Giving 2.0: Peer-to-Peer Philanthropy

The Web 2.0 world is a great environment for connecting people and causes in ways that until recently were unimaginable. One example of an excellent peer-to-peer philanthropy platform in www.globalgiving.com.

The mission of Washington, DC-based GlobalGiving is to sustain a “marketplace for good” that connects donors directly to the causes they care most about. Since its launch in 2002, GlobalGiving has helped thousands of donors give over $11 million to approximately 1,000 projects worldwide.

Theodore Malloch, an advisor to GlobalGiving, recounted to me several stories (which are also included in his upcoming book titled Generous Giving) of individual giving that were enabled through GlobalGving.

Malloch described the story of Paula Diley, Durham, NC, who was raised to be a “giver.” She comes from a family of nine and learned how to share at an early age. Through her siblings, she saw the importance of celebrating with others when they are blessed. Diley set out a goal to give to all one hundred and ninety four nations of the world.

Diley maintains a running list of all the countries of the world and crosses each one off as she is able to give. So far, she is up to 69 projects in 67 nations! Diley also makes sure to support a variety of different projects, from play pumps in one country to healthcare issues, water quality, education, schools, economic development and aids awareness.

One of Diley’s giving inspirations is Muhammad Yunus, an economist from Bangladesh and the founder of Grameen Bank [ www.grameen-info.org ]. Yunus is a Nobel Peace Prize winner known for his work in micro-credit loans. Yunnus started with a small amount of his own money, and it spread to so many people. After Diley read Yunnus’ book “Banker to the Poor” she realized that although she only has a small amount to give, combined with others, needs can be met all over the world. Today’s web facilitates the process of aggregated giving.

Malloch also recounts the story of John Burg and Heather Haines, Washington, DC, who instead of asking for traditional wedding gift items like a blender or toaster, decided to register on GlobalGiving. This couple believes that have been so fortunate that it made sense to be able to give back.” Haines explained. “In the spirit of giving, we wanted to be able to give our guests another option.” The couple is excited about a project in India, the destination of their honeymoon. In addition to putting the India project on their registry, they are making a contribution of their own in honor of their guests.

Malloch also cites the example of Timothy Campbell, New Delhi, India, who is a habitual GlobalGiving gift card buyer. GlobalGiving allows people to make a charitable gift to somebody while allowing them to choose the cause, and perhaps find a new project or organization in need. Campbell’s family has always enjoyed the tradition of giving each other donations as well as gifts. He says, “I have recently begun to feel that it is more important to a lot of people I know to be able to support a cause they believe in rather than to receive a physical gift.”

A final example highlighted by Malloch is Nicole Shampaine, Washington, DC, who also uses GlobalGiving gift cards. Shampaine likes the idea of giving recipients the option to choose the project they would like to support, instead of picking something for them. GlobalGiving has something for everyone with projects ranging from environmental issues to bringing poor girls out of poverty through soccer.

The various examples that Malloch cites with respect to the GlobalGiving platform illustrate how giving has changed in today’s world. Individuals through GlobalGiving are empowered to engage in widespread peer-to-peer giving. Givers are typically more motivated when they see the impact of their gifts; web sites can facilitate this process of giving.

How can some one be generous? Further, can a generous spirit be more effectively put into action in today’s Web 2.0 world?

Theodore Malloch thinks so. Malloch is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Roosevelt Group, a leading strategic advisory and thought leadership company. He has written a book called Being Generous, which is scheduled for release this coming year. After having read the preview text and spoken with Malloch, I believe this is a valuable book for socially responsible that will be of great benefit to business people. Even Oprah endorses it saying, “This book is a true gift. It can bring the whole world together in acts of generosity.”

Malloch has direct experience with Web 2.0 companies. He is on the board of Global Giving, a Washington, DC-based network for peer-to-peer philanthropy. He is also an advisor to MakeGood [NOTE: I am the founder of this company] which enables businesses to effectively communicate social responsibility.

Malloch chose the title for his book quite deliberately. In 1995 MIT Media Lab’s Nicholas Negroponte wrote a best selling book with the title, Being Digital. It was a non-fiction science and technology forecast, describing a future world free of wires. It became an instant classic and in many ways came to define the Internet era. Malloch explains that Being Digital provided a general history of several digital media technologies; many that Negroponte himself was directly involved in developing in the labs.

Negroponte argued that humanity is inevitably headed towards a future where everything that can be digitalized, will be digitalized and he was very soon proved right. Negroponte’s book was as much about change as it was about the future. We can no longer describe the future or the process of change without mentioning digital technology.

Malloch’s book is about being generous: but generosity exists only because of people and what they feel and do. It is a virtue, a habit that governs the way of life and the expectations of generous people and causes them to look on the world as though others, and not themselves, are the principal reason for the world’s existence.

Malloch cites Jeff Skoll as an example of generosity in today’s Web 2.0 world. As eBay’s first President, Skoll prospered early in life. He retired at age 34 and used $34 million from the proceeds of the company’s IPO to set up his own foundation. A $7.5 million gift to Oxford University to integrate social entrepreneurship into business skills is indicative of his visionary interests. He is now financing and producing films on social responsibility. His foundation, set-up in 1999, pursues his vision of a world: “where all people, regardless of geography, background, or economic status enjoy and employ the full range of their talents and abilities.”

Malloch describes how Skoll is looking to lead lasting social change. He invests in social entrepreneurship through his flagship Awards program. He connects people through the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Said Business School. He sponsors forums with thought leaders; and has built Social Edge, as an on-line community where like-minded people can network, learn and inspire one another.

Like Negroponte, Malloch’s sees the overthrow of the paradigms of the past and how this is creating new potential for being generous in a Web 2.0 world. Malloch explains that, “We are beginning to share our traditions, religions and moral philosophies. And we appear to be ready to forge something new—a global civilization. At the core of that new way of being is the virtue of generosity. It too can become ubiquitous.” Malloch’s book is a valuable attempt to see what being generous means and might entail for everyone in our interconnected, digital future. The Web 2.0 world will expedite the process of being generous.