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, “they’ll say ‘Oh my God, that’s horrible,’ and then go on eating their dinners.”

Two decades later, we can’t stand by with the same sense of helplessness in the wake of this ongoing tragedy. It’s 2014 and this time, Americans have the means, the technology, and the will to engage with and support people like Archie who will stop the Ebola outbreak.

By all means, yes, we should continue to implore international leaders to invest right now in immediate efforts to stop the epidemic and long-term work to develop better health infrastructure in West Africa. But you better believe that after the U.N. and the U.S. have packed up their tents, Archie and community-based leaders and organizations will be the ones driving the long-term recovery for a generation ravaged by Ebola.

So please don’t believe it when you hear that Americans don’t care about Ebola. All of us—everyday citizens as well as NGO communicators—need to change that self-fulfilling narrative. Help your friends and family feel empowered by knowing that there are safe, efficient, and reliable ways to make meaningful contributions by supporting vital local community leaders like Archie and the Ebola-Free West Point Coalition. In doing so you’ll let those courageous women and men know that that we are with them.

Testing triggers for generosity

Do you think you’d be more likely to donate when a nonprofit gives you five project choices or just features one? And how close to the deadline of a matching offer would you be most compelled to give? That’s what we sought to find out with a recent email test…

In a 2012 project partner survey, we found that our nonprofit partners want more reliable funding from GlobalGiving. They wanted to be better able to plan and budget in advance; more monthly recurring donations from GlobalGiving donors would help them do so. In 2012 and 2013 we experimented with new ways to boost recurring donations, and one of our most successful techniques was a matching offer for new recurring donations that we emailed to our e-newsletter list.

Looking for ways to optimize returns on this tried and true email campaign this year,  we tested two different hypotheses in our September 2014 send:

  • First, would offering people a choice of five projects to support outperform an offer presenting them with just one choice?
  • Second, would it be better to send the appeal on the day before the deadline or the day of the deadline? We measured success by tracking the dollars raised per one thousand emails sent.

Cell 2 The metric of success in this experiment was dollars-per-thousand-emails-sent, or $/1K sent. This is a metric that is helpful at comparing performance of appeals across lists of varying sizes and levels of engagement, and is one of the key metrics featured in M+R’s annual benchmark study on the online activity of nonprofits. We also regularly track open, click-through rates, and conversion rates to learn about engagement with our emails.

We created four test cells to generate emails containing donor history-based personalization. We created four equally-sized randomized segments of our audience for this promotion. The subject line was kept constant across all cells. The four test cells were:

  • Cell 1: One project + sent the day before the deadline
  • Cell 2: Five projects + sent the day before the deadline
  • Cell 3: One project + sent the day of the deadline
  • Cell 4: Five project + send the day of the deadline

Here’s what happened:

The people who had five projects to choose from were more likely to give than those who just had one, and the emails sent the day before the deadline raised more funds than those sent the day of the deadline.

Four-cell test results

Here’s what we learned, and what we’ll do in the future:

1. Five choices are better than one. Although people clicked through the email at slightly lower rates when presented with five projects, (1.1% click-through rate for five projects versus 1.5% click-through rate for one project) readers of the five-choice emails were 27% more likely to give than those presented with just one project – and that’s a statistically significant finding. Going forward, we’ll now feature more than one project option, and we’ll hone our findings by testing five options versus four, three, or two.

Significance Test

2. Give ‘em some notice. The average $/k emails sent for the day-before emails was $135, and the average for the day-of-deadline emails was $118, making the day-before emails the winner. There was no statistically significant difference in the open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates of these emails; the only difference that stood out was donation amount: the people receiving the appeal the day before the deadline made donations that were 12% larger than those receiving the appeal the day of the deadline. This wasn’t an expected outcome, so we’ll see if this trend continues during future promotions of the same kind. Until we figure out more, our plan will be to send an appeal the day before the deadline with a follow-up the day of the deadline.