projects Posts

Making it Easier to do Good

photo credit Monarch Butterfly Fund

GlobalGiving was founded to democratize aid and philanthropy, and in 2008, we launched the first Open Challenge campaign, making it easier for any nonprofit in the world to share its idea about how to make their community a better place. Organizations were given a specific time period to reach a set fundraising goal, and those that were successful in reaching that goal were welcomed as permanent members of the GlobalGiving community.

Thousands of nonprofits from almost every country on the map have participated in Open Challenge campaigns since then, many of whom are still active partners of GlobalGiving, continuing to access the training, support, and resources to improve their communities. Nevertheless, we often received feedback that the time restrictions created by the Open Challenge were too rigid to accommodate busy calendars. We also heard that some wonderful organizations weren’t able to qualify for permanent membership in the time allotted, even though they were committed to learning, improving, and doing great work in their community.

Last year we took a long, hard look at the way new potential partners interact with GlobalGiving, and we challenged ourselves to think creatively about how we could provide more value and greater opportunity to nonprofits around the world. We’ve decided to  implement some changes in 2016 that will hopefully make joining GlobalGiving faster, easier, and more flexible for potential partners.

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.

World Cup inspires seeing soccer/football as mechanism for social change.

Yesterday, I got a Tweet from @Alyssa_Milano reminding me that, “Before the #WorldCup is won, 100k Africans will die from malaria.” She encouraged me to, “Join players & fans: http://bit.ly/WC_a_m6 #endmalaria.

The link clicks through to the United Nation’s “Unite Against Malaria” Facebook page.

This was quite timely, as the Tweet came through just as I was creating GlobalGiving’s World Cup landing page, featuring projects related to soccer.

Not long after, Tobias Eigen, President of Kabissa, an organization that bolsters civil society in Africa, sent out a message asking everyone what they were doing to leverage the World Cup in their awareness-raising and social change efforts in Africa.

Indeed, when it comes to this kind of thinking about how to leverage this year’s World Cup for good, it seems everyone is on the ball. (Pun intended, but with apologies nonetheless.)

It’s 10 a.m. on the day the World Cup is launching, and, in addition to those above, I’ve already seen Tweets or emails linking the World Cup to issues of global awareness and social action from @growingupglobal and even @usaid, and, of course, @peacecorpsconnect.

It’s fun and exciting to see an international sports platform being used in such creative, inventive ways to draw attention to issues which are less fun, but even more important than a soccer game, such as malaria, poverty alleviation, and HIV/AIDS.

The projects GlobalGiving is featuring on our World Cup landing page drive this home.

In just the sampling of projects we feature that tie to soccer, the issues being tackled include using soccer to help inmates in South African prisons reintegrate into society, reducing stigmas associated with amputees in Sierra Leone through amputee soccer, providing soccer as recreation for children in a refugee camp in Rafah, and using soccer as a means to build leadership and self-esteem for military daughters in the U.S.

Those are just a few of the ways that GlobalGiving projects are using soccer to create social change for people around the world. (Here’s the full list.)

We’re looking forward to seeing how the World Cup is used to fuel awareness of and support for projects and issues like these as much as we’re looking forward to the matches themselves.

And trust us, we’re really excited about the matches.

Beyond Good Intentions: Getting more visitor postcards from the field

Tori Hogan at the Social Edge blog “beyond good intentions” recently wrote about the problems with getting reliable feedback from projects in international development, and what GlobalGiving has been doing to improve feedback. Here is an excerpt:

“My old stats professor will probably kill me for this, but what ever happened to good old-fashioned gut instincts? Do you trust anecdotal reports by people who have visited field projects and come away with certain perceptions?

I started considering this concept recently when Marc Maxson at Global Giving introduced me to a new project they’re running that allows people who visit any of their countless field sites to submit ‘postcards from the field. These blog-like reports written by non-professionals (mostly by interns and student travelers) have an open-ended framework and are only guided by the question,'”what would you tell your friends about this project?’ According to Marc, ‘gut feelings about recommending a project are broad enough to predict deeper problems.'”

Tori dug through our more than 70 postcards from 2009 and found that this new Visitor Postcards program still needs more volunteers to scale up. I quote again from that post:

“However, as I scrolled through the “postcards” I had a really hard time finding any that were critical of the organizations they highlighted. Are visitors afraid to report on problems or are these organizations actually as perfect as they sound? Marc informed me that, ‘most volunteers try to self-filter and only say good things publicly, but privately send in negative comments.’ Well, it’s not perfect, but at least it’s a start!”

This remains true. The vast majority of comments on projects are positive, although I can think of two organizations who hosted visitors this year that posted negative comments and triggered larger dialogues. But anyone doing a spot check on our postcards is bound to miss them because they are not a significant fraction. :)

Bloggers and the public are our advisors. I personally thank Tori and look forward to doing what I can to get more honest feedback from visitors onto the site. Visitor postcards have played a major role in the outcome of one organization, and we will be presenting a case study on this at the upcoming Skoll “International Social Innovation Research Conference.”

I replied to Tori’s post:

We think visitor postcards have been a major success because more people are getting a first-hand account of what projects look like. And (as our case study will show) it also works to reform a problem project. The power of real-time feedback loops was enough to cause the organization visited to dissolve and reform under new leadership of a group of underserved beneficiaries. This happened in spite of the “self-filtering” problem we discussed.

Visitors often don’t realize that they omit inconsistent (negative) details when they have good rapport with the people the meet. This is human nature, and affects tourists and evaluators alike. I urge you to read “The Surprising Power of Neighborly Advice” from Science Magazine (March 2009), which shows that (a) strangers’ gut feelings are more reliable trust indicators than a set of facts and (b) most people DO NOT BELIEVE THIS even though they act on it.

I cannot underscore strongly enough that getting more people to walk through more  village-level development projects would transform the way that money is spent, for a variety of reasons.

I hope you’ll attend our talk at ISIRC in September, 2009 – Oxford!

Take the Challenge

Can the Internet revolutionize citizen-led philanthropy?

That’s the question The Case Foundation and Parade Magazine are hoping to address with the America’s Giving Challenge, the first large-scale initiative to use technology as a way of inspiring people to support causes they care about. Through the Challenge, which runs from now through January 31, 2008, Parade is encouraging individuals to champion causes they care about, raising donations online using Web 2.0 tools that make it easy to spread the word and give. And there are some other incentives (of the monetary sort) too: the eight “fundraisers” attracting the greatest number of donations for their causes will each get $50,000 for their chosen cause, and the 100 causes that receive the most donations will each get $1,000.

GlobalGiving is one of the two partners selected by Case and Parade to support the Challenge (Network for Good is the other, for US-based organizations) – so anyone who wants to support an international cause will have the opportunity to fundraise for or donate to a project on GlobalGiving – with the potential to get $50,000 for that project!

The Washington Post and New York Times have already written about the Challenge, which kicked off yesterday, and the really big bang will come this weekend, when Parade is featuring the Challenge in its magazine (look for Denzel Washington and Oprah Winfrey on the cover) – which is distributed in over 400 U.S. newspapers, and has a readership of more than 70 million!

So if you’ve got a favorite project, now’s your opportunity to help them get $50,000. Set up a fundraiser, create a charity badge, tell all your friends, leverage your social network, take the Challenge…become a part of the revolution!