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.