Globalgiving: The Challenges of Online Giving

The Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship featured a session, held on March 26th, that related squarely to Web 2.0 dynamics was titled “(Financial) Power to the People.” One of the companies participating in the panel was www.globalgiving.com, which I have covered previously in this blog.

Mari Kuraishi, President, GlobalGiving introduced her company by noting “they have been called the eBay of philanthropy,” although they are a non-profit organization. Amidst the cluttered landscape of giving options, Kuriashi explained that the core uniqueness of GlobalGiving is that donors can hear back directly from the field as to how their contributions have made a difference. Thus far, GlobalGiving has funded almost 1,300 projects through the contributions of 40,000 donors for a total of US$20m.

One apparently similar portal is www.networkforgood.org that opens the door for individuals to donate to all registered charities in the US. The difference from GlobalGiving is its project approach. They focus on opportunities for people to accomplish something when they donate. Another uniqueness is that individuals who are not registered charities can raise money for causes.

Kuraishi’s motivation in co-founding GlobalGiving was the conviction that there were many organizations that they believed should be funded but weren’t. They also believed that innovation should be promoted within the charitable sectors and thus they started from scratch.

One of the challenges of GlobalGiving was to raise money to keep the enterprise going. Kuraishi explained that they started out as a hybrid for-profit and nonprofit, but then decided to consolidate as a nonprofit.

For them fundraising has been the biggest challenge in growing the organization. They often joke that they are a West Coast organization stuck in Washington, DC. All of their funders are from the West Coast and discovered that it is difficult to raise money on the US East Coast.

One of the lessons learned along the way was to simplify the company’s offering and put it in the context of things that the public was already familiar with. For example, GlobalGiving uses the term “donors” rather than “social investors.” Further, a site needs to dove tail into what people do; giving gifts is important and what people do; they understand gifts but not international development.