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.

10 Lessons Learned in 10 Years: Redefining the Status Quo

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 writer will speak candidly about their experience with GlobalGiving and offer up something that they have learned. This month Alexis Nadin, Senior Program Associate, shares three lessons she learned during her transition from an intern to a full-time team member.

Lesson 1: Ideas really can come from anyone, anywhere, at anytime. (Even GlobalGiving interns!)

If you ask any of my colleagues about my personality, they’ll probably tell you that I’m opinionated and demanding. I know that GlobalGiving can make an incredible difference in the world and I want to make sure that our organization is doing the best possible job in supporting our non-profit partners and communities around the world. So I try to set the bar high, for myself and everyone I interact with here at GlobalGiving.

What my colleagues probably don’t remember is that when I first started at GlobalGiving in 2008 as a Project Team Intern, I was not the demanding, opinionated Alexis that they know (and hopefully love) today. When I started at GlobalGiving 4 years ago, I was passionate about the organization’s mission but I was fully prepared to be a fly on the wall. After all, as your average over-achieving university student in Washington, DC, I had had plenty of internships at other organizations and government agencies. I knew my place as an intern—I was a phone answering, stapler wielding, memo editing drone. Right?

Wrong! It was clear after my first few days at GlobalGiving that I was not going to be playing the role of a glorified photocopier machine.  The Project Team was interested in my thoughts, opinions, and ideas. I was invited to take ownership of projects and give feedback on the team’s direction. I don’t remember much about that first semester I worked with GlobalGiving (after all, I was attending school full time and nannying on the side) but I do recall the feeling of having my thoughts and opinions matter. I remember feeling like a part of the team, even though I was “just” an intern. After that first semester, anytime someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I always answered “work for GlobalGiving.”

Lesson 2: Don’t ever underestimate what passionate social entrepreneurs can accomplish.

I was lucky to start interning with the Project Team at an exciting time. GlobalGiving would soon be hosting the first-ever Open Challenge, in which organizations would aim to raise $3,000 from 75 donors to remain on GlobalGiving’s site. But, like many others, I was skeptical. I mean, come on, small, grassroots organizations in developing countries around the world could never really mobilize 75 people to give them $3,000. Right?

Wrong again! That first Open Challenge was a huge success. Twenty organizations from places like Nepal, Madagascar, Philippines, and Sierra Leone raised more than $3,000 and secured a spot on GlobalGiving. Since then, GlobalGiving has hosted more than 30 Challenges and over 500 organizations have secured a spot on GlobalGiving through this process. (I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Manmeet!)

Today, I am a huge advocate for our Open Challenge process. (Check out this blog post I wrote about the rationale for the Open Challenge.) Over the past few years I have learned that social entrepreneurs are a powerful and capable force. Time and time again we have seen organizations beat the odds and accomplish truly incredible things with a little bit of faith, love, and support.

Lesson 3: It’s all about building relationships.

During that fateful first semester I interned at GlobalGiving, Marc (now GlobalGiving’s Innovation Consultant) announced that he would be testing out a new concept for monitoring projects.  He planned to identify select travelers to visit and verify GlobalGiving projects overseas. At the time I thought, “How silly of GlobalGiving, don’t they know that travelers aren’t qualified to visit their projects? That takes a degree and years of field experience.”

Despite my hesitations, I volunteered myself and my boyfriend, Brian to visit organizations in East Africa that summer. In two months, Brian and I visited 20 organizations in four countries. We met rats that are sniffing out landmines, paraded through the streets with 200 female microloan recipients, hung out with university scholarship recipients in Rwanda, and so much more.

During that summer, I learned the value of meeting face to face, of getting to know our partners’ stories and passions and concerns. I got to tell our partners that their feedback matters and that GlobalGiving wants to provide a platform that is meaningful and valuable (and of course, easy to use). And although I didn’t have a degree in M&E, I was still able to tell our partners that GlobalGiving is there for them–that there is a group of people in Washington, DC who care about their struggles and who want to help them and their communities.

Today, I am proud to manage GlobalGiving’s In the Field Program, which trains and sends well-qualified volunteers and interns into the field to visit our non-profit partners. Although the program has evolved since Brian and I were in the field 3 years ago, we continue to emphasize the value of relationship building. This is still one of the number one ways that GlobalGiving maintains close relationships with almost 2,000 partner organizations.

GlobalGiver Spotlight: Truth or Dare Mountain

by Laura Vogler, Unmarketing Intern

GlobalGiving is putting the spotlight on some creative, above-and-beyond donors in this new blog series.  We encounter incredible people every day who are doing good in very unique ways – these are their stories!


“Truth or Dare?” That’s the question being asked by Beck, Kate and Fiona, three women taking on a challenge to make a difference. The trio will be participating in the Three Peaks Challenge, which consists of climbing in the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales all within 24 hours.


In order to drum up some support, the ladies have started project called ‘Truth or Dare Mountain’. They are asked to reveal truthful statements about themselves or tackle embarrassing dares provided by donors. The higher the donation, the tougher the dare.

What have they been asked to do so far? The trio has acted out funny children’s songs, asked for piggy back rides from strangers and even bathed in a tub of cereal and milk. We don’t want to give too much away but upcoming dares include chicken hats, Buckingham Palace and Donnie Darko!

Where is all this money going? Beck, Kate and Fiona have chosen to support GlobalGiving partner organization Global Grassroots, a group promoting education, literacy and social change in the lives of women in post-conflict communities.

Have an idea for a great dare?  Want to follow the story?

 

Well done ladies! Keep up the good work and we’re proud to call you GlobalGivers!

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.

 

celebrating 10 lessons learned over 10 years – always open/never settle

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 Chief Business Officer, Donna Callejon, writes in honor of her 50th Birthday…

—–

I’ve been struggling with what to say on this blog post.  A love letter to Mari & Dennis?  Something about second chapters?  Something about turning 50 (me) and turning 10 (GlobalGiving) in the same year?  Argh…writer’s block.

Last week my friend Anna suggested I subscribe to something called “The ListServe.”  Here’s what it says on their one-page website: 

“This is an e-mail lottery.
One person a day wins a chance to write to
the growing list of subscribers. It could be you.”

The next day I got my first daily email.  It was kind of a mess and seemed like a waste of 30 seconds, so I sent Anna a snarky note underscoring my impatience.   To which she calmly replied, “Hang in there.”

 

 

The day after that I got this:

[The Listserve] Just Do It:  “That idea you have? Stop putting it off. Will it be difficult? Probably. Will you want to give up? Absolutely. But don’t. You have to persevere.

What about failure?Learn from it. Try again. Be smarter this time. Make new mistakes. There’s a story I heard once: it took Edison more than 1,000 tries to invent the light bulb. He remarked to a reporter that he had not failed, he had simply found 1,000 ways to not create a light bulb.

How about luck? You’ll need it. But don’t let that stop you. You can’t get lucky if you don’t even try.

Get started. Change something. Do something.
- Phil Crumm (undergrad at UCLA)

Thanks, Phil, Anna, our values, and this little exercise, for summing up what life has been like for me at GlobalGiving.