Thursday, January 31, 2008

Underdogs winning America's Challenge

Here is a nice article from Stephanie Strom in today's NY Times about the dynamics behind the America's Giving Challenge. Strom notes that "Fledgling charities...are among the leading contenders for prizes in an experimental online fund-raising contest."

The Challenge is backed by Case Foundation and Parade Magazine, and is being run by GlobalGiving, Network For Good, and Facebook. The Challenge, which ends at 3 pm today, is awarding prizes to those causes that can mobilize the largest number of online donors.

Strom points out that smaller (often newer) organizations are often outmaneuvering the larger, more established organizations, with much better results. For example, Amnesty International had raised only $540 as of Wednesday, while a group of former Peace Corps Volunteers called Friends of Burkina Faso had raised over $21,000 from over 1,300 donors. Atlas Service Corps, another new group, is at the same level, and a few other small groups have mobilized even more donors and money. Even a UNC student has raised over $6,000 from 380 donors for scholarships for Latino students.

The point is not that the smaller groups are necessarily better than the larger, more established groups. The point is that this online giving Challenge is leveling the playing field for all concerned, including the underdogs. The underdogs include international groups, which have typically received only a small portion of philanthropy. They are doing exceptionally well in the Challenge relative to their traditional share of the pie.

Well functioning online giving marketplaces create a more level playing field by reducing the marginal cost of marketing well below the costs of direct mail and other traditional methods, and by increasing transparency about where the money is going and the impact it makes.

This is an important development in the non-profit sector, which has been characterized by sluggish innovation in the past. As I noted in an earlier post:
The non-profit sector faces a number of challenges that both inhibit growth and impede allocation of resources to their best use. Consider the following. Of the Fortune 500 companies that started among the top ten in 1990, only three remained in the top ten by the end of the decade. Open competition meant that successful newcomers displaced the rest.

But in the non-profit sector, the picture was reversed. Seven out of the top ten non-profits not only stayed in the top ten but increased their share of the market during the decade. So much for competition! And according to Jed Emerson and Paul Carrtar, only 6% of non-profits accounted for four fifths of all revenues in the sector.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Check our our new GlobalGiving Team Blog called "GlobalGoodness."

It features posts from GlobalGiving team members on many topics. Most recently, Saima wrote about the situation in Pakistan and Kenya and Kevin proposed a Donor Bill of Rights.

Soon we will begin featuring guest posts by people whose insights and views we think you will like.

So check it out, and subscribe below to get notified when new posts are made.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

You should have two long-term objectives in college

A couple of days ago I was reflecting on how aimlessly I wandered through high school, college, and even grad school. I had no plan, and no idea how to think about my coursework (or even about my life, to be honest). I did well grade-wise because my older brother was very smart and I wanted to emulate him.

What I wish I had had, in retrospect, was someone to help me put it all in context, and in particular to help me balance the competing demands of what is fulfilling and what is needed to make a living.

Today I ran across a blog post by Paul Gowder that I wish I had read in 1979. Its relevance goes well beyond what to do in college. Here is an excerpt, but there is much more, and it is funny as well as serious. (He promises that a future post will be entitled "So you went to law school; how to get out of this mess.")
You should have two long-term objectives in college. The first is to learn what you love and try to make a life where you can be personally fulfilled and hopefully contribute something to the rest of the world, be it in art, in politics and community service, in knowledge, or (even) in wealth. The second is to handle the economic realities of the world and maximize your human capital to enable you to meet your material needs.
PS: I got this link from the same older brother....