Mari Kuraishi announced recently that she will be stepping down as chief executive of GlobalGiving, where she has spent the last 18 years of her career. This is almost as emotional for me as it is for her. Not only was I her co-founder when we launched GlobalGiving; we also got married three years later.
Why did we decide to leave our high-flying jobs at the World Bank to start
GlobalGiving? The Harvard Business Review has a good piece that gives lots of
good background, but it all boiled down to this: Mari and I were unwittingly thrown
together into a situation where we (accidentally) gained a couple of
insights about a possible new way to fund development projects, and we said
to each other“What the heck – life is short; let’s go for it.”
And so we launched what became the world’s first global crowdfunding
platform. We weren’t exactly sure what to call it at first, because the
word “crowdfunding” had not even appeared in print. And we had no
experience doing a startup or running a tech-based platform (the web itself
was barely a decade old). Yet we decided to go for it, and though the first
few years were humbling, GlobalGiving gradually got traction, and today it
has helped nearly 20,000 community-based projects in 170 countries raise
hundreds of millions of dollars.
GlobalGiving allows any bona fide community organization in the world to
post a project designed to make their world a better place. There’s no
guarantee the project will be funded, but the GlobalGiving breakthrough was
providing a platform for them to have their voice heard.
side-benefit has been to allow donors of all sizes to have their voices
heard as well – no longer do small (or even large) donors need a fully
staffed foundation to due diligence, make fast, secure disbursements, and
monitor progress on projects almost anywhere in the world. Hundreds of
thousands of individual donors, as well as many leading companies and
foundations now use the platform.
Along the way, GlobalGiving has had to innovate in many dimensions, some of
which are radical but "under the hood” efficiencies and some of which are
user-facing (the ability to get detailed reports and provide feedback
across the world).
A number of these innovations will provide the
foundation for the next leader to take GlobalGiving to $1 billion and
beyond – they already inspired the creation of Feedback Labs, and they may
even create the kernel of a new operating system for aid and philanthropy.
As I look back, three things leap out as me as key ingredients of
First, put the people we seek to serve front and
center of what we do. This seems like common sense, but it was radical at
the time, and we built GlobalGiving ground-up to let the people themselves
have the primary voice in what happens in their communities.
spectacular team is the secret sauce to breakthroughs. We have faced many
obstacles along the way, and it is usually the team rather than the
founders who not only solve problems but have radical insights about new
Third, it’s all about the network – not just the
organization. GlobalGiving can serve so many people in so many countries so
effectively because of the relationships it has built with thousands of
organizations around the world.
Whoever is lucky enough to become the next CEO of GlobalGiving will inherit an awesome team, a tremendous network, a fabulous board, and
all the ingredients required for another fundamental innovation in the aid
and philanthropy world. Someone who merely wants to be a steward need not
apply. GlobalGiving is looking for a high-flyer who says to herself or
himself: “What the heck – life is short; I am going for it.”
UPDATE: We have found a great new CEO for the next chapter of GlobalGiving!