Philanthropy Posts

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.

Why 15% Makes Sense

People sometimes ask me why we charge a 15% transaction fee.  My cheeky answer is, “So I can be sitting here having this conversation with you.”  As Chief Program Officer at GlobalGiving, my job is to make GlobalGiving more valuable to more organizations around the world.  We work with thousands of organizations, qualifying them, supporting them, disbursing funds to them, monitoring their activities, and maintaining an online platform for them to connect with donors.  Work at this scale would be impossible with an all-volunteer team.  Without great people and robust systems working full-time, GlobalGiving does not work.

Could we find a large donor to fund operations, making the ongoing transactions free?  Maybe, but we believe a transaction-based fee is a better idea.  Funders like Skoll Foundation, Omidyar Network, Hewlett Foundation, Packard Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and Kellogg Foundation have invested in our effort to make the transaction-based model work, and we’re almost there.  The model gives GlobalGiving a strong incentive to invest in the performance of our marketplace, which aligns nicely with our partner organizations’ goals and the needs of donors – the more funds flowing, the greater the social impact.  We are motivated to build better tools for donors and project leaders, we aggressively court corporate partners, we attract donors through a strong social media presence, we offer free training and development opportunities to our project leaders, and we find innovative ways to demonstrate results.  We strive to earn our 15%, and GlobalGiving only works if we deliver the value.

So, why do organizations decide that 15% is good value?  We connect them with new donors, we provide donor management tools, and for some organizations we save the expense of maintaining a transactional web platform.  For international organizations, the ability receive tax-deductible contributions in a secure, transparent platform is worth the 15%.  We do not charge organizations an up front fee to participate in GlobalGiving, so fees only exist when donations flow, and we’re careful to explain the fee to all prospective organizations.  Donors should feel good giving to organizations on GlobalGiving, because each organization calculates that our platform is worth 15%.  Donors always have the option of covering that 15%, and over 50% do just that.  Donors should expect to receive quarterly updates and can exercise the GlobalGiving Guarantee if the experience doesn’t meet expectations.  We just finished our best year yet, delivering more funding to more organizations than ever before.

That said, our 15% does not work for many organizations.  For organizations that maintain a web site with transaction processing, or have a staff dedicated to donor management, or do not like to accept project-specific funding, GlobalGiving is probably not a good fit, and that’s fine.  If a donor simply wants to fund general operations of a US nonprofit, that donor should give through that organization’s web site or a portal like Network for Good, both of which have lower fees.

Our commitment to this model holds us directly accountable to the donors and organizations connecting on our platform.  Organizations and donors do not have to use GlobalGiving  If we are not worth our 15%, people will stop transacting, and GlobalGiving will not survive.  If we are worth our 15%, more transactions will happen, we will continue to improve the platform, and we might just improve the efficiency of giving to the most effective organizations worldwide.

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.

Drive More than a Car with Ford

In the auto industry, collisions are generally not a good thing.  But the collision of brand and cause marketing continues apace.

As media and its delivery evolves, borders are blurred by technology, and consumer brands embrace the notion that their customers care about things, and want them to care too, these campaigns get more creative.

Take for example the Ford Focus Global Test Drive.  As part of the program Ford will select 40 lucky individuals to travel to Spain in February to test drive the 2012 Ford Focus before it hits the market.  In addition, Ford will award $10,000 to a charity of each winner’s choice, in the categories of environment, education, or hunger.  And, making this truly a ‘global’ event, organizations from around the world are eligible to receive the grant.

To compete, individuals create and upload a two minute video to the Ford Focus Facebook page via the Global Drive tab.  The video has to be compelling – about a cause and desire to drive the car.    Selections will be made based upon criteria such as the quality and creativity of the video, the submitter’s social networking savvy and his/her soci
al media reach (including the number of people who “love it”).

Just another marketing gimmick aimed at cynical Americans?  Not so much. As a partner in promoting and vetting the charity aspects of the program, GlobalGiving has had the chance to see how Ford has brought together marketing, philanthropy, and social media in a truly global way.   And what’s fantastic is that Ford Focus is not “recreating the wheel” (pun intended).  Building off of the success of the Fiesta Movement,  Focus is running a campaign that both brings new aspects of “challenges” to bear (check out the video invites to key bloggers), but also leverages existing platforms and partners, including  Facebook, Twitter, Votigo and GlobalGiving.  Smart.

Get off the curb – submissions have to be in by December 31st.  Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

A Grassroots Alternative to Carbon Offsets

Originally posted at HuffingtonPost by our co-founder, Dennis Whittle

When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it looks like the carbon-intensive industries are likely to face either a tax on carbon or a market for buying and selling emissions allowances in coming years. But it is not just power plants and large manufacturing facilities that contribute to climate change. All of us are accountable for some level of emissions–begging the question, how can you account for what your organization produces?

A popular answer is carbon offsets–essentially funding a reduction in emissions or increase in carbon storage somewhere so that you can continue emitting carbon here. Although offsets have been widely embraced, the actual amount of carbon kept from entering the atmosphere is often questioned. OK, it will help plant trees. But where? By whom? And will they live the 20+ years necessary to accomplish their offsetting purpose?

An alternative for skeptics is to fund projects that have received the climate-friendly “Green Leaf” designation on our online philanthropic marketplace, GlobalGiving. Our site features smaller environmental and social projects from around the world, letting you find opportunities you would not otherwise discover. Project leaders post detailed project descriptions so donors can see exactly what they’re funding. And donors on GlobalGiving can see directly the difference their donations are making through updates from the field.

Instead of quantifying offsets, we are encouraging individuals and organizations to take responsibility for their own emissions by helping these projects expand their reach. And, we are able to promote a much broader range of projects that address climate change. For instance, a project in Ecuador teaches tens of thousands of children about climate change and ways to combat it. We can’t translate this into tons of carbon, but it can result in a future generation of green voters, consumers, and policymakers. Other projects from the Environmental Foundation for Africa are working not only to provide solar electricity to schools in villages in Sierra Leone, but also to train technical school students in their installation and maintenance.

Encouraging the Third World to keep walking the same well-trodden carbon intensive path is ultimately unsustainable. As David Wheeler and Kevin Ummel of the Center for Global Development report, if nothing changes in the global South their cumulative contribution to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will exceed that of the North within the coming decades. That means that even if developed countries cut their carbon emissions to zero, developing countries will face the same future–rising temperatures, more droughts and flooding, more frequent and intense storms, changing weather patterns.

And there’s no better time to donate to GlobalGiving Green projects than now – the Give a Little Green campaign is matching donations to these projects by 50% through April 28th or until matching funds are exhausted.
Thanks to Bill Brower for the research supporting this post.