crowdfunding Posts

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:


Learning from one another – curating dialogue on Facebook

Do you remember asking a classmate to help you with your homework? Perhaps they owed you a favor because you’d helped them with something else? There are many intellectual, cultural and social reasons for asking friends and colleagues for help, but what is quite fascinating to me is the manner in which we respond to one another. When we engage with others’ success and failures, we learn. Development experts have a buzzword for this type of peer learning; they call it “collaboration.”

At GlobalGiving we crowdsource new partnerships with non-profit organizations that have expressed interest in working with us. Typically we work actively with 500-600 organizations over 2-4 months, through group trainings and individual consultations to help organizations map and grow their networks and building an online fundraising plan. We then invite them to post a project on the site and implement their online fundraising strategy raise funds for their projects. If an organization meets a threshold of raising $4000, from at least 50 donors they are invited to join the GlobalGiving platform. We call this an Open Challenge.

In addition to the trainings and individual consultations for Challenge participants who we call Project Leaders (PLs), we host sessions with fundraising experts and other social entrepreneurs who have successfully leveraged our tools (aha! The peers!).  Several years ago it suddenly struck us – what would happen if we made it easier for organizations to talk to one another?

Facebook turned out to be the lowest common social media denominator amongst Challenge participants, so we created a private Facebook group, first time in December 2010.At first we used it primarily to share fundraising resources, and encouraged people to ask questions about the design and other details of the Challenge.  It was gratifying to watch the conversation start to emerge – people asked and answered questions, others made suggestions  and shared fundraising ideas.

But it wasn’t quite vibrant. We tried something different for the next group we set up for the last Open Challenge we hosted. Here’s what we did differently:

  • Every day during the Challenge we posted relevant content– fundraising tips, links to resources and suggestions for raising funds
  • Regularly asked a variety of questions of the participants
  • Engaged participants that had shown interest by inviting them to share their opinions on a particular question
  • Responded to every single post by a member, with a relevant response
  • Celebrated accomplishments big and small

These tactics were driven by some of our core philosophies:

  • Intention: curating the conversation, and facilitating interaction
  • Relevance: sharing irrelevant information is a waste of time
  • Celebration: fundraising is hard work. 4 out of 10 participants had never raised funds online before, so we celebrated all types of victories
  • Recognition: by acknowledging contributions to the group we encouraged more participation. The emerging dialogue seemed to draw more comments.

Take a look at what happened. In comparison to a Facebook group organized for the previous Challenge in April, relevant posts (i.e. posts that were not just links to their projects, and websites) increased from 8% to 33%. The number of Facebook posts from participants increased from 6% to 24%.

In addition, the content of the conversation changed. The posts and comments covered a range of subjects from ideas for fundraising, potential solutions for questions posed, and reactions to fundraising resources that had been posted. Three out of four posts entered by the organizations resulted in two or more comments.

Wow.  People were talking with each other, and they seemed to find the conversation useful! It was exciting to watch people begin to collaborate instead of just compete. It is heartwarming to see the group celebrate milestones – projects submitted, funds raised, thresholds met.

We will continue to experiment with the way we facilitate these conversations by  making it fun and interesting for members to talk to each other with the upcoming Winter Global Open Challenge. This idea of creating a space for interaction to happen is central to GlobalGiving’s core philosophies. We believe that expertise should be decentralized, and that the possibility of learning from each other is immense.

If you have any experience in facilitating content-driven dialogue online, please do share your thoughts with us. We’re going to keep experimenting, and keep learning.

Crowdsourcing Social Innovation, or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Open Up GlobalGiving

At GlobalGiving, we’ve been effectively crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and crowdevaluating social innovation for years.  From early experiments with prediction markets, to collaboration with The Case Foundation and Network for Good on America’s Giving Challenge, to working with GOOD and Pepsi on design and implementation of the Pepsi Refresh Project, we’ve woven experiences into the core mission of GlobalGiving – creating open access to philanthropic markets for small and large organizations worldwide.

We just wrapped up our largest Global Open Challenge ever, an initiative started in 2008 which has become the primary way we find and qualify new organizations for the GlobalGiving marketplace.  Over 230 organizations headquartered in 38 countries serving beneficiaries in 55 countries participated and collectively raised $569,536.  Each organization, in order to secure a spot in the GlobalGiving marketplace, was required to raise $4,000 from at least 50 donors during the month-long challenge.   Over 75 organizations achieved this goal by mobilizing supporters to vouch for them with their donations.

This is not a public voting contest to determine which organization receives a grant, though every donation is a vote.  This is not simply crowdfunding a specific project, though specific projects get funded.  This is not a matching campaign, though there are modest financial incentives.  Using a design thinking approach, we fuse elements of voting, crowdfunding, and matching to identify and qualify organizations for participation in the GlobalGiving marketplace.  We’re using components of all four crowdsourcing models Beth Kanter describes in her recent post:  Creating Collective Knowledge or Wisdom, Crowd Creation, Crowd Voting, and Crowd Funding.

Why would organizations put themselves through this?  Every day, we receive online requests to be part of GlobalGiving, and our goal is to accept as many as can qualify.  We don’t want to turn away innovative, but unproven organizations.  Many of these applications are from individuals or organizations with questionable motivation and capacity.  Many of these applications are from great organizations that need exactly the kinds of tools and services that GlobalGiving provides – a safe, transparent and tax deductible way for donors to give, a set of donor management tools, ongoing trainings, and the possibility of connecting with new donors.  From the applications, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Intead of sorting through applications and having our team decide which organizations gain access, we throw the decision out to the crowd.  We invite every organization that passes our rigorous due diligence process to participate in a Global Open Challenge.  If an organization can mobilize enough funding from enough donors, it’s a good indication that they can use our platform productively and that their idea has support.  It’s hard to get 50 people to give money to a really bad or fraudulent idea.  We’ve gotten pretty good at predicting which organizations will succeed, but there are always big surprises.

This model has the added benefit of sustaining itself.  The transaction fees generated during this process support the large amount of due diligence, training, support, outreach, and disbursement work that goes into throwing a challenge of this magnitude.  We do not charge organizations a fee to participate.  We feel strongly that any organization working towards social change should have a shot at articulating its work and raising philanthropic funds to support its growth.  Manmeet Mehta heads up this initiative at GlobalGiving and has continually enhanced the strategy, the incentives, the processes, and the support to make this an effective and sustainable program for GlobalGiving.

How do organizations hear about GlobalGiving in the first place? A quick Wordle of all responses to the question, “How did you hear about GlobalGiving?” reveals the interplay of offline and online networks that drive participation.  “Friend” and “Internet” figure most prominently:

Wordle: How did you hear about GlobalGiving?

Organization responses to the question, "How did you hear about GlobalGiving?"

I’m proud of the continuous experimentation that has resulted in this method of opening GlobalGiving’s doors as widely as possible.  We’ve tripled the number of organizations using GlobalGiving, and we’ve kept disbursements per organization steady.  Our marketplace is becoming richer in feedback and more self-sustaining.  2010 is already GlobalGiving’s biggest year ever, with over $10,400,000 in donations.