Tag: international

GlobalGiving was not originally established with disaster relief funding in mind, but with thousands of vetted nonprofit partners operating in more than 160 countries and a network of corporate and individual donors that trust us to get money quickly and efficiently to the ground, we have built a disaster response strategy that has helped us raise millions of dollars for our partners to support relief efforts.

Most recently, we implemented our disaster response plan to support our partners in Nepal following the devastation 7.8 earthquake that hit on April 25. In the first 48 hours after the disaster, we raised more than $500,000 for Nepal relief. In the first week, we had raised more than $2 million dollars. To date, we’ve raised more than $5.3 million dollars from more than 35,000 donors in 112 countries to support our partners.

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Each time we respond to a disaster we learn a little more about how to raise money and get it to where it is most needed in the quickest and most effective way possible. One of GlobalGiving’s core values is Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat. Four months after the earthquake struck and we pressed “go” on our disaster response plan, we’d like to take a few minutes to share what aspects of our response worked well and where we hope to improve.

What worked

  1. Cultivate trust. Even before the earthquake hit on April 25, GlobalGiving had raised more than $1.3 million for more than 100 projects in Nepal. Our partners in Nepal had been through our vetting processes and had been providing quarterly reports on their work. We knew how to send them money. They knew our phone number and the names of our staff members. In most cases, we had visited their work on the ground. A pre-existing strong network of partners gave us the confidence that any funds we were able to raise could quickly get to where they could do the most good.
  2. Be ready to act. Each time GlobalGiving responds to a disaster, we refine our response plan. We were able to get our Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund online to start receiving donations just five hours after the earthquake hit. We were able to quickly communicate with our partner nonprofits, find out what they needed, and get an initial round of funding to first responders just six days after the quake struck.
  3. Get social. The most up-to-date news on the earthquake and the conversation about how best to respond was primarily taking place on social media. Our communications team worked in shifts to monitor social media 24 hours a day and make sure we were engaged in the right conversations.
  4. Fund local – Our partners were working in Nepal before the earthquake hit, and they will be there long after international attention has moved on to the next crisis. They are best placed to provide immediate relief, but also to support the long-term recovery, by supporting Dalit women’s groups, providing long-term psychosocial counseling to survivors, and making sure children are provided the support they need to return to class when schools reopen.
  5. Be transparent – Inevitably, within months after every major disaster, reports on mismanagement of funds, ineffective projects, and a lack of accountability plague recovery efforts. GlobalGiving is committed to transparency on where our funding is going and how it is being used. We share nearly-real-time data on where our funding is going with the International Aid Data Transparency Initiative, as well as with the Foundation Center. We publish where funding is going on our own website, and our partners on the ground provide quarterly reports on their progress, which are shared directly with donors. We also maintained an up-to-date FAQ page on our response as we received questions from donors.

What we can do better next time

  1. Improve Fundraisers (Peer-to-Peer tools) – After a disaster, individuals want not only to donate, but also to mobilize their friends, family, and other networks to give. Companies also come up with ad-hoc ideas about how to generate support. We had hundreds of individuals and companies create peer-to-peer pages on our site to do this, but our Fundraiser Tool, while functional, is kind of clunky and required a lot of customer service support for users. Some potential fundraisers gave up and set up pages on an alternate platform.
  2. Scale automated systems – many of our systems require specialized human intervention to run smoothly. Entering donations received by check, reviewing project reports submitted by our partner nonprofits, and checking for fraud all require human eyes (and keyboard strokes or mouse clicks) to function. We’ll never be able to take the human element out entirely (nor would we wish to), but before the next disaster strikes, we’d like to make our systems smarter so that additional human capacity can be added without requiring staff or volunteers to go through specialized training.
  3. Form a customer service posse – The week after the earthquake, traffic on our site spiked to nearly unprecedented levels. Our customer service team was fielding more phone calls and responding to more emails from donors than ever before. We want to train up a second level of staff that can be “deputized” as additional customer service support for our donors and nonprofit partners when the next disaster strikes.
  4. Expect the Unexpected. Disasters don’t necessarily adhere to business hours. When the earthquake hit, most of our team was just waking up on Saturday morning. We created a virtual “disaster war room” using HipChat, which allowed us to coordinate in real-time, but it did take some precious hours to get everyone caught up, signed up, and logged in. Next time, we’ll make sure we have the right technology in place in advance, and implement a phone tree to make sure the right people are online as quickly as possible.
  5. Plan to follow through. During a disaster, everyone on staff has the energy and drive to pitch in to do the extra work required to respond, on top of what was already planned. But the follow-up—with media, with donors, and with our partners—is a long, ongoing process, and should be built into plans and organizational priorities. We recognize that disaster response is a long-term effort for our partners; we should do more to build in time and systems for our own ongoing follow-up as well.

After a big project, like a disaster response, GlobalGiving uses a simple tool called an After Action Review (AAR) to help us maximize organizational learning. We get everyone involved in the project in the same room for an hour with an assigned facilitator to review what worked, what didn’t, and we will do differently next time.

We are proud of what we have been able to do to support our partners working in Nepal, but we know we can do better. How does your organization codify learning? Share your favorite methodology or tool in the comments, or tweet us at @globalgiving.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the benefits of Cloud computing to the nonprofit sector, but many CSOs in the developing world are unaware of how important this technology is quickly becoming. This is in part because developing countries face additional constraints which limit its adoption, though the benefits that can be derived from its use are somewhat unparalleled. CSOs in developing countries may arguably not be as worried about security and privacy, (though this too is by no means of little importance!) because infrastructure problems like lack of a reliable electricity supply, limited internet access and slow broadband are issues they must still overcome if they want to adopt many ICT services and truly take advantage of services like the Cloud.

On the other hand it is worth emphasising that NGOs and the many community based organisations, small businesses, educators and researchers they support can realise massive cost saving on software and ICT support, which can translate into developing countries having the competitive edge needed for a community region or country to emerge from poverty.

The Cloud is channelling the creativity of developers in the developing world despite the absence of sufficient infrastructure. Wilfred Mworia, a young engineering student created an application for the iPhone that shows where events in Nairobi, Kenya are happening while also allowing others to add further information about them even though he did not possess an iPhone, which was also not available in Nairobi. He used the iPhone simulator… hosted far away … in the ‘Internet Cloud’ to develop the app. Decreased costs derived from the use of the Cloud provides tremendous potential for the nonprofit community in collaboration with well intentioned technologists and philanthropists in the developing world to develop apps that can be utilised to help with their work.

Moreover, research and education are two areas that are of vital importance to many NGOs located in the developing world, and the Cloud provides an opportunity for NGOs and the research and education centres they support to access the same information that those in developed world possess. It also provides an opportunity for increased collaboration and sharing of information. For example, Elastic-R is a Software platform that provides a collaborative virtual research environment in the Cloud. It enables African scientists to utilise digital vouchers subsidised by civil society organisations to pay per use.

As low cost smartphones and netbooks are increasingly made available in the developing world this also provides increased opportunity for CSOs operating there. Though many developing countries still struggle with lack of high speed broadband and related infrastructure problems, Cloud Computing has the potential to help them utilise the Cloud via their mobile phone to get services they need cheaply, easily and in some cases free. Cloudphone is one service that allows those who can’t afford the mobile handset to still have a mobile number and assess the information from any phone through the Cloud. As more Cloud based applications tailored to the constraints of the developing world are made available not only to individuals, SMEs and governments but also to CSOs, they will increasingly depend on such technology to carry out their work efficiently and cost effectively.

The Cloud is even being utilised for mapping crises. Ushahadi, is one nonprofit technology company that developed a free cloud based platform called Crowdmap. Crowdmap helps to crowdsource information needed to aid disaster and emergency response efforts. It was used to aid relief efforts following the Haitian earthquake and the platform has been recognised as useful beyond the nonprofit sector.

If cloud computing is seen as vital for the growth of a developing economy more resources may be allocated to ICT infrastructure. Michael Nelson argues in The Cloud, the Crowd, and Public Policy that the Cloud may force governments to provide subsidies or reform their policies in a way which promotes the use of broadband and helps to bridge the digital divide. This will serve to increase not only the use of the Cloud, but also the use of other related ICT products and services and help to engender greater creativity, another ingredient vital for development.

As problems related to lack of reliable broadband and an inadequate power supply are more quickly and hopefully surely overcome in developing countries, the Cloud can level the playing field and facilitate maximum efficiency for many local CSOs as well as some of the small businesses and public services they support.

This article was previously published at http://blog.guidestarinternational.org/2011/03/01/what-is-the-value-of-the-cloud-for-csos-in-the-developing-world/ and is reprinted by permission.