How they won: American Open Challenge Winner says “crowd-sourcing was the key to our success”

Jared Schwartz of Frogloop (a nonprofit online marketing blog) interviewed the guys from Critical Exposure and have some excellent advice for nonprofits trying to succeed on GlobalGiving:

http://www.frogloop.com/care2blog/2009/9/7/how-a-small-nonprofit-used-social-media-crowd-sourcing-to-wi.html 

The goal was simple. Earn a permanent spot on the GlobalGiving website by raising at least $4000 online from 50 individual donors in three weeks. Win up to $6000 in additional bonuses for out-fundraising the 70 other participating organizations.

The challenge was daunting. How does Critical Exposure, a little non-profit with a small group of supporters raise more money than the dozens of other participating organizations, many of whom have a large, established fundraising base?

The answer was clear. Use an array of social media channels — including Twitter, Facebook and crowd-sourcing to turn our small group of tech savvy supporters into a powerful fundraising force.

What Critical Exposure Did

A Plan of Attack – The first step Critical Exposure took was to lay out a three-week communications plan, then we threw the entire thing out. Well, not really. As the competition heated up, we certainly had to adapt, but having an overall strategic plan helped make sure that every communication piece was ready to go when needed.

Message Saturation ­­- Critical Exposure sent repeated pitches and updates to our supporters via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, community listservs, our website, phone calls, and more. Heck, we’d have sent candy-grams if we thought it would help. There was certainly concern about over-messaging, but as our supporters became more invested in the competition, they actually wanted more updates from us.

Empowered Supporters = Emotionally Invested Supporters­ ­- The power of crowd-sourcing was the key to our success. We realized that Critical Exposure didn’t have the resources to win this competition on our own. However, our supporters are an energetic, dedicated group of people and we knew that if we gave them the tools to help us, they would more than meet the challenge.

From day one, we made it clear that we didn’t just need our supporters to open their wallets (our suggested donation was just $10). What we really needed was their ability to leverage their personal networks. Every message asked them to be our fundraisers, and we gave them sample e-mails, Facebook and Twitter messages to post. By the end of the competition, my Facebook page was full of nothing but status updates from our supporters, each stating their own personal reason for supporting Critical Exposure.

We regularly updated our supporters on the fruits of their labor and during the final weeks of the competition, we pointed our supporters directly to the real-time standings. Many of our supporters later told us that as the competition entered its final days, they wore out the refresh buttons on their browser keeping tabs on the competition. Our supporters were 100% emotionally invested in the competition and did whatever they could to help Critical Exposure win.

The Results

Our supporters were an unstoppable fundraising force. Critical Exposure needed to raise $4000 from 50 donors — we raised over $15,000 from more than 600! That was 120 more donors than the next closest organization, 400 more than 3rd place and good enough for $5000 in additional bonuses.

The larger organizations may have had more big donors (the other prize winning organizations averaged $85 and $200 per donation, respectively). But no other organization got more people involved than Critical Exposure, who raised comparable money while averaging just $25 per donation!

[Here is  a snapshot of the the current Open Challenge leaderboard – where each organization and its donors can follow progress in real time]

http://www.globalgiving.com/dy/v2/globalchallenge.html

Lessons Learned

It was an exciting three weeks and everyone who participated truly felt like they were part of something very special. And really, that is why it worked. Our supporters aren’t just faceless masses (or cash machines) on the other end of an e-mail chain, but they are people, many who passionately believe in our causes as much as we do and are looking for an opportunity to help make a difference.

Facebook, Twitter, crowd-sourcing — these wonderful tools were what enabled us to tap into our supporters’ personal networks, but ultimately, it was about getting our supporters emotionally invested in being part of something big that carried us well past our wildest expectations.

This aritcle was written by Jared Schwartz, a consultant who advises non-profit organizations on using digital communications and social media applications to engage supporters, raise funds and build their organization.

google hunger relief campaign: simple ways to take a bite out of hunger

Koro is a six-year old girl who arrived at A Child for All’s orphanage (ACFA) without a home or family, her thin body extremely malnourished.  The founder of ACFA, Kadiatou Sidibe, remembers the first meal Koro had with the organization in 2010.  “It was lunch-time, and you know how in Mali, we all eat around one large plate of food.  Koro saw the food; her eyes grew big.  Then she took the whole dish and ran away—she didn’t know that there would be another meal later.”

Koro’s health has improved dramatically with the help of ACFA and its donors throughout the world.  It’s hard to think that engineers and marketing managers 7,000 miles away in Mountain View, California are key to improving the life chances of Koro and other children at ACFA.  But the fact is, they are.

Recently Google, Inc. partnered with GlobalGiving to launch its Hunger Relief Campaign, an initiative that encouraged employee donations to hunger relief agencies globally.  Googlers took a short online quiz on food security to receive a GlobalGiving gift code that allowed them to donate US$10 online to a hunger-related project of their choice.

And no, they didn’t have to answer the quiz questions correctly.

ACFA is just one of fourteen projects listed on Globalgiving.org as part of Google’s campaign.  Googlers could give to unique projects in India, Haiti, Guatemala, and Kenya (to name a few) but also to U.S.-based ones like the River Fund Mobile Pantry’s project to aid Hyperstorm Sandy victims.

“We love working with new partners like Google that innovatively deploy our gift card program to support their employees’ passions,” explains Mari Kuraishi, Co-founder and President of the GlobalGiving Foundation.

For ACFA, ten dollars goes a long way.  “All of the children that come to us are malnourished.  Ten dollars can provide multivitamins for two months,” says Sidibe.  The Google Hunger Relief Campaign drew awareness to these issues and often, after redeeming the gift card and learning about the projects, employees chose to give an additional donation that their company matched.

Mali, where Koro is from, has one of the highest child mortality rates of children under age five in the world (178/1000).  Over half of these deaths are related to malnutrition.

And the situation isn’t getting any easier.  Droughts throughout the Sahel and rebel uprisings have struck simultaneously, leading to more than 400,000 displaced and in search of food or safety.   The United Nations claims that the current situation has left 600,000 children under the age of 5 threatened by severe malnutrition.

“The children are staying at my father’s house, the same house that I grew up in.”  The partnership with Google and GlobalGiving allows Sidibe to work towards what she’s long dreamed: a five-acre lot that can house up to one-hundred children and provide a medical facility, a school for grades one through nine, a library, and sports facilities.  “All of this will help support the larger local community as well.  People currently have to walk two kilometers to get to the closest medical facility.”

ACFA has already received a disbursement of US$4,750 through Google employee gift cards, a small fraction of total Google employee giving.  This amount represents two months of ACFA’s operating budget and more than the annual nutrition needs for the current twelve children.

The Google Hunger Relief Campaign concluded at the end of 2012 and the result is absolutely amazing.  Google employees donated nearly US$160,000 to provide more than 800,000 meals to communities around the world.

10 lessons in 10 years: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Ten years ago, Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle launched GlobalGiving in the United States. In honor of the 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 has spoken speak candidly about his or her experience with GlobalGiving and something that they learned. Dennis finishes off the year-long series with this post. 

Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle, Co-Founders of GlobalGiving

The other day a friend asked me to look back at my professional career and tell her what I was most proud of.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you did all those multi-hundred million dollar projects at the World Bank in the 1980s and 1990s.  And then you were instrumental in creating the original Innovation and Development Marketplaces there.

“And now GlobalGiving has helped over 7,000 projects around the globe get $100+ million in funding from 300,000 donors and some of the most innovative companies in the world.  Plus, GlobalGiving is one of the few online giving platforms that has attained financial self-sustainability.  So which of those things are you most proud of?” she asked.

I paused, but only briefly.

“What I am most proud of is the team that we have built.  Every time I walk in the office I have an almost overwhelming sense of pride in the people there.  If you come visit some day, you will feel a hum in the large, wide-open space. People will be concentrating intensely, but periodically the room will be punctuated by laughter or by a bang on the office gong, signaling some milestone or breakthrough.

“If you keep watching, you will see that someone has hit a road block or has a question, and he will walk over to a colleague’s desk to ask for help.  The two of them will confer quietly. Someone else will look up from their work and come over to join the conversation. If you get closer, you will hear that the task at hand involves something that most teams would consider impossible.  And yet the problem gets solved, and the impossible is achieved – if not the same day, then the next day, or in any case soon.

“In the area where we have our weekly all-hands meetings, you will see what some team members have inscribed in big letters high on the wall:

ALWAYS OPEN

NEVER SETTLE

COMMITTED TO WOW

LISTEN=> ACT=> LEARN=> REPEAT

“Those are not just words – they really are the tenets that guide our actions and decisions day in and day out.

“They are the values that explain why the team can do exceptional things when others are stymied.

“They are the principles that explain why forty people can run and continually improve a platform that supports thousands of heroic project leaders and hundreds of thousands of donors in over one hundred countries.

“They are the reason why you ain’t seen nothing yet.  GlobalGiving has achieved a lot in its first ten years.  But just wait until you see what GlobalGiving does in the next decade.”

That’s what I told my friend.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen. Well-executed ideas are rare, and there is no team that can execute like the gang at GlobalGiving.  My deepest appreciation goes to everyone who has been on our team since we first opened our doors ten years ago. Thank you all for making me so proud.

10 Lessons in 10 Years: Don’t give in; Don’t settle; Love what you do.

10 Year Anniversary of GlobalGivingTen 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, Steve Rogers, demonstrates how life lessons sometimes imitate baseball. 

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Seven years ago, when I joined GlobalGiving, I had just finished my (unsuccessful) stint at a technology start up during the dot.com bubble and bust.  I rode it out until I had nothing left to give, but the company had been acquired and taken over.  I started looking for new employment, knowing now that stock options were not the key to success or happiness.  I found GlobalGiving. They were a non-profit, but operating like a startup.  They had a small team and needed some technology leadership. Sweet!

When I walked in my first day, I found two dedicated individuals keeping the site running: Neal and Sombit.  They could write html, but knew very little of the inner workings of the site and infrastructure.  I felt my heart sink a little.  Turns out that I was an “emergency” hire. The previous leadership had left unexpectedly, as well as the Java coders responsible for the current state of the site. Sour!

I did not give in. I love a challenge. So, I opened my MacBook Pro (first one at GlobalGiving), and figured out where the code was (CVS), how it was deployed (OMG), and where a test server was, and how it got to production.  I set up a local environment, since Mac OSX runs on Linux. I started learning. That first year was almost all learning – the hard way.  I got a system (Project Entry) “working” – this was the site that was under reconstruction when the previous Java team left.  But I learned to figure things out, ask for help where I could, and I started to find the pain points and sketch a path to making things better.

Over the years, as I have been in charge of systems, websites, Information Technology (IT) and phones, we have moved offices twice, changed Internet Service Providers, changed our phone system, and moved our remote data center.  All this has been a challenge, but it was due to growth and improvement – and never settling.  Along the way, our staff has tripled (at least), and I have had the privilege to work with (and be challenged by) many super smart and dedicated people. I would not trade it.

As many of us who have crossed from the private sector for-profit world to the non-profit technology sector, I love the mission and while often being under-funded, under-staffed, and over-achieving, any frustration dissipates at the end of the day when I think of all the great social entrepreneurs and grassroots organizations that benefit from what GlobalGiving provides.

I have learned (and live) these lessons:

  • You can’t hit a grand slam if you don’t get some runners on base.
  • You can still score (and win) with several well placed “bunts.”
  • Incremental and iterative growth (a good leadoff) and change can lead to a “game changer” (stolen base).
  • Always be open to new ideas – encourage discussion; be inclusive. Take a seventh inning stretch to reflect and listen!
  • Never settle for, or give in to, the status quo. Don’t worry if that fly ball gets “lost in the lights”, track it, chase it down and make the play!

10 Lessons in 10 Years: Commit to Bliss

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, KC Ellis Sledd, shares two of the most important lessons she’s learned. 

__

“Donor Relations Specialist?” I asked.

“No, no, get more creative,” Kevin Conroy, Director of User Experience and Product Innovation, pushed me as I was creating a title for my new customer service position on the Unmarketing team at GlobalGiving.

I churned, wondering what kind of a title I could possibly invent that A) made sense for my never-existed-before job, B) wouldn’t look too silly on a business card, and C) made Kevin happy.

I studied my job description and parsed through the goals of my position. I recognized that I wanted my title to reflect our value of being committed to WOW. The other values are important, of course, but a commitment to WOW resonated with me most of all. A brand new position pioneering a devout love for customers felt like it needed to embody this value most ferociously out of the four that GlobalGiving holds dear.

Knowing that Kevin would never settle (value #3) for anything less than a fantastic job title, I iterated again and again on a series of possibilities, when suddenly, I remembered something he had told me in a conversation about his own role: “I’m like the Lorax; I speak for the users.”

With this in mind, I decided that I wanted to speak for our customers, too. I would fight for their needs and fight to make them happy. After all, without our donors, GlobalGiving couldn’t exist, and our partners wouldn’t be able to fundraise for the projects that help make our world a better place.

And then it hit me. I could be more than a fighter, I could be a champion: a Champion for Customer Bliss (and yes, that is what is on my business card).

So, every day, I try to delight the crew of GlobalGivers who support projects on our site. It’s not always easy, but our donors (and even the folks who decide they don’t want to give through us) make each interaction worth it. They are our reason to be, and I am so grateful that I get to learn their stories, answer their questions, and help them give. Our donors are a pretty awesome group of people!

My lessons learned were twofold:
1.     Never doubt Kevin Conroy, and
2.     Unconditionally love your customer.

I have learned that if you truly dedicate yourself to your customers, your customers will love you back. Our donors and supporters humble and inspire me daily with their benevolence, their generosity, and their compassion.

To our customers reading this, I’d like to say, with unwavering appreciation, thank you. This whole operation hinges on you, and I am grateful that you give us the opportunity to help you find your little earth-changing idea. Thank you for letting me be your Champion.

Devotedly yours,
KC Ellis Sledd
Champion for Customer Bliss