Posts Tagged ‘nonprofit’

 

Learning from one another – curating dialogue on Facebook

Posted by manmeet on October 19th, 2011

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.

Creative financing

Posted by bill brower on March 27th, 2010

In the workshops on online fundraising I’ve been holding around Southeast Asia the past few months, I encourage the participating NGOs to think beyond the typical fundraising approach of writing endless grant proposals. Specifically I encourage them to develop their online network of individual supporters. But the implementing partner of the Smile Train, a GlobalGiving project partner organization, in Manila is a great example of an organization thinking creatively about how to support itself financially.

The Philippine Band of Mercy provides free cleft lip and palate surgeries to primarily children in low-income families. They started a fellowship program, which helps send surgeons to get special training in plastic surgery. After the training, the fellows go on to have very lucrative private practices, and in exchange they volunteer to do free surgeries at the clinic one day every week or two. Their financial support to these specialists pays a huge return in social capital and future services.

This pro bono work obviously significantly reduces operating costs; I was even more impressed with how they cover the rest of their expenses. Their office and clinic complex are centrally located in Manila, and there are a few popular restaurants nearby and adjacent to their property. Seeing a demand, they started selling parking space on their lot. Between that and renting out a bit of extra office space, they are able to completely cover their expenses. So many of the organizations I speak with are forced to spend much more time than they would like on fundraising; it was great to meet with one that is able to focus more completely on its programmatic goals by realizing the potential of all of its assets.

For Profit, and More…

Posted by dennis on November 13th, 2009

There has been growing interest over the past few years in the concept of socially-oriented businesses.  This interest has been manifested in many different ways.  More and more mainstream companies are trying to do business in what they describe as a more ethical or socially conscious way.  Increasingly, they do this because it makes good business sense — it results in better products, happier employees, and more satisfied customers.

There is a movement to brand certain companies as “B Corporations” if they meet certain social and environmental performance standards.  Some states are even considering a new type of business entity called an L3C, which is sort of a hybrid for-profit/non-profit structure.   This structure is specifically for organizations that want to marry the advantages of the for-profit model (efficiency, scalability, and ability to attract capital) with the social mission of a non-profit.

The For-Benefit concept takes this idea even further.

We support this type of experimentation.  Though the vast majority of projects on GlobalGiving are run by non-profits, we have had a handful of projects run by for-profits.  For years, IRS guidelines have permitted for-profits to accept donations for activities that have a charitable purpose and that cannot be carried out under normal market conditions.  We welcome such projects as long as they comply with IRS guidelines and our due diligence processes.  Making the world a better place requires a combination of for-profit companies that generate wealth and jobs along with non-profit organizations that make sure that public goods are provided for everyone, and in particular, that the less fortunate have a fair chance in life — i.e., that the poor are able to participate in wealth creation and employment. Donations to these projects are fully deductible for tax purposes.

Giving the growing interest in this concept, we are now going to specifically highlight projects on GlobalGiving run by for-profit companies.  Though there are currently only two projects on the site run by for-profits (Building a Library in Morocco and Building a School in South Africa), there could be more in the future.

Look for the following text in the project description:

This project is being run by a socially-oriented for-profit company.

From time to time, GlobalGiving posts projects run by socially-oriented for-profit companies, whose work includes charitable activities in the public interest. ALL projects on GlobalGiving have a bonafide charitable purpose, and are required to submit extensive documentation for due diligence. GlobalGiving reviews all due diligence, and vets the projects to ensure they are legitimate, well- run, and satisfy IRS guidelines for international grantmaking as well as the new voluntary guidelines for anti-terrorism set forth in the Patriot Act. Provided projects meet all these criteria, the IRS allows public foundations such as GlobalGiving to make grants in support of this work.

Projects in this category are required to undergo an expenditure review – meaning they must detail the charitable activities for which they are requesting funding, and provide an actual review of how the funds were spent.

501(c)huh?

Posted by alison on February 12th, 2008

Election season is in full swing, and today the spotlight is on the Potomac Primaries in Maryland, DC and Virginia.  Yesterday, Wired News published an article about the emergence of nonprofits as a vehicle for campaigning.  Today the Chronicle of Philanthropy published the transcript of a live chat that it sponsored about the effects this election will have on charities and how they can (if they want) play a role in the election.  The Chronicle‘s guests included Kay Guinane, the director of nonprofit speech rights for OMB Watch in Washington, DC and Laurette Edelmann, assistant director of the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits.Says the Wired article:

…a new type of Web 2.0-enhanced nonprofit advocacy group is streamlining the process like never before, producing and distributing slick, effective videos in internet time.  Thanks to converging developments in campaign finance law, the improving technology of digital cameras and the rise of online social networking, voters’ inboxes this election season will be filled at strategic moments with forwarded web addresses for issue-oriented ads…

Brave New Films, the production company whose ads sparked the article, is a registered 501(c)4 – a “social welfare organization.”   These groups are allowed to participate in political campaigning, as long as that isn’t their primary objective.  Because political campaigning is not, theoretically, their main activity, they are not required to disclose their donor lists, unlike the the “issue advocacy” 527s, which were popular during the 2004 election.

In the Chronicle interview, Kay Guinane comments on the role played by 501(c)4 organizations in the election:

IRS rules do not limit how much lobbying 501(c)(4)s can do, but their electoral work cannot be their major purpose. (A nonprofit whose major purpose is to influence elections is tax exempt under Section 527 of the tax code.) The sticky question for 501(c)(4)s is how much electoral work they can do before it becomes their major purpose. The IRS has not cleary defined this. It is also important that the electoral work be related to the 501(c)(4) group’s overall mission.

She also argues that it is important for nonprofits, even 501(c)3 organizations to get involved in the political process by educating voters, but there is still a danger of diluting the mission and becoming targets of political fundraising if they get too deeply involved.

So how involved is too involved?  Where should the line be drawn for 501(c)4 organizations that are flooding the airwaves with political ads?  Should a line be drawn?  Do nonprofits need to be more involved? Are unregulated 501(c)4 organizations setting a bad precedent for other nonprofits, including 501(c)3 organizations?